Art and soul

Patrick Samuel speaks to James Cracknell about how rediscovering his love of art has helped turn his life around

Patrick Samuel
Patrick Samuel’s recent exhibition at the Dugdale was deemed a big success

Every day, Patrick Samuel paints a picture. It’s always a new picture – something that has  inspired him that day.

“I can’t seem to hold the idea for longer than that,” he tells me. “When I’ve finished each  painting, I’ll write a little poem to go with it.”

This is something Patrick has done daily for nearly two years. Prior to 23rd December 2016, he hadn’t painted for 20 years, but carer and friend Uwe Nietzold persuaded him to reconnect with his childhood hobby as a way to kick-start his recovery from a severe depressive episode.

“Art is now my therapy,” Patrick explains. “Uwe knows my brain better than anyone, and he told me to just paint.”

Patrick had not yet been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, nor Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but had been working with children with special needs because of his ability to connect with them.

Then, a bad experience working at a school led Patrick into a deep depression. “I began banging my head against the wall, I became non-verbal. I attempted suicide.”

Fortunately, long-time friend Uwe was there to help. “He couldn’t express himself, but I’d heard he had painted a lot when he was younger,” said Uwe. “So I told him to let the paintbrush do the talking, and it was stunning. He has an amazing talent.”

Painting was the key to turning Patrick’s life around, and within a year he was holding his first art exhibition. Last month, he held his sixth, at Dugdale Centre, with a series of
paintings inspired by his regular visits to Broomfield Park in Palmers Green.

“They asked me if I wanted to do an exhibition based around the park and I thought it was perfect because I live around the corner and it is my go-to place for calming down and
exercising and walking my dog.

“That was my summer – I spent every day at Broomfield Park. I got to know Broomfield House, the conservatory, the beehives, the orchard, and I got inspiration from all of them.

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“Kim Lumley who runs the beehive invited me there and even put me in a bee suit. It was one of the most calming experiences of my life – they said they had never known anyone be so calm around bees – the buzzing helped reduce my heart rate.

“I can’t go on a bus at rush hour but I’m fine around bees!”

The paintings inspired by Broomfield Park went on display at Dugdale Centre during October, in the exhibition Passing Time: Moments in Broomfield.

It was the latest in a series of successful exhibitions for Patrick over the last year. Three more are already planned for 2019, including one at Starfish and Coffee in Palmers
Green and another at the Dugdale.

As well as painting and poetry, another creative outlet is music. Last year Patrick released a 19-track album of electronic songs, Beyond The Spectrum, that he composed and produced
himself – having previously scored music for short films, advertisements, and produced
remixes for club nights.

Patrick styles himself as the ‘Asperger Artist’ and embraces the condition – describing himself as “neuro-diverse”. He often gives talks about how it affects him and offers advice to others at conferences and other events.

Supporting him at every step is Uwe, who was shortlisted for Carer of the Year in last month’s Autism Hero Awards, after Patrick nominated him: “Because he is basically my family to me.”

Another factor in Patrick’s recovery is where he lives. “There is so much local support in Enfield,” he says. “There are Facebook communities like Love Your Doorstep, they helped me with a kick-starter for my first exhibition; Baker and Chase [estate agents] got me to do their window; my local gym Energie Fitness have been really supportive; the Palmers Green Community website; even local MPs and the mayor – there’s so much support from so many directions.”

Find out more about Patrick’s art, music, and advice on living with Asperger’s:

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