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Israeli artist uses Braille in art to aid visually impaired


Roy Nachum based in New York, has incorporated Braille into paintings to expand on the Possibility of making art accessible to the visually impaired

PTINew Delhi: When Turkish blind painter Esref Armagan first started to paint, absence of visual acuity was never a hindrance. There were times when he painted the sea and thought he’d need a life-jacket to save him from drowning. Cut to contemporary Israeli artist Roy Nachum, who believes vision is only one such barrier which obstructs the perception of art.

In his most recent art works, Roy Nachum based in New York, has incorporated Braille into paintings to expand on the Possibility of making art accessible to the visually impaired. He also uses Braille as a metaphor for those who take visual experiences for granted and will lead audiences to explore their existential apprehensions.

Roy first experimented with the visually-impaired as his muse in the series of artwork titled ‘Fire’.

“I collaborated with a group of individuals who are visually impaired to create a series of interactive painting. Each solid canvas, textured with Braille, has a frame that I burned until the wood formed a charcoal-like surface,” Roy told PTI in an email interview from New York.

As his collaborators ran their fingers from burned frame to painted Braille, they left their fingerprints as an evidence of an actual physical contact with the paintings. Till date, this series of works remain unfinished but keep evolving with physical contact.

To understand blindness better, Roy even blindfolded himself and lived without a sense of sight for seven days. “It was a difficult and an intense experience but I learned a lot myself and it affected my art. In life, we all tend to lose sight of what is important from time to time. It takes us extraordinary circumstances to remind us what’s important but we eventually tend to revert,” he says.

Perception continues to remain an underlying theme of all his works which tend to explore vision both literally and metaphorically. His paintings further oscillate between the ideas of “vision” and “lack of vision”. Thus, the subjects in
Roy’s paintings are not blind but their vision is “obscured”.

In one of his works titled “Tears of Laughter”, a boy is seen in multiple poses indicating movement and a variety of perceptions. A part of the ‘Blind’ series which incorporates tactile Braille, this painting aims to create an emotional
upsurge in those who can see, simultaneously evoke a parallel sensation through Braille for the visually impaired.

While many other contemporary artists remain contented with an accompanying prose or poetry with their painting, Roy goes a step further as he incorporates Braille. “I wanted to create art that can be experienced in more than one way. My art is about perception, how we see things, what we see and what do not see. The poems, text do not describe what the work looks like, they express feelings. The Braille relief is intended to evoke sensations in the blind “viewer” akin to those felt experiencing a painting through sight,” he says.

Roy, who has always attempted to shed the barriers of language, culture or physical differences to approach art, considers Braille as an agent to keep human interaction alive. By incorporating Braille, he is able to communicate with a newer audience.

Not only does his work give way to a plethora of sensations for the visually impaired, Roy believes this works as a reverse psychology trick. “The Braille allows a way into the work for people who would otherwise never experience a painting. The hands-on experience is meant to be inclusive, meaningful and sensorial,” he says.

A graduate from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and The Cooper Union School of Art in New York, Roy is also associated with the Lighthouse International, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting vision loss. Over the last couple of years, he has also donated several large-scale paintings to the organization.

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