How did you come up with the idea of art for blind people?
That’s an easy question. I’m registered blind so I am a blind visual artist which is an oxymoron. I was blind in one eye from age six and around that age, all I ever wanted was to be an artist. I studied at a higher level gaining a degree in model making and became a dental model maker. Then I started to lose the rest of my sight, but art has always been a constant in my life, so no matter my vision I will be always making it. It has helped me deal with my dark days so I make art for myself exploring my practice. I also used dots before I lost my sight because when I see it’s like looking through a thousand dots and I know those dots mean something. I learned Braille in three weeks with an art piece that I have created and a light bulb went off in my head. That’s when I knew this is what my art practice will look like for the rest of my life, bringing Braille into the 21st century through my art.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the words and history of a place. I take the power of the English language and use the Braille dot to host that word. Just like an artist that draws from their surroundings for inspiration and from news around them. I’m no different. I use words and the history written down for generations so that people like me can absorb and create artwork and obviously inspired by Braille that tiny dot that no one can see but touch. But Braille is beautiful to look at and that is what inspires me to bring Braille to the people of the world through my art.
Do you consider it to be a completely different dimension of art?
I believe my art is unique. People have used dots in the art for thousands of years. You have Seurat pointillism and Damien Hirst dots and now you have Clarke’s visual Braille. This is a language not meant to be read but a tactile language, so I’m a Braille typographist making a visual color-coded Braille system of dots or words inside patterns. The possibilities are endless as Braille hasn’t really been used as an art tool visually only touch. I want to be a well know artist recognized for my unique style.
What is the goal that you want to achieve this year?
My goal is to have my first Braille exhibition where I can show major collectors/organizations my art. I’m known in Portsmouth but I want to be heard further afield in the UK and abroad. All it takes is one celebrity who likes your work and a big commission to show the art world that a blind artist can make it in a visual market. Why can’t I be as big as Damien Hirst creating large site-specific art around the world? That’s the dream and believe one day I will be exhibiting at Tate modern.
How do blind people perceive your art?
Well, the misconception of the blind is that they can’t see anything. That’s not the case. Only 3 percent of blind people see blackness. Every blind person sees differently. So for me, it’s like looking under the water. I have a memory of color but I can’t see it as bright as you.
My art can be touched when I do tactile work but I don’t make it for blind people. My Braille art is for people who can see. I want them to learn Braille through my art.
There’s an artist in the USA that is a blind muralist and he paints by feeling the viscosity of the colors, his name is John Bramblett, so out there there are lots of blind artists and we all make art differently.
Photo. Clarke Reynolds