Painting Aphantasia: Making the Non-visible, Visible

Bracey, Andrew (2019) Painting Aphantasia: Making the Non-visible, Visible. In: PhotographyDigitalPainting, 23/10/2019, Quad, Derby.

Painting Aphantasia: Making the Non-visible, Visible
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Painting Aphantasia- Making the Non-visible, Visible.pptx

Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


I suffer from the condition "aphantasia", which affects approximately 2.5% of the population.This means I have no “mind’s eye” and so cannot visualise, or recall memories visually. I see only what is in front of me; my mind is black. I found that I grieved for something I never had, and the realisation others can see and generate images in their minds, such as when reading, amplified this feeling. I naively believed we all thought and remembered in the same, or at least in similar, ways.

This paper will discuss my use of digital painting to articulate aphantasia. I will draw on personal experience and scientific research, centred on the interdisciplinary project The Eye’s Mind 1 that researched the relationship between visual thinking and cognition in the extremes of visual imagery. I will explore the triangulation between the act of "looking attentively" at an original painting; the role of the photographic reproduction of the same painting to reactivate, or alter memory when there is no ability to create visual imagery; and how digital painting is used as a way to articulate the absence of the mind’s eye.

A reading of "the parasitical" will be applied to how the contemporary artist can use an existing historical painting as a host to create new work. Michel Serres’ 2 position of exchange in relation to notions of the guest, interrupter and noise is predicated towards negative associations of the parasite. Following Serres, this position will be expanded upon to offer a more generous, symbiotic relationship between the historical painting and the contemporary artist. The role of the condition of aphantasia as a parasite or "interrupter" in the relationship between historical painting and contemporary painter will be offered as a theoretical position. As Steven Brown states, “The parasite plays a dual role in the system. It makes communication possible by acting as the meditational means. But it also necessarily disrupts the message, in the same way that static affects radio transmissions.”3

The delivery of the paper will be simultaneously verbal and visual, each distinct from, and yet symbiotic with one another. From the unique standpoint of being an artist living with aphantasia, new knowledge will be generated about how the digitally created image can become a substitute mind’s eye, to speak to those with aphantasia and demonstrate an understanding of the conditionfor others.

1 See,

2 Michel Serres, "Parasite (Posthumanities)", (Mass: University of Minnesota Press, 2007)

3 Steven Brown, "In praise of the parasite: The dark organizational theory of Michel Serres", Informática na Educação: teoria e prática, Porto Alegre, v. 16, n. 1, p. 88

Keywords:aphantasia, painting, art, parasitical painting
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
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ID Code:40095
Deposited On:31 Mar 2020 12:29

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