Blind Simulation

imageInspired by the silent composition sound art (4’33” – John Cage – 1952) I was interested to explore blindness, not a complete loss of sight, but a loss of external seeing; just as we explored the way silence is not at all silent.

I have worked alongside a charity that supports the blind, SeeAbility. I tried to get closer to the impact of blindness, by using contact lenses that block out most light by preventing the eye from perceiving spatial depth.

I also talked to a range of people affected by blindness, to understand their stories, the background to and impact of their disability, and how this affects their identity.

I have produced a range of studies in acrylics, oils and pastels. I explored different media, including sculpture and sound, and studied personal objects; interested by what the touch and feel of an object can communicate.

I feel I have only just scraped the surface of what there is to explore within this idea, in particular the use of sound and objects, something I will develop in the future.

In this painting, my sitter is experiencing blindness by wearing the bLind simulation contact lenses. The most important part of the work is to try and capture their character whilst temporarily blind, which is why I have used oils on a large format.

In addition to the portrait, I am presenting a series of words spoken by the sitter while I painted them, during the time they were experiencing blindness. Printed in braille, these words are intensely personal and represent the trust the sitter had in me to remove her sight and speak openly about the physical and emotional effects of it. I am interested in the idea that most people cannot read braille, so will only be able to guess at the words spoken – the rest of the story must come through the image.

Greyson Perry describes portrait artists as ‘part psychologist, part detective’. This is how I approached this project, studying the body language of the sitter as they were in this vulnerable state. It is how I hope the audience will approach looking at and touching the braille, which they will not be able to decipher, but must react to.

This project has reinforced my belief in the importance of seeing everyone for who they are, not what you assume they might be, and my desire in art, to attempt to represent an individual’s true identity.

Art and Depression



feelings of severe despondency and dejection.
“self-doubt creeps in and that swiftly turns to depression”
synonyms: melancholy, misery, sadness, unhappiness, sorrow, woe, gloom, gloominess, dejection, downheartedness, despondency, dispiritedness, low spirits, heavy-heartedness, moroseness, discouragement, despair, desolation, dolefulness, moodiness, pessimism, hopelessness; the slough of despond; upset, tearfulness; informalthe dumps, the doldrums, the blues, one’s black dog, a low; informalthe blahs, a funk, a blue funk; informalthe mopes; technicalclinical depression, endogenous depression, reactive depression, postnatal depression, dysthymia, melancholia; literarydolour; archaicthe megrims; raremopery, disconsolateness, disconsolation

I received an email today from the charity group Next Steps which supports people with depression.  I am interested in collaborating with this charity as part of my project.  I believe identity is a multi layered and shifting thing, much like depression itself.  You can see from the dictionary definition above that depression can not be described using one single word.

I have been invited to meet some of the people that this charity supports, by meeting these people I hope to learn a bit more about this complex disorder.  My aim is to discover how these people feel about identity and if they believe depression alters it.


Reflection on week (20th April)

Over the past week I have been meeting charities interested in taking part in my project that explores Identity in disease and disability.

I am very thankful to the charity SeeAbility for having me, taking me on a tour of their residential care home, and introducing me to some of the people they support.

For me this was an eye opening and emotional experience.  It was amazing to get an insight in to the lives of the people that live in this home, which is their permanent residence.  The care home I visited is home to six adults with multiple disabilities, with an emphasis on sight loss.

When first entering the building I was struck by how homely and comfortable the house looked, far from the cold and clinical look that I expected.  The walls were covered in colourful paintings and drawings done by the residents.  This became of great interest to me as I was later told that most of the patients are partially or completely blind.

The reason for my visit was to speak to the manager of the care home about potential subjects for my portraits.  Meeting the people I am possibly going to use as my subjects was a vert exciting experience.  One woman in particular stood out to me, she was very interested in the conversation I was having with the Manager and stood in the room listening.  When I was introduced to her, she stepped forward and held her had out, as I put my hand out to hers she pulled it up towards her face, perhaps as a way to introduce her self.  This made me think about the importance of touch to someone who has no, or very little sight.

Over the next couple of days I will be getting in contact with the families of some of these people, to get permission to take photos and make some initial sketches.



I am hugely thankful to the charities who are helping me, especially to the people who are allowing me to talk to and paint them. Their honesty and courage is an inspiration. All of these charities need and deserve financial support. I will be offering the portraits I paint in this project to the sitters and charities. Any money raised during my project will be donated to the charities involved.

Teenage Cancer Trust







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My Idea

For my Final Major Project I will be exploring the identity behind disease and disability and discovering if someone’s ‘true’ self can be altered by it.

I am interested in how it can be seen as a stigma to talk about such personal subjects, but I want to present these diseases and disabilities as something to be proud of.

I have been in contact with the Depression Alliance, The Teenage Cancer Trust and local Blind support groups.

Through this project I aim to discover if ‘true’ identity can be captured in a portrait, or if in fact a portrait is just an empty, physical representation.

By meeting, interviewing and photographing a series of people effected by disease or disorder, I aim to unmask their ‘inner significance’ and intend to show more of them than the disease or disability they have. Continue reading “My Idea”