Artists Featured in Affecting Perception 2013

Mervyn Peake

Peake was an accomplished artist, poet, novelist and playwright, who is thought to have suffered from rare form of neurodegenerative disease known as Dementia with Lewy Bodies. While there was a marked breakdown in his writing skills, his drawing became increasingly bizarre, as he attempted to illustrate is vivid hallucinations.

Cover of Gormenghast – M.Peake

Cover of Gormenghast, c.1950, (courtesy the Mervyn Peake Estate)

William Utermohlen

Utermohlen was a well-known artist before the onset of his Alzheimer’s, and his later works are now known to be some of the most fascinating examples of the changes inflicted on art production by dementia. His later works also express his fear at learning the diagnosis, and are a moving insight into the process of his mental decline.

William Utermohlen, 'Blue Skies', 1998, Oil on canvas

William Utermohlen, ‘Blue Skies’, 1998, Oil on canvas

Jon Sarkin

After a severe stroke which meant a portion of his left hemisphere had to be removed, Sarkin, previously a friendly, talkative chiropractor, became withdrawn and disinterested in his work, and developed an overwhelming urge to draw and paint.

“Beforehand, I knew who I was, more or less. But after this I didn’t – and I still don’t, not fully. Say you have a curve that gets closer and closer to another line without ever meeting it. It’s a logarithm. That’s me. My sense of self is logarithmic.” 

Sine of Decomposition – J.SarkinSine of Decomposition

 

JJ Ignatius Brennan

JJ Ignatius Brennan, renowned for his surrealist paintings, began his artistic career as a boy by painting the migraine experiences that would plague him for the rest of his life. He experienced loss of vision, hallucinations of zigzags and triangles, and the visual field splitting into a mosaic. Faces, objects and even parts of his body would appear deformed, grossly enlarged, or duplicated, and he sometimes experienced total loss of 3D vision.

Migraine Triptych (Section) – JJ. Ignatius Brennan

Migraine Man Suffers, 1992.

© 2007 Glaxo Wellcome, Inc.

Jon Adams

In a residency, curated by The Arts Catalyst and funded by The Wellcome Trust, at the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Jon Adams sets out on a personal, artistic and scientific investigation of his own Asperger’s Syndrome, through a series of conversations, observations and experiments. A geologist by training, Adams’ seeking of the hidden in his art often reveals his naturally systematic thinking: his inclination and ability to uncover systems within everyday interactions and landscapes.

228, 2012

Cecil Riley

At the age of 91 the artist Cecil Riley started having alarming visual hallucinations of eyes and gargoyle-like faces. He was suffering, like James Thurber, from Charles Bonnet Syndrome, which was brought about by progressive loss of vision from macular degeneration. Despite the anxiety they caused, he developed an interest in his hallucinations and began to paint what he saw.

Cecil Riley

Tom Eyre

Tom is a local Oxford artist who has Asperger’s syndrome. His work explores his relationship with the natural world. Tom often has strange experiences where he cannot remember what things look like, or identify objects. The images he paints are what appear to him in the moment of creation: the object appears without meaning or identity and he simply paints its shape and form. His experiences could be described as a kind of transient visual agnosia.

Grey Pumpkin Portrait, 2012

Jason Padgett

One night Jason Padgett was walking out of a karaoke club when he was attacked by muggers who kicked him in the head repeatedly. After mild concussion Padgett began to notice a change: he saw complex mathematical formulas everywhere he looked and became obsessed with turning them into intricate diagrams. Interestingly, Padgett doesn’t have a PhD, a university degree or even a background in maths. A brain scan, by a research team in Finland, showed areas of damage were forcing other areas of his brain to compensate. The result was Padgett was now an acquired savant.

“I see bits and pieces of the Pythagorean theorem everywhere. Every single little curve, every single spiral, every tree is part of that equation.”

Quantum Star II, 2007

Quantum Star II, 2007

 

 

George Widener

George Widener is an autistic savant who has a remarkable memory for historical facts and statistics. He compulsively organises this information into systems and finds patterns within calendar history. His mind func- tions like an advanced computer, calculating the day of the week for any given date over hundreds of years. In My Birthday he accurately calcu- lates the day of the week that his birthday will fall on in the year 2099. For Widener, creating art can be relaxing as it provides an outlet for ex- pressing his intense preoccupation with numbers.

