Painting Aphantasia: Making the Non-visible, Visible

Bracey, Andrew (2020) Painting Aphantasia: Making the Non-visible, Visible. In: PhotographyDigitalPainting: Expanding medium interconnectivity in contemporary visual arts practice. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 99-122. ISBN 9781527555976

Full content URL:

‘Painting Aphantasia: Making the Non-visible, Visible’
Accepted Manuscript
[img] PDF
Andrew Bracey PhotographyDigitalPainting- Expanding medium interconnectivity in contemporary visual arts practice book chapter V3.pdf - Whole Document
Restricted to Repository staff only

Item Type:Book Section
Item Status:Live Archive


This chapter will unpack the use of digital-painting to articulate a condition that Neurologist Adam Zemen has termed ‘aphantasia’ . An ‘aphant’ has no ‘minds eye’ and so cannot visualise or recall memories visually . It affects 2.5% of the population and is something that dramatically altered my perception of the world when I discovered I have it. This was amplified by a realisation that others can see and generate images in their minds , such as when reading .

The chapter will introduce aphantasia, drawing on personal experiences and scientific research. An unpacking of how digital painting has been used to articulate how visual experience slips away as soon as the eye is shut in the ‘aphant’ will follow this. This section will be highly visual to reflect the practice-based nature of the research and use still images from a performative film. There will be a focus on a triangulation between the act of ‘looking attentively’ at an original painting, the role of the photograph (reproduction of a painting) to reactivate or alter memory , and how painting digitally has been used to articulate the absence of a mind’s eye.

A reading of Michel Serres position of the parasite will be applied to original and reproduced paintings and their use by the contemporary artist to create new work. The role of aphantasia as a parasite or ‘interrupter’ in the relationship between historical (photographed) painting and contemporary (digital) painter will be offered as a theoretical position.

Following Serres, this will then be expanded as the roles shift and how aphantasia can provoke new readings for digital painting processes. 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.”

From the unique standpoint of being an artist living with aphantasia, new knowledge might be generated about how the digitally created image can become a substitute mind’s eye, to speak to those with aphantasia or demonstrate understanding for others.

Keywords:apahntasia, painting, contemporary art, visualising, art and science, photography, digital art, appropriation art
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)
ID Code:40105
Deposited On:31 Mar 2020 14:11

Repository Staff Only: item control page