Sunday, January 6, 2008

Science Podcast of the Day- The Inner Eye of the Blind Artist

The Blind Brain
A completely blind artist paints perfect replicas of the world he's never seen. An Indian child born with cataracts miraculously gains full visual capacity at age 12. People born blind experience their 'seeing' mind in different ways, and are helping scientists challenge the dogma of a brain rigidly hard-wired for vision. And, Zoltan Torey, blinded 56 years ago in an industrial accident, shares his own wildly vivid experience of an 'inner eye'.

Artist Eşref Armağan: painting an unseen world
"They took me to Italy. The place we were seemed like a city square. There was a chair and a table. They brought an object made out of cardboard and placed it in front of me. I didn't know what it was.

It turned out to be a model of the building next to us. 'You have five minutes. Take a moment to examine it, and then draw it', a professor said to me. I picked up the model and looked at it. And then I heard another professor's voice speaking. This one said 'Take a glance from overhead, then a glance from in front and last of all, imagine you are standing next to the building and then draw it from the bottom up, just as you saw it'. I made my first drawing and no one said anything. I finished the second one, still no sound. After I finished my third drawing, I was scared by the sound of a professor crying."

The above words are from painter Eşref Armağan, who was born with a visual impairment. Yes, Armağan cannot see, but he has made beautiful paintings. Armağan never received an education; he learned how to read and write much later in life. His hands became his whole world. As he says: "I have 10 fingers. With five of them I look and with five of them I draw." He does not miss even the slightest details in his drawings; they include perspective, shadowing and movement. Armağan even achieves the "three-point perspective" in his paintings that some professional painters have a difficult time capturing. Of course, he does this with his own particular methods. He puts what he has learned as raised relief on the canvases he uses. First he makes raised shapes with a material like paste, which stiffens in 15 minutes, and then he draws his pictures. He explains why it is he uses this raised paste: "I have blind friends who come to my exhibitions. Because these pictures reflect my world, they don't understand what they are. When I make paintings that are raised relief, they can touch them and understand."

See for yourself

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