British artist Stephen Wiltshire's life and work have touched many around the world, said mayor of Central Singapore District Denise Phua last night. "For me, like other parents of special needs children, Stephen's story offers much hope and joy. And even for other people with special needs, Stephen's story is one of encouragement and inspiration," said Ms Phua, the guest-of-honour at an appreciation dinner for him at Marina Bay Sands.
Mr Wiltshire, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, is acclaimed for his ability to draw detailed cityscapes from memory. He is in town this week to draw the Singapore skyline.
Ms Phua, who is president of the Autism Resource Centre, said the country has progressed in supporting people with special needs, but "there is still much to be done especially in the areas of support for those who are adults". She said there were needs in tertiary education, employment and support for those who need more intensive support.
Crowds have been gathering daily at the main atrium of the Paragon on Orchard Road to watch Mr Wiltshire's progress as he creates a panorama of the Singapore skyline on a 4m by 1m canvas.
He memorised the view during an hour-long helicopter ride on Tuesday, and his drawing so far includes iconic locations such as Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay.
Earlier yesterday, some 40 students from the School of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts visited him and did sketches of their own of Mr Wiltshire.
He will be drawing at the Paragon in full public view from 10am to 5pm till Sunday, as part of the See The Big Picture project for Singapore Press Holdings' (SPH) 30th anniversary. Another 18 of his works are also on display.
Editor-in-Chief of SPH's English and Malay Newspapers Division Patrick Daniel last night thanked Mr Wiltshire for accepting the company's invitation. "(He) has wowed us all with his unique and unfathomable ability," he said. "His latest masterpiece has allowed Singaporeans to 'See The Big Picture' through all our platforms - from print, digital, broadcasting, out-of-home to social media."
The finished work will be presented to President Tony Tan Keng Yam in September as a gift to Singapore for the nation's 50th birthday next year.
Mr Wiltshire accepted a framed copy of Thursday's cover page of The Straits Times, which shows him beginning his drawing, from Ms Ginney Lim, SPH's general-counsel and executive vice-president of corporate communications and corporate and social responsibility at SPH.
"I love having busy days," said Mr Wiltshire, 40. "Sometimes it's difficult, there may be storeys and details on the buildings I may not know about... but I can't wait to see (the drawing) finished, around two more days to go. I'm going to be thrilled."