My Birthday, c. 2005

Artists Experimenting With Neuroscience

Nicholas Wade

Nicholas Wade is a British psychologist and academic. He is an emeritus professor in the psychology department of the University of Dundee in Scotland. Wade has published widely on perception and vision and has collaborated with artists such as Patrick Hughes and Calum Colvin. His research interests include the representation of space and motion in human vision and the relationship between visual science and visual art. One of his aims is to foster a closer association between the graphical language of art and the interpretative language of science.

Nicholas Wade, Back Propagation, 2012

Nicholas Wade, Back Propagation, 2012

Yoshimasa Kato & Yuichi Ito

White Lives On Speaker is a sculpture made through sound generates an interactive exploration of the viewer’s brain waves. An EEG recording of alpha and beta waves generated from a spectator’s brain is converted to sound waves and played through a speaker covered in potato starch. The starch, when stationary, is liquid, but when stimulated by sound takes on a form, movement and a life of its own, separating from the main pool on the speaker.

Yoshimasa Kato & Yuichi Ito, 'White Lives On Speaker'

Yoshimasa Kato & Yuichi Ito, ‘White Lives On Speaker’

 

Further artists of interest (not included in the current exhibition)

James Thurber

In a chapter in his book Phantoms in the Brain, Dr Ramachandran argues that the writer and illustrator James Thurber in fact took much of his inspiration from visual hallucinations brought about by severe visual defects. ‘Charles Bonnet Syndrome’ is a condition that causes patients with visual loss to have complex hallucinations, most commonly of faces or cartoons.

James Thurber

 

Tom Greenshields

Greenshields was born in 1915 and trained formally at the Slade School of Art in London. He went on to become a professional painter and sculptor, but in 1989 he suffered a stroke which left him with severe left hemispatial neglect, and he was subsequently unable to attend to the left side of his paintings and sculptures.

Tom Greenshields
Tom Greenshields

Reynold Brown

A prolific American artist who drew many Hollywood movie posters and illustrated a number of magazines. He later pursued a career in Fine Art, creating paintings with a western theme, and subsequently suffered a stroke which left him with left hemispatial neglect, resulting in strange and emotive distorted portraits.

Reynold Brown
Reynold Brown

Anton Räderscheidt

Räderscheidt was already an established artist when he suffered a stroke at the age of 75. He developed left unilateral spatial neglect and severe visual agnosia. As a result he had to learn to paint again, and his work became extremely abstract and expressive.

Anton Räderscheidt
Anton Räderscheidt

Tommy McHugh

McHugh was a builder before he suffered a bilateral subarachnoid haemorrhage which left him with predominantly right hemispheric damage. After the event, he suffered severe left hemi-spatial neglect along with numerous bizarre perceptual changes: he saw new colours that he couldn’t describe, and he saw faces in everyday objects such as bark and folds of clothes.

Tommy McHugh
Tommy McHugh

Gilles Tréhin

Giles Tréhin, diagnosed with autism at the age of 8, is a French artist, author, and creator of the imaginary city of ‘Urville’. Aged 12 he started drawing and designing the city, and has since published a book based on his writings of the fictional city’s history, geography, culture and economy. It includes over 300 of his drawings of different districts of Urville.

Giles Tréhin
Giles Tréhin

Anne Adams

Dr Adams was a Canadian scientist who suffered a form of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) called primary progressive aphasia in which she lost the ability to speak. Like others who develop the disease she became obsessed with repetition, in her case with lines and form. Her works are meticulously detailed, repeating patterns over and over again. One piece, entitled ‘Unravelling Bolero’ is based on Ravel’s ‘Bolero’, a piece of music that repeats and perseveres until its final collapse. Ravel himself suffered from FTD, which was in its early stages at the time of writing ‘Bolero’. On examination, Anne’s brain show left frontal atrophy, and thickening in posterior right hemisphere regions devoted to visual and spatial processing, which may have facilitated the creation of this piece.

Anne Adams

Academic Contributors

Neuroscientists and Psychologists

Dr Dominic ffytche

Dominic ffytche is a Consultant Neuropsychiatrist and Clinical Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. His research interest lies in disorders of visual perception, and he has published widely in the field. He also runs a Visual Perceptual Disorders Clinic at the Maudsley Hospital.

In a recent collaboration with Silvia Mercuriali and Fuel theatre, Dr ffytche recorded a podcast on the Eye for the Guardian Body Pods series.

 Dr Dominic ffytche

Professor Glyn Humphreys

Glyn Humphreys is Watts Professor and Head of the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. Glyn’s research is into the neuropsychology of vision and attention. He has been awarded the British Psychological Society’s Spearman medal, its President’s Award and its Cognitive Psychology prizes. He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, the Academy of Social Science, the Royal Society of Medicine and the British Academy. He is a former President of the Experimental Psychology Society and is currently President of the British Neuropsychology Society.

