Synesthesia project

17/03/2009

I’ve never liked talking about art, especially my art. It would mean revealing intimate emotions, and I didn’t want to become more vulnerable than I already was.

I didn’t like it to a point where I’ve received a lower grade for my thesis examination for Master of Arts degree, because I was supposed to tell about my pictures, and I didn’t really want to. Perhaps because there was not much to tell, they were just abstract oil paintings, partially inspired by nature, and partially my imagination and emotions. A play with colour and form.

For some time I didn’t paint at all, in fear that I would reveal my emotions this way. It took me almost four years to acknowledge the fact that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and no one could actually hurt me by watching my paintings. More than that, I could paint emotions and be artistically satisfied by it.

That’s when I first heard about the synesthesia. After Wikipedia:

Synesthesia is a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.

So basically, synesthesia is perceiving one sense’s experience with another one.

My first thought was: “I thought that everyone else had it too!”. Seeing emotions, sounds, touch and taste as colours. I don’t think I’ve experienced this consciously so far, it’s just been with me for my whole life, and I thought it was a normal thing, so I’ve never given it much thought.

I remember one event from my childhood, I wasn’t even ten. My parents were having guests over, and they were drinking some kind of alcohol. Vodka, I think. Alcohol was rarely used in my family, so I was curious what it was and asked if I could taste it. My mom gave me her glass, so I could stick my tongue into it. I did it, didn’t like it, and said: “This tastes like blue stripes!” and everybody laughed. I was astonished that they had no clue what I was talking about, and felt a little bit offended that they were laughing at my experience. Until now I had no idea, that what I had experienced then was synesthesia.

What a great thing to play with as an artist, I thought. I began to notice stuff that I haven’t noticed before, taking it for granted and thinking it wasn’t anything cool or special. I began taking notes. I can stop being afraid of expressing emotions, because I don’t have to do that in an obvious way! I can paint the taste of coffee, or my favourite pesto. The sound of harp and bagpipes. Or the feeling of migraine, or motion sickness, for that matter. There are infinite possibilities. It can take a lifetime to complete all the things.

I started in December 2008, I’ve completed five synesthesia paintings so far and began about ten more. In the meantime I’ve got a temporary job and I had no time to paint, today was the first time since last month.

But be sure, more are coming. I’m making my life project out of this. For now, at least.

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