Working with Visual Impairment

 

Working with a Visual Impairment

 

I have a good amount of useful vision but I have a life-long sight problem that cannot be corrected with glasses and there is no treatment for it. It reached the point about fifteen years ago that I had to stop driving and at that point I was registered as ‘Visually Impaired’. The long term prognosis is good, it is unlikely to get significantly worse. When I was registered I thought I should put my creative energies into writing as I had set up my computer with an extra magnified screen and text to speech software. I guess the best way of describing my sight is to say it is patchy, like a windscreen with lots of misty grey areas. The parts that aren’t misty are normal for someone my age. Text is tricky but I am used to putting together what I see. Thankfully my mind’s eye is strong and well trained.

After many years of ups and downs, and stop-starts, I have ended up doing more artwork than ever. I get a lot from writing but when I am making my work I feel connected with nature, I get to leave my usual cluttered thinking behind, I am free, I am myself. Computers are great but when I open a pot of fresh paint it is like opening a fresh tin of coffee.

So I stopped trying to stop and embraced the idea of being a visually impaired artist. I stopped worrying quite so much about what others may think about the idea too. That is why I am writing this post. The salient point is, having a sight problem does not mean you have to stop making artwork. In continuing your creative endeavours you are making use of what you have and exercising your mind’s eye. The eyes are the lens and your mind’s eye is where the information takes form.

So I use a massive sketchbook, and paint on boards 3’ x 4’. I actually feel like my work is getting better.

text and image

by Jasper Morley

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‘What is Art’ part three – Art is… and the art of

 

Art is….

In my last post on ‘What is Art?’ I gave some quotes from some prominent artists and thinkers on what they thought art is, as well as the dictionary definition. Below, is how I finished this sentence. It is not a definition and it is not the result of academic research. It is a statement that attempts to express what lies at the heart of the matter.

‘Art is the appreciated expression of something’s nature’

I find this view, has more than anything helped me personally, to better understand art and my own practice. The story behind this statement will help make better sense of it. A good place to start is with what is meant by ‘the art of’

 

The Art of

 

Knowing what is meant by the phase ‘the art of…’ gives a valuable insight into what art itself is. There is an art to anything, as illustrated by the titles of three books that spring to mind: ‘The Art of War’, as ancient Chinese military text attributed to Sun Tzu, ‘The Art of Loving’ by Erich Fromm, and the ‘Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ by Robert M Pirzig, considered essential reading in my teens. People will refer to the art of any activity you can think of, positive and negative. Often people will use this phrase when talking about technical ability and skills of the highest order in the carrying out a given human endeavour. Skill and technique can take practice to a level that it transcends them and elevates it to an art form. Technique is not a guarantee of artistry and it is not the only way to achieve it. The art of something requires an intuitive understanding of the nature of what is being undertaken. To witness the true art of something is an to experience the nature of something. There are those artists that connect with and understand the nature of numbers, others the nature of a football, and others human behaviour. You can teach technique but an artist will use technique to connect with the nature of what they are doing. They connect directly and this felt response is both conscious and intuitive and not something easily described. Someone may be able to follow the manual but the art lies in responding directly to the way things feel, their character, their nature. It is a conscious and unconscious connection with what is being done. It is what visitors to galleries, football grounds, and theatres hope to see; moments, manifestations and expressions of the nature of things. Whether it is gardening or book-keeping, waiting tables or planning events, there are those who have the understanding and capacity to elevate what they are doing to an art form. When we witness or are part of the art of something we tap into the nature of what is being undertaken in the same way we connect to nature directly. The art of a human endeavour is an expression of nature itself. Let’s not forget that bad things have their own nature; nature is what makes something what it is and that is not always beautiful. A work of art acts as a passageway from us to nature; as in a passage of music, a passage from a book, and so on. This is not always the conscious intention of the artist but occurs in true works of art none the less. I think I am straying off the path a little so to sum up; the art of something is carrying out of a human endeavour through a conscious and an intuitive understanding of its nature, transcending technique and becoming an expression of that nature. Most football fans are familiar with a manager’s plea to those playing the game to ‘go out and express yourselves’, and most people can appreciate that George Best was an artist. Art connects our nature to the nature of something being expressed. In much the same way we have a profound response to nature directly. Small wonder that I have known people to cry in front of a painting or when confronted with the Grand Canyon for the first time. Small wonder also that we prize the opportunity art offers us so highly.

