Nouns for Gabriel by Mary Lemley. Thursday 30th Sept onwards


Nouns for Gabriel began in 2001 as collaborative research with my stepson Gabriel, for our Wellcome Trust project Something it is like to be…, a work about autism, communication, and art. Gabriel was an autistic, non-verbal person, who was then thirteen in 2001.

Not wanting to think about the meaning of the images, I chose some of Gabriel’s favourite Ladybird Book pictures, as a kind homage to both Gabriel and his father’s childhood. And they were fun to draw. Gabriel enjoyed observing me draw, especially when the images began to reveal themselves. As our research progressed, these images began to function as nouns, creating funny sentences through combination. A hairbrush, a car, and some chocolate. A glass of milk and ship. After school, Gabriel would come to the studio and I’d draw while he observed, and then we could share humour and absurdity in the combinations. It was like communicating through the membrane of a drawing.

This collaboration helped me better understand Gabriel’s way of thinking as well as gain greater trust in his lively mind. Through paying attention to his choices and responses, I could further appreciate his keen eye and quick sense of recognition as valuable thought tools.

Years later, the drawings had a second calling, a way to raise funds for Gabriel’s support needs through Gabriel’s Angels. The drawings became Nouns for Gabriel. With this support, Gabriel flourished as a young man. Running the clubnight in Hoxton, Pig Pen, with his best friend Ben Connors for over three years, as well as campaigning at the House of Commons with the National Autistic Society for the Autism Bill.

Sadly, Gabriel died in August 2012.

Some of the Nouns for Gabriel are now shown together after 20 years at Hundred Years Gallery. Any funds raised through the sale of the drawings will go to funding the building of the website Snizz Up ( Ben Connors and I will pull together photos, videos, and Ben’s 17 wonderful Snizz Up comics based on his friendship with Gabriel to create a further legacy of Gabriel’s interesting and important life.

Mary Lemley

Ground Floor | 30th Sept onwards | free 

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