Painting Joana Vasconcelos at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital

February 13th: I woke up thinking about how I would need a subject to start working on the portraits at the eye hospital. The first portraits would explore colour-blindness that was decided, but I needed someone to be the first sitter. I had planned to find my subjects, primarily patients and staff at the hospital, by being there and painting in the hospital’s public spaces: the subjects would almost choose themselves once I got going! But I needed a starting point.

‘It would be good to start with an artist perhaps, someone who is all about vision, someone who deals in colour,’ I thought. Joana Vasconcelos! OF COURSE! I had followed her work for a number of years and her use of colour within her sculptures (and her use of crochet) had always appealed to me. And she was opening an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery the next day! I sent out a few pleading emails and three hours later was gatecrashing Joana’s press launch. It was such an honour to tour the exhibition with the artist herself and get an insight into the pieces on display. You can see more about the exhibition here. As you can see in this photo of Vasconcelos’s ‘Lilicoptère’ (the artist’s vision of what Marie Antoinette would be travelling in, if she were alive today), her use of colour could be used to great effect to describe how people with colour-blindness see the world.


The photo has been altered (using the brilliant CV Simulator app) to describe “Normal Color Vision”(C), and the different types of colour vision deficiencies: “Protanope”(P) known loosely as red color blindness , “Deuteranope”(D) known as green colour blindness and “Tritanope”(T) the very rare condition also known as blue colour-blindness.

After a very long day of talking to journalists Joana was kind enough to pose for some photographs and agree to be part of Look200! I chose to photograph Joana with her sculpture, an enormous multi-coloured crocheted breast entitled ‘Big Boobie #2’. It is the perfect piece as it contains so many shades of yarn!

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Since then I have spent lots of time working in the atrium of Manchester Royal Eye Hospital painting an image of Joanna Vasconcelos with her Big Boobie. It has been a real pleasure chatting to staff, patients and visitors about colour-blindness, John dalton and the part Manchester plays in furthering scientific breakthroughs in worldwide understanding of vision.

Here are some images of the work in progress. The image is primarily painted in the full spectrum that people with standard vision can see, with an area that describes how someone with a red or green colour-blindness would perceive the same range of colours.

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