If you're looking for something special to do next weekend (or any weekend for that matter), make your way to The Rocks Markets in Sydney's CBD. Here, you can weave your way around the wonderful array of stalls set amidst the sandstone buildings and cobblestone streets of this historic part of town.
The Rocks Markets hosts 200 stalls selling clothing and accessories by local designers, locally-produced homewares, linen, beauty products, photography, art, crafts, jewellery and food to suit every taste and appetite. While the shopping is the main attraction, it's about more than that. It's an experience where you might just find yourself taking home something that cost you nothing but will inspire you for life.
Ping Lian Yeak with his amazing art at The Rocks Markets
If it's inspiration you're looking for, you'll find it in abundance at the art stall of Ping Lian Yeak. As I wandered along one of the cobblestone streets my eyes were drawn towards his unique artworks, many of which possessed a beautiful mosaic appearance. They were composed of vivid colours and intricate strokes, many portraying iconic Sydney architecture. The works were strong, bold and beautiful and I couldn't walk past without taking a closer look.
Watching over the stall was Sarah Lee and I got chatting to her about the art, remarking on the distinctive technique of the artist and how different the artwork was to anything else I'd seen. Sarah Lee smiled, and proudly turned around to where a young man was painting at a small table and said this was her son and artist, Ping Lian. He didn't look up in recognition of his name and, rather, continued to paint, fully focused on his current work in progress.
What Sarah Lee shared with me then was remarkable and humbling. Ping Lian, now 20 years old, is a prodigious savant artist. His autism was diagnosed when he was four years old, his parents having persisted with his hyperactivity, lack of affection, unawareness of danger, living in his own world and being unable to hold a pencil to write or scissors to cut.
Love, persistence and faith: Sarah Lee, Ping Lian's mother, has never doubted her son's ability to do something extraordinary with his talent
Disappointed but not defeated by this diagnosis, in an effort to improve Ping Lian's fine motor skills, his mother encouraged him to trace shapes with a pencil through transparent paper. Sarah Lee describes how he traced the letters of the alphabet over and over, repetitive tasks to build imitation skills. Slowly, she introduced thicker paper to challenge him.
At the age of 8, Ping Lian had outgrown the tracing paper and acquired an obsession for drawing, at first copying pictures and then moving onto more sophisticated subjects. To develop this talent, Sarah Lee engaged art teachers to spend time with Ping Lian and his skills grew exponentially with this boy growing into a talented artist and a mature, hardworking and thoughtful young man.
Ping Lian has developed an extraordinary talent and the ability to show love, affection and empathy. Whilst this is greatly attributable to to his mother's perseverance, tenacity and love, she is quick to credit her faith in God for getting her through some very tough times. A word which is peppered throughout her lively conversation is "blessed" – how blessed she is to have Ping Lian as her son and how blessed she and her family are to be able to share this journey with him.
Ping Lian's love of animals and especially his dog and chicken are reflected in some of his art as a young child
Ping Lian's artwork stands on its own in demonstrating a remarkable artistic ability and takes on an added significance when considering his background. His artistic talent has been documented on television, through exhibitions and books and his extraordinary gift has been the subject of international research and study. The story is one of a beautiful and talented boy, a mother's love and a great faith that her family was chosen to take this journey and to encourage and inspire others.
I left the stall with two bags – one containing some beautiful prints and the other, a bag full of inspiration – a story of human connection, hidden talents, perseverance, love, trust and faith. Without these, Sarah Lee and her family may never have uncovered the great gift within Ping Lian which was willing and waiting to be released and nurtured.
The vivid colours and bold brush strokes hint at the wonderful workings of PIng Lian's mind
There is so much more to this inspirational story and if you're interested to read more about Ping Lian Yeak, go to this SMH article which shares some wonderful insights into this extraordinary young man and his family.
Ping Lian Yeak's artwork can be viewed and purchased at his stall at The Rocks Markets every weekend (Saturday and Sunday) from 10am to 5pm. Whilst a visit to the stall and chat with his mother, Sarah Lee, is fleeting, the inspiration found in Ping Lian's artwork will remain with you forever.