My name is Clarke Reynolds. I live in Portsmouth, England, and I’m registered blind. Recently Supersense team contacted me to tell you my story, so here it is.
I started doing art at a very early age. First, it was a form of escapism. I started to lose sight in my right eye when I was 4 years old. Going to the hospital every week, having patches and drops in my good eye so that it would help me see, was my weekly routine for so long. But it never did, so I was left with two blurry eyes at the back of the class. As I couldn’t participate in other group activities at school, art became a solitary hobby that later turned into a passion.
I grew up with limited sight in one eye but never looked upon it as a disability. Then in my early teens, I got very ill with bad kidneys and had to leave school at the age of 14 with only a GCSE (The General Certificate of Secondary Education) in art. But I have always been a fighter. I overcame this and went back into education five years later. I got a GNVQ (A General National Vocational Qualification) and diploma in art and design. I also earned my BA with honours in model making. I worked as a dental model maker, which I loved very much until I started to lose vision in my left eye at 33. Art was still there, but I had to find another outlet to be able to continue creating. It all changed for me two years ago as I was given a chance of an artist residency at a local art gallery.
In 2019 I did a massive community art project for Portsmouth festivities called Eye Sea Squares 2020. The idea was to make a large tapestry inspired by the sound of the sea so that despite your loss of vision, you can experience art. Over 1000 people took part, including five schools, and I hosted a series of workshops on a 20 cm square piece of fabric. In these workshops, people of all ages created abstract tactile art inspired by the sound of the sea. The final piece was over 16 meters long and took 600 hours to sow.
After that, BBC News interviewed me, and then a local gallery gave me the opportunity to open my first solo exhibition, which took 20 years. What was amazing was the number of visually impaired people visiting and hugging the walls. I found it interesting how hard it was to tell people to touch the artwork as we have always been told that you can’t touch the art.
My recent work and my art practice have been inspired by the English language. How we say things and the words' explanatory power are crucial to a visually impaired person seeing the world with words. And how I tell people how I see is like looking through a thousand dots.
I started to learn Braille, and as an artist, I was fascinated with its design. It only took me three weeks to learn Braille. Rşght after that, I made a piece called My Rosetta Stone, where I enlarged the Braille dot to button size and re-made the alphabet. Then a lightbulb went off in my head; Why can’t Braille be an art form like a typographer uses letters to create art? I decided I wanted to use the dot as my medium.
I knew those dots mean something to me on a deeper level. So I took words and their explanatory power and transformed them into something else, a tactile art. Using the Braille dot and different mediums like collages made with textiles, I created patterns from words that convey powerful messages. In the end, I’ve taken a tactile language and interpreted it into the visual language of dots. My hope is to teach Braille through my art. I was fortunate enough to print Braille on a Stanhope press machine, the same one that printed the original London Underground posters.
After I took Braille as my primary medium, I had the chance to have four online exhibitions, one in Rome and another in Washington DC. Also, I just completed a Portsmouth arts trial where I created a rainbow Braille of unsung heroes.
In the last two years, I’ve been nominated for the Best Visual Artist of the Year by the Portsmouth Guide Awards. It was amazing to compete with other artists who can see. My dream is to exhibit my unique work worldwide, especially in the USA, and I want to be known as a Braille artist.
If you'd like to learn more and have a conversation about my work and my experience, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my webpage or my Instagram.
Braille Art by Clark Reynolds
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