Esref Armagan, painter born without eyes, is it perceptual?

December 14, 2009  

I saw this 12/10/09 New York Times article, The Blind Artist and the Volvo today about the new Volvo video campaign for their 2011 S60 model using a Turkish painter who was born without eyes showing him making a painting of their new model. The article and their related youtube video shown below intrigued me in a number of ways.

Would you consider this amazing painter is painting conceptually or perceptually? Touch and thinking about what he touches are the only perceptions available to him so that would only be logical to consider it perceptual but his paintings have the look of an idea of an object more than how we actual see it.

The video states, the MRI scans show the same area of the brain are active for him as sighted people use when painting. He uses symbols of shape and color that most people agree represents such things as the water or sky being blue and buildings have some rudimentary 2 point perspective however the real color and space we see is far different. He can paint the idea of a specific building or car he has touched but he would never be able to “accurately” paint a landscape or cityscape from a fixed location. However this doesn’t stop him from painting a wonderful painting that captures his feelings about the location.

Some might argue that everything we paint is ultimately conceptual not visual. That drawing and painting cannot truly be an absolute mirror of nature, that we will never confuse a painting with reality. (except maybe for drunk people walking into some trompe l’oeil doorway!)

The novelty of a blind painter is inspirational and makes for a great viral ad campaign but obviously quite different from the more commonly seen perceptual painting. You could argue that what he’s doing is amazing enough and forget the inherent limitations of a blind painter. Or you could cynically place it in the category of armless artists painting with their teeth or playing the guitar with their feet. What worries me is when elephants painting self-portraits or 5 year old painters getting a solo Chelsea show sometimes get more attention and interest than the truly masterful painters who paint for a world which sadly, is often blind to their astounding accomplishments.

(please note: I edited this post later today after thinking about more ) I am posting here an additional video and information of another blind painter, Sargy Mann, that Ilaria commented about – is even more interesting…
Please read more about the painter Sargy Mann Ilaria’s blog here.

here is a video (approx 30 minute) about Sargy Mann from the film his son made about him…

Sargy Mann from Peter Mann Pictures on Vimeo.

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