 

words and image

by Jasper Morley

 

What is Art – Part 2

The Mind’s Eye 2017  combination fo painting and photography photo edited

 

What is Art? Part Two

 

Luckily I saw Jackson Pollock’s, ‘Blue Poles’, also known as Number 11, at the National Gallery of Australia when I was a young teen, and without any preconceptions about how I should or shouldn’t respond to it. I had not really paid much attention to the controversy surrounding its purchase by the gallery. It stunned me, I found it mesmerising; it was an experience not just something to look at. At no point did I ask myself whether it was art or not. The painting was already over twenty years old when it was bought in 1973.

I moved back to England with my family in 1976 at about the time Carl Andre’s ‘Equivalent VIII’, bought by The Tate Gallery for around £3000 was causing just as great a stir. Spending tax payer’s money on 120 stacked bricks got people hot under the collar. I confess that I found it hard to understand why the piece warranted being bought by the Tate, other than it being a not so good example of a significant artist. It is by no means the only lesser work of a well-known artist bought by a public gallery. At least it’s gone up in price. I confess, even though I had become a convert to modern art, I had doubts about it; not whether it was art or not, whether it was any good or not; a subject for another day.

So why didn’t looking up the definition of art in the dictionary solve the dispute as to whether Tate bricks piece is art or not, so that the discussion could focus on whether it had any merit. Is it because the dictionary definition is not clear enough? Or is art indefinable, or maybe we like certain things to be a mystery; maybe some people benefit from it being a mystery. It’s my belief that art is less of a mystery than the endless debate would suggest. The question on the blackboard at my Dad’s work, that I saw as a boy, and dismissed, ‘What is art?’ had finally attached itself to the back of my mind.

So how would you finish the sentence, Art is …

I will start the next post in this series with what I find a useful ending to the sentence.

Here are the thoughts of some clever clogs, followed by the Oxford Dictionary definition.


Henry James in his short story The Middle Years: We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.

Frank Lloyd Wright, writing in 1957, as cited in Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture, Nature, and the Human Spirit: A Collection of Quotations:

Art is a discovery and development of elementary principles of nature into beautiful forms suitable for human use.

Charles Eames, cited in the fantastic 100 Quotes by Charles Eames:

Art resides in the quality of doing; process is not magic.

Elbert Hubbard in a 1908 volume of Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Teachers:

Art is not a thing — it is a way.

Oscar Wilde in The Soul of Man Under Socialism:

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.

Thomas Merton in No Man Is An Island:

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.

Friedrich Nietzsche, made famous all over again by Ray Bradbury in Zen in the Art of Writing:

We have our Arts so we won’t die of Truth.

Hugh MacLeod in Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity:

Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it.

The Greek philosopher Aristophanes, writing in the 4th century B.C.:

Let each man exercise the art he knows.

 

And her is the Oxford English dictionary definition.

NOUN

  • 1mass nounThe expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

‘the art of the Renaissance’

‘great art is concerned with moral imperfections’

‘she studied art in Paris’

More example sentences

Synonyms

  1. 1Works produced by human creative skill and imagination.

‘his collection of modern art’

as modifier ‘an art critic’

More example sentences

Synonyms

  1. Creative activity resulting in the production of paintings, drawings, or sculpture.

‘she’s good at art’

More example sentences

  • the artsThe various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.

‘the visual arts’ in singular ‘the art of photography’

More example sentences

  • artsSubjects of study primarily concerned with human creativity and social life, such as languages, literature, and history (as contrasted with scientific or technical subjects)

‘the belief that the arts and sciences were incompatible’ ‘the Faculty of Arts’

 

words and image

by Jasper Morley