The Attitude Awards, held on World Disability Day, December 3, recognises the work of Kiwi artists living with disabilities. With the gala just around the corner the Herald caught up with one of the finalists, 24-year-old Yaniv Janson, on his work and what it means to him.

Yaniv has Asperger's syndrome and epilepsy. He struggles with social ties and connection in everyday life, yet his work demonstrates an empathetic and critical take on social issues.

Attitude Award finalist 'Everybody's Lives'. Yaniv Janson
Attitude Award finalist 'Everybody's Lives'. Yaniv Janson

His current project is called "Rich, Middle class, and poor."

Yaniv, who has previously been a finalist for the National Contemporary Art Award and the Wallace Trust Art Award, says his current work is about peoples' lives and living conditions.

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"Following in the Social Realism tradition, I want to draw attention to the everyday living conditions of people in a range of socio-economic conditions.

"In this painting, rich people live in a multi-coloured village on the mountain and the brown village by the ocean - with a view. They have more money and food. They choose what colour house they want. They see at least the ocean and other things from their home.

"The middle class people live in the silver village by the bottom of the mountain. They have to share their home with other people who are middle class. Their houses are all the same. They only have a medium amount of clean water and food for living. The poor people live in the bushes. They have no clean water, no home, no nice view, and almost no food."

Trust Waikato National Contemporary Art Award finalist 'Autumn Reflection'. Yaniv Janson
Trust Waikato National Contemporary Art Award finalist 'Autumn Reflection'. Yaniv Janson

Yaniv's unique use of bright colour is a big part of what makes his work stand out.

"I look to position the viewer in a fantastical environment where questions about the basics of human and environmental conditions are asked through the modest beauty of symmetry and colour."

His work often touches on the sublime with a strong environmental message.

Yaniv writes: Bee colonies are being decimated by viruses and possibly by the over use of pesticides. Yaniv Janson
Yaniv writes: Bee colonies are being decimated by viruses and possibly by the over use of pesticides. Yaniv Janson

Parents Annick and Robin found out about his talent through his art teacher when he was 16.

"We were taken aback as he never did any art at home!" Annick said. They were told by a photographer friend that they needed to develop his talent.

In the same year, Yaniv had two paintings named as finalists, for the National Contemporary Art Award and the Wallace Trust Art Award.

"Statistically speaking he wins about one award per year," Annick said.

Yaniv has also been invited to work with architects, designers and researchers on projects ranging from environmentalism to fashion.

He has a project with UNESCO called Taking action!

"I travel to schools and day centres for disabled people to inspire educators and staff to raise their expectations about the contribution that can be made by the people they support," he said.

Outside of art, Yaniv loves sports.

"I am a big fan of the All Blacks and the Black Caps! During international sports events, I follow as many of the games as I can."

He is also a fond traveller, he recently went to New York and Paris "where I spent days in the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou - being surrounded by art makes me feel elated."
With a glowing career already, Yaniv shows no signs of slowing down.

"Art is my life" he said.

He is currently planning a series of exhibitions for next year.