Monday, February 09, 2009

Seeing through hearing

On the weekend a friend and I visited the art gallery. There was an exhibition of Brett Whiteley's works - bold and evocative and beautiful. As we stood and looked and thought, admiring detail, noticing new perspectives or symbolism, two women walked in. They were middle-aged with their arms linked together and I could hear them talking about the paintings. After a minute I realised one of the women was (at least partially) blind. She was carrying a cane with a ball and had a bandaged patch over one eye. From their conversation I could tell she couldn't hear all that well either.

I was so intrigued I couldn't help myself from eavesdropping as they stood in front of various paintings. The sighted woman would start with the title of the painting, then something about its dimensions, then she seemed to pick the most salient point (some of the paintings are so abstract there wasn't an overall 'theme' I suppose) and describe it. She described the colour and the contours, and sometimes the movement, as though she were describing it being created. She would stand in front of each painting and talk softly and continually and then after a while move to the next and start again. The other woman stood as though lost in thought, she didn't ask questions (except sometimes asking for a repeat), she just stood facing the picture listening intently.

There was something so poignant and beautiful about these two people experiencing the paintings together. And I felt inspired and curious, were they art lovers from a long time back? Did the blind woman already 'know' some of the paintings? Why choose to visit an art gallery with your blind friend? It seemed very normal and simple to them both, as though perhaps they did this every week and it wasn't a big deal.

As we left I felt inspired by people in the world and a new wonder at the power of language to provide images for people to savour and interpret.


Blogger Berni at Yo-yonomore said...

What a beautiful thing to have witnessed, thanks for sharing :)

11:06 pm  
Blogger Catalin said...

Thank you for describing the scene so carefully and sensitively.

I often feel like my words are completely inadequate for what I want them to do. Imagine feeling like someone else needed one's words in order to have the experience they were after.

So many ways to imagine the relationship of the two women and what brought them there.

Thank you!

7:53 am  
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