Asperger’s Syndrome no barrier for Kedah artist Kirthanraw

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The 29-year-old has been drawing since he was five, and proud father Subramanian hopes more people will support his son’s talent.

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Kirthanraw enjoys following his dad to bazaars where his artwork is sold, so people can get to know the man behind the craft. (Kirthanraw Subramanian Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: Kirthanraw Subramanian’s artworks are on full display at a bazaar in the Klang Valley – oil paintings of portraits and landscapes, intricate magnets, and detailed wood art that draw the attention of passersby.

While the art is remarkable in and of itself, what makes it even more compelling is that they are the works of 29-year-old Kirthanraw Subramanian, who has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Asperger’s is a form of autism spectrum disorder, and those who have it generally have a difficult time socialising and relating to others. Their behaviour and thinking patterns, too, can be rigid and repetitive.

Kirthanraw’s parents became aware of his innate talent when, at age five, he began sketching animals and figures after receiving some art pads and colour pencils.

“We were simply shocked,” his father, Subramanian Bandiloo, told FMT. “We didn’t think he would keep on sketching but he did. We couldn’t believe our eyes seeing him so engrossed in his art.”

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Kirthanraw has done many customised paintings for new clients and repeat customers. (Subramanian Bandiloo pic)

From that point on, there was no stopping Kirthanraw, who would “draw” inspiration from random photos, pictures of animals, as well as scenery around him.

Naturally, Subramanian and his wife, Wong Yok Chan, decided to encourage their son to hone his abilities. “We wanted to do all we could so that he could focus on his art,” he recalled.

“We’ve heard that children on the spectrum aren’t able to fulfil their fullest potential. But Kirthanraw simply loved painting, so we would constantly advise him not to give up.”

As their child grew older, the parents began to take active steps to nurture his talent. Learning from YouTube was one approach, with Mum and Dad sitting by their son’s side to guide him on how certain pencil strokes were done.

When Kirthanraw was 15, he began mixing and matching watercolours on his own. To perfect his painting skills, Subramanian and Wong sent him to an art teacher for lessons.

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Kirthanraw’s artwork ranges from oil paintings to fridge magnets and wood art. (Anne Grace Savitha @ FMT Lifestyle)

They would also sit by his side to guide him on wood pyrography techniques with the help of online tutorials. This process involves burning designs on wood with a flame.

Today, the family visits art stores as part of their regular routine to pick up supplies for Kirthanraw. At their home in Sungai Petani, Kedah, a workstation has been set up in their living room so he can focus on his artwork under his parents’ watchful eye.

According to Subramanian, most of Kirthanraw’s creations focus on animals or landscapes. He likes to experiment with different brushstroke styles, including the swirl method for his oil paintings.

How bazaar

In 2015, with prices of art materials having increased over the years, Subramanian thought of selling Kirthanraw’s artwork and channelling the funds into buying more supplies for him.

To that end, the older man began selling his son’s art in malls and bazaars – not just in Kedah but also in the Klang Valley and Seremban – and continues to do so until today.

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Kirthanraw, who learnt the intricacies of wood pyrography through YouTube, can now do his own carvings. (Subramanian Bandiloo pic)

Sometimes, Kirthanraw tags along with his father to meet with customers, despite preferring not to interact with others owing to his condition. Still, Subramanian often advises his son to do his best to socialise, as many are interested in knowing the man behind the art.

And while Subramanian is grateful to those who support Kirthanraw’s talents and even order customised paintings, he shares that there are some who occasionally belittle his son’s art.

For this devoted dad, however, such criticism is not important. “As a parent, I want to do my best in helping my son reach his full potential,” he stressed.

“So what if some don’t like his artwork? Others will support and find value in it.”

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Subramanian holding Kirthanraw’s oil painting of Melaka’s Jonker Street. (Anne Grace Savitha @ FMT Lifestyle)

Find out more about Kirthanraw’s art as well as upcoming bazaar appearances by visiting his Facebook profile.

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