Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Synesthesia & Painting

McGowan Fine Art recently brought in the work of Liz Wilson, a young artist from the Seacoast area. Her works are comprised of beautifully transparent and calligraphic brush strokes that create an object which floats in the large field of white paper. The layering of strokes creates new colors and forms on the page. Pale washes create a halo-like effect around denser, more opaque strokes. Her use of color is what first caught my eye, but as I get to live with them I find I am also drawn to what she doesn’t paint. The creamy field of paper provides a structure for the color object.

After bringing in the work I learned that Liz has a perceptional condition called synesthesia, which very simply put causes the person to involuntarily equate colors with certain visual or auditory stimulation. This sort of information causes me to go back to the work to see if it informs it in any way. It didn’t change my initial reaction to the work but I have to acknowledge that having synesthesia must mean that she is very sensitive to colors and that they can invoke more than a visual response in people.

Liz says about her work, “These paintings are impressions of my experience in the world at a specific moment.  When I am able to focus inward, I see in my mind’s eye my sensory experience translated into shape and color. This experience is part of my reality; it is the author, creator of my painting language.  In the process of making the images I simplify and to a degree caricaturize my experiences.  The source of the images is specific.  However, what I am depicting is the sensation that I took from a moment.”

Ironically a customer came in to the gallery this past week and announced she had synesthesia. Each letter is associated with a certain color for her. Still grappling with what this must look like I asked her what my name would look like. No doubt this is considered a silly parlor trick for those with the condition but it helped me understand what they must be seeing.

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