Professor Glyn Humphreys
Prof Glyn Humphreys

Dr Richard Wingate

Richard Wingate is a lecturer and principal investigator at the MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, KCL. In addition to basic biomedical research Richard is involved in a number of educational research projects that examine researcher-led teaching in Higher Education. He is the scientific advisor for the current “Brains” exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, is a co-organiser of the Between exhibition at the Inigo Rooms and is a member of the Arts Awards panel at the Wellcome Trust.

Dr Richard Wingate
Dr Richard Wingate

Prof Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is Director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) in Cambridge and Director of CLASS (Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service), a clinic for adults with suspected AS. His current research interest lies in testing the ‘extreme male brain’ theory of autism at the neural, endocrine and genetic levels.

He is the author of a number of books such as Mindblindness (1995), The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain (2003), and has edited various of scholarly anthologies, including Understanding Other Minds (1993, 2001), The Maladapted Mind (1997) and Synaesthesia (1997). He has been awarded prizes from the American Psychological Association, the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA), and the British Psychological Society (BPS) for his research into autism.

Prof Simon Baron-Cohen

 

 

Prof Charles Spence

Professor Spence’s is the head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory based at the Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University. He is interested in perception and the integration of information from the different senses, focusing on improving the design of multisensory foods, products and interfaces for the future. Dr Spence has been awarded the 10th Experimental Psychology Society Prize, the British Psychology Society: Cognitive Section Award, the Paul Bertelson Award, (Young European Cognitive Psychologist of the Year), and, most recently, the prestigious Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, not to mention the 2008 IG Nobel prize for nutrition, for his groundbreaking work on the ‘sonic crisp’!

Prof Charles Spence
Prof Charles Spence

Dr Megan Dowie

Megan is the Girdlers’ New Zealand HRC Postdoctoral Fellow working at the Medical Research Council Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit at the University of Oxford. Her current research focuses on the electron microscopic analysis of populations of neurons in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia, and she is also currently working with researchers at the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre. Megan has also established a collaborative project with the new Masters in Art and Science at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London; the recent exhibition at the Old Fire Station Gallery in October, A Nervous Encounter, featured the culmination of the student’s work in response to their residency at the basal ganglia research lab.

 

 Dr Megan Dowie

Dr Grant Gillett

Dr Gillett is a consultant Neurosurgeon and Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Otago, New Zealand. His interests centre on philosophy of mind and medical ethics, and is the author of a number of books including The Discursive Mind and The Mind and its Discontents.

Dr Grant Gillett
Dr Grant Gillett

Dr Klaus Podoll

Dr Podoll is a senior physician at the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics at the University Hospital Aachen at RWTH Aachen University. He has written and coauthored numerous medical articles, book chapters, and three books on Migraine Art. Coeditor of the Migraine Aura Foundation Web site, his current scientific interests focus on the neuropsychology and neuroaesthetics of migraine aura, including the rare variety of persistent aura.

Dr Klaus Podoll
Dr Klaus Podoll

Dr Sebastian Crutch

Sebastian Crutch is an Alzheimer’s Research UK Senior Research Fellow and clinical psychologist working in the Dementia Research Centre at the UCL Institute of Neurology. His work focuses on the neuropsychology of young onset and atypical forms of neurodegenerative disease, with particular interests in perception, conceptual knowledge and dyslexia. He was awarded the 2012 British Neuropsychology Society’s Elizabeth Warrington Prize, and runs the Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA) Support Group at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery which provides information and advice for people experiencing the progressive deterioration of their visual world.

Dr Sebastian Crutch
Dr Sebastian Crutch

 

Artists and Art Historians

Luke Jerram

Luke Jerram’s multidisciplinary practice involves the creation of sculptures,installations, live arts projects and gifts. Living in the UK but working internationally since his career began in 1997, Jerram has created a number of extraordinary art projects which have excited and inspired people around the globe. He is currently Visiting Senior Research Fellow at CFPR, University of West of England. Jerram’s ongoing research of perception is fueled by the fact that he is colour-blind. He studies the qualities of space and perception in extreme locations, from the freezing forests of lapland to the sand dunes of the Sahara desert. New ways of seeing and new artworks emerge from these research field trips. Works such as’Retinal Memory Volume’, Sky Orchestra and his Glass Microbiology have emerged from Jerram exploring the edges of perception. Published by The Watershed, ‘Art in Mind’ is a book written by Jerram that tracks much of his perceptual research.

 


Luke Jerram Luke Jerram

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