Gilles Tréhin is an autistic savant who began to exhibit a seemingly innate talent for drawing at the age of 5, as well as unusual abilities for mental calculation and music.
Autistic savants are people whose mental wiring seems to be a little different than the rest of us, resulting in limitations in certain areas but extraordinary abilities in others. Their phenomenal talents in the areas where they are gifted may hold secrets for the rest of us in understanding our own potential abilities.
I wrote two posts earlier about autistic savant Stephen Wiltshire, who also exhibited an extraordinary faculty for drawing from an early age. My first post was a general introduction and the second post dealt specifically with Wiltshire’s amazing ability to create memory drawings of complex city landscapes, like the skyline of Tokyo or Hong Kong, after viewing the subject for less than an hour.
Like Wiltshire, Tréhin seems to have a fascination with complex architectural themes, but in his case, his subject is imaginary, a fantastic city called “Urville” (named after “Dumont d’Urville”, a French base in the Antarctic). Urville is an large city (“11,820,257 inhabitants” according to Tréhin), with its own unique geography, street plan and architectural style, that exists in great detail in Tréhin’s mind.
Tréhin conceived of the idea of Urville at the age of 12 and started to construct it out of Legos. As he got older and the idea for the city grew, he realized that his drawing skills would let him expand his concept of the city and he began a series of detailed drawings of Urville, its streets, plazas, bridges, churches, promenades, airport, skyline and street plan.
The drawings are large scale, extraordinarily detailed and rich with the feeling of a real city, in which the buildings, streets and plazas exist in well-defined relationship to one another. It’s not like he’s drawing some imaginary street scenes with buildings put in as a convenience for composition, like most illustrators would do, it’s much more like Tréhin has been walking the streets of Urville in his mind, sketchbook in hand.
Tréhin has also created an entire background for the city, with its history (founded by Phoenicians), economy, culture and more. He is putting together a book but in the meanwhile his site offers a fascinating “Guided Tour”.
There is also an interesting article on the site of the Wisconsin Medical Society.
Maybe it’s because of the architectural subject matter, and maybe it’s just me, but I think his drawing style, although more sophisticated, bears a fascinating resemblance to Wiltshire’s. Food for thought.