The Secret to Viewing Art

Sighted friends may wonder why a blind person would even consider going to an art gallery if they can’t see the artwork? It’s the interaction, the feeling prompted by being spontaneous and learning to show and tell a story with your sighted companion that sparks the heart and imagination.

As a writer, I usually plan my days around the next story in line for a guest post, a blog story, a writing competition or work on answering emails and networking online. As a mother and wife, I slot in time for cooking, cleaning, gardening and for chasing myself from one home chore to the next while keeping an ear on the time from my talking watch to stay on schedule to prepare my family’s evening meal so we can enjoy that special time together.

When I learned that I had to quickly get ready to make a trip into the city because an appointment had been changed to my day off, I felt challenged by the need for spontaneous action.

Go With the Flow

As a visually-impaired person, I’m not as comfortable having to chop and change my carefully planned agenda, to shift gears quickly and launch into the unknown. The need for order is one of my survival techniques, although being blind when out and about in a sighted world, I do have to expect the unexpected.

Luckily, there is a wonderful man with whom I share my life who is a master in the art of being spontaneous. Harry has shown me that sometimes, one has to let go of our magnificently organised plans and jump into the world of chaos to experience the true magic of the moment, and be unattached to outcomes.

A new plan emerged: as we both work from our studio home, I’d invite Harry to come into Melbourne with me for the day

‘Sure,’ he said. ‘We can just do whatever you like.’

So with a spontaneous spring in our step – we set off for the city.

I learned from our unplanned adventure,  there is beauty in the moment, memorable days when we allow the detour to take us to a destination unknown. Letting go of the need to organise every aspect of the day allowed for something truly magical to happen.

we stumbled across a psychedelic art exhibition I could actually see!

An Arresting Sight

In the heart of the National Gallery of Victoria, an arresting sight of giant fluoro-coloured polar bears were playfully poised in the centre of Federation Court. These eight life-size sculptures by contemporary Italian artist,  Paola Pivi, were a stunning installation, daring the visitor to edge closer and interact with these flamboyant creatures made of urethane foam covered in vibrant feathers.

I hardly ever get the opportunity to SEE the artwork under bright lights and in such high contrast so I was giggling like a little girl and had to say hello to each polar bear on display as they stood out against the grey basalt walls of the gallery, dancing before my eyes!

“My work is never purely visual. When an artwork is really powerful and beautiful, you don’t even need to look at it. You just glimpse it from the corner of your eye, and there’s something in the space that is beyond the visual. It’s not about observing, it’s about feeling.” Paola Pivi.

The whimsical, surrealist installation Pivi has called “You started it, I finish it” evoked such joy in my heart, several days later, I am surprised to find myself still glowing from the experience.

Treasure in our hands

The next unexpected treat came when Harry managed to coax me away from my new ‘friends’ and took me into the shop attached to the gallery. It was as if the exhibition inside the NGV, with its quirky collection of Italian and Japanese hand-made trinkets, miniature ceramic sculptured bowls and dainty Eames chairs in metal and leather had been put on display especially for inquisitive art-loving hands like mine.

We spent the next hour combing through the shelves of beautiful pieces of textured art that I could touch. I was in heaven! Naturally we were extremely careful feeling the souvenirs as we have become experts in handling works of art on many gallery and shopping excursions .

Sharing the artwork is like a graceful Tai-Chi dance between our hands as Harry moves slowly and lowers the object into my open palms, releasing his grip the moment my fingers close in, to grasp the object like a gentle clam.

Waiting patiently, Harry offers more verbal clues until, fully satisfied to have ‘seen’ the artwork, I surrender the piece back.
‘Want to see something else?’ he asks.
‘Of course!’ I beam.

By being able to embrace uncertainty, I gained a beautiful insight. I allowed time to unfold in her own unique and whimsical way.

By not always taking hold of every hour in the day, time became full of wonder and unexpected joy.

Let us take you on an Audio Journey through the Streets of Melbourne
Photography © 2017 Harry Williamson

© 2017 Maribel Steel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: