Beyond boundaries

Yuli Yap is an artist who isn’t neurotypical but he won’t let that stand in his way of making life colourful!

Spread the love

Yuli Yap is a talented artist who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 18 years old. For those who may not understand Asperger’s syndrome, it is characterised by difficulties in social interaction and non-verbal communication along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests.

However, he didn’t let this diagnosis stop him from doing what he loves and continues to do so today. Yuli is also raising awareness about autism and showing the world that not being neurotypical doesn’t stop you from being and doing amazing things!

Just recently, Yuli is volunteering his time at ABC (Autism Behavioral Center) where he hopes to raise awareness about autism.

We spoke to Yuli on the challenges he faced and what he hopes for the future.

1Twenty80: You were diagnosed with Asperger’s at 18 years old. How did you or your parents know to go to someone to get this diagnosis?

Yuli Yap: At that time, I was completing my diploma during college in Australia and I had some problems coping so it was decided that we should see a professional. We saw a psychiatrist in Leederville, Perth, where I was studying and that was when I received the diagnosis and also was treated for depression. 

In college, it was mainly depression that I went to therapy and I just did therapy during off days from school. My mum came to help me out during that time because it was a little difficult for me. I stayed on until I finished my diploma then when I came back to Malaysia, I decided to pursue a degree in Graphic Design.

1Twenty80: How did you discover your love for art?

Yuli: I’ve always loved drawing even before primary school. Of course, back then it was mainly with colour pencils but now I paint with acrylics. During my studies, I also learned other mediums such as markers, pen and ink.

1Twenty80: So tell us more about how your paintings were noticed and lead to solo exhibitions?

Yuli: My paintings were exhibited at home and they were noticed by Christine Ngh, founder of Bumblebee Consultancy, who saw the exhibition on social media and then contacted me. Afterwards, one thing lead to another and I had my second solo exhibition at Artemis Art Gallery in Publika and more came afterwards.

Image credit: From the Pieces of Joy Exhibition, 2012 Image credit: Yuli Yap Art Facebook

Image credit: Yuli Yap Art Facebook

Quote: I want people to know that there isn’t anything wrong with us and that much like computers and phones, we’re just on a different operating system!

1Twenty80: Do you feel overwhelmed, such as during an exhibition and how do you cope?

Yuli: I’ll invite my close friends and family so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Besides, usually, we just have to turn up for the first day of the exhibition so that’s alright. In fact, I’m preparing for another exhibition but it’ll take around two years and I have about nine more pieces to finish.

1Twenty80: What is your creative process like?

Yuli: When I’m painting my artwork and everything goes smoothly, I feel tranquil. However, when I fix mistakes, that can get quite stressful. I take a break when I get too stressed then do some meditational exercises like qi gong which helps calm the nervous system through the mind and body connection. I also listen to music to destress as well and I find it a great outlet.

Image credit: Yuli Yap Art Facebook

1Twenty80: How do you go about your day currently?

Yuli: Right now, I’m focusing on gearing up for my next exhibition so I’ll need to finish quite a few paintings. I spend most of my time painting but I usually rest for two days in between painting because my hand will hurt. In the meantime, I do qi gong and gardening to release stress. I also love to read and I’ve just finished ‘The Book of Five Rings’, a book written by Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.

1Twenty80: What do you want people to know when it comes to people with autism?

Yuli: I find that especially with high-functioning autism, most programs in school don’t really cater to their needs. It’s mostly academic-based learning which favours the left-brain. Most autistic people may underperform and their talents won’t be recognised, making them feel ‘less than’.

For instance, they may have talent in music but this may not be recognised in mainstream schools. Additionally, when it comes to team sports, some people with autism aren’t great at interacting with a team because it’s based on social interaction.

Our education system needs to be more well-rounded so it can help people realise their talents. Develop the right and left brain together. Besides, critical thinking should also be taught because it stimulates thought instead of just following along with the syllabus. That being said, it’s good to succeed in math and science but arts and humanities shouldn’t be overlooked as well.

I want people to know that there isn’t anything wrong with us and that much like computers and phones, we’re just on a different operating system! 

Sidebox: Follow Yuli on his art page where he posts updates on his exhibitions and also inspiring messages. Yuli Yap Art:

Sidebox: For more information on autism screenings, check out ABC (Autism Behavioral Center), the largest one to one Applied Behavior Analysis Center in Malaysia. Find them at:


Address: Bangunan Bangsaria, 45E Jalan Maarof, 59100 Bangsar.

Telephone: +603-2201 1107 / +603-2202 1107 / +6012-2852007



Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.