Magic contact lenses and how we see

Alice Sheridan beginning of landscape painting

I love my magic contact lenses. I wear them during the night and they correct my vision so that when I remove them in the morning I can see – what could be more magic! Unfortunately they don’t do all the hard work for me and there are still a few stages between seeing, analysing, discarding and my hand creating. Also rather unfortunately I left them at home last weekend when I went away, as some of you may have seen over on the Facebook post.

This meant I had one day of being in a blurry cocoon followed by a day of having super strength Superwoman X-ray vision when I found a pair of old daily disposables on a stronger prescription. Most bizarre.

Back in the studio on Monday I felt like this had made me even more aware of the editing process we go through when we see the world around us. We see what we want to see, what we notice and what we consider important. We have to edit out so much information daily. Neuro scientist Dr Daniel Levitin * wrote an article in The Times on Tuesday in which he wrote about overload. In 2011 Americans took in five times as much information as they did in 1986, we are constantly trying to keep up, multitasking promoting the release of the stress hormone cortisol..

“our brains are so overloaded by modern life that we can’t think clearly” Dr Daniel Levitin “We risk denying the brain its natural, daydreaming, resting state”

Perhaps that’s how my day of blurry vision helped – it allowed that daydreaming state that often eludes. Doesn’t art do the same? It forces you to pause and let your mind wander.

Alice Sheridan beginning of landscape paintingIt’s no coincidence that the pieces I started on Monday were softer and looser. Perhaps a day of limited vision had made it easier for me to see through the details that can often become overwhelming?

After school on Tuesday , my son was debating what I meant by the colour green and how that could be a very different colour from the one he sees. On Wednesday I delivered the framed commission painting and as we unwrapped it together and I signed it in the room in which it is to hang, my client commented on the shapes she could make out: she could see a figure and a loose face shape among the brushmarks and colours. Completely unintentional, and I couldn’t see them myself but again it made me think about how we interpret what we see.

Editing the information available to us is an important skill for everyone, especially in today’s busy world.

It’s also a skill that artists use all the time. If we didn’t edit information and put it through our own personal ‘filter’ then all art would be the same; a literal representation of the world around us.

“The information explosion is taxing all of us as we struggle to come to grips with what we need to know and what we don’t”

Maybe the thing to remind ourselves is not “What do I need to know more of?” but “What do I need less of?” I might just write that out and stick it on the studio wall… Painful as it is, paintings are often improved by painting over and obscuring the detail on the layers below. All part of the simplification process when too much is just… too much.


* PS. Love this man – he also advocates daily naps for productivity – also something that is possible with my super contact lens free days!





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