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Posts tagged “nutmeg

Wednesday is ‘Studio Day’

Wednesday is a good time for me to blog. It is the one day of the week at I can always entirely dedicate to artistic practice. For some parts of the week I have to be a librarian in order to pay the bills, other parts I must adhere to the trivial humane necessities such as ‘socialising’ and ‘shopping for clothes so that I don’t look like a tramp’. But Wednesday is very much ‘Studio Day’ and as such, a whole wealth of creative development needs to be documented, analysed and reflected upon. So let’s get going.


Chicken and Mayo Sandwich

Chicken and Mayo Sandwich (2013) Nutmeg on canvas. A visual depiction of the sensation of eating.  

Nutmeg, again, takes precedence over my empirical exploration.  I am beginning to develop the idea of merely visually translating sound into an emerging investigation regarding how memory, and the connotations surrounding memory, can be rendered visual. I want these works to be poised on the axis of a reality that can be remembered and a reality that never existed. It intrigues me that there are similarities between imagination and memory, for neither of them presently physically exist.

My work seeks to create discourse between the audience and the audience’s perception of eating. For although the work is a description of the tactile and aural sensation of eating, grounded in memory, the work itself is created using nutmeg, known for its hallucinogenic qualities. This allows the audience to call into question what is being viewed. Is it rooted in reality, or fantasy? It exposes the idea that memory can be unreliable, tentative and sometimes based on nostalgia. It also suggests that the senses can be fooled, and that what is being seen doesn’t necessarily reflect what is being experienced by other sensory outputs.

Diary of a Non-Synesthete

As an artist, the life of someone with synesthesia – a condition which can basically be described as a mixing of the senses – is at worst intriguing and at best desirable. The ability to see the world differently is something inherent in all artists, but the ability to literally and consciously perceive the world in a way which is altered from what is seen to be ‘normal’ is something of great personal intrigue.

For me, synesthesia acts as an automatic form of artistic expression. I hope this statement isn’t offensive to synesthetes – I just mean that the inherent fundamentals behind the condition are able to describe a way of perceiving the world that can inform our understanding of reality. This is the very reason why artists wish to communicate their ideas, so something that does this anyway will always have the potential to inspire. But how can this inspiration be exploited in order to achieve something with artistic merit?

The problem lies in the fact that art can be seen as metaphoric – a tool which can be utilised to describe a sensation. Synesthesia, on the other hand, is a literal experience. With this in mind, I seek to embed the literal in my work, but by using foods with metaphoric connotations applicable to the condition.

A reasonable starting point is nutmeg. Yes, nutmeg. Whole nutmeg, when freshly ground, contains myristicin – an organic compound which induces psychoactive behaviour, allowing one to synthetically alter their perception of the world. This inherently allows a parallel to be drawn with synesthesia as, while there is an artifice in utilising chemical substances, they can nevertheless allow a non-synesthete to visualise sound, to touch colour and to hear scent.

Myristicin Meter (2013) Nutmeg on canvas. A way of describing the hallucinogenic effects of nutmeg.

Here, I have used the intrinsic characteristics of nutmeg and created a piece based on the sensation of eating. I suppose, in that sense, my work can be seen as describing the idea of synesthesia, and a tension exists between the condition itself and the fact  I cannot acquire it.

Let it be said, however, that being a non-synesthete has its own set of advantages with regard to my practice. It provides me with something unattainable, and the desire for something that is unattainable is a source of creativity – a go-to point when a particular avenue of enquiry is exhausted. I am also able to thoroughly regard all elements of the condition without specific physical attachment, which would have an influence on my overall intrigue.

Synesthesia is a way of seeing the world. In this way, it is similar to art: I just hope that what I create are coherent devices that synthetically create an experience akin to synesthesia, to raise awareness of the condition and, in turn, allow it to be applicable to the reality of a non-synesthete.