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Saturday, 14 February 2009

With Eyes Tight Shut : 1

The final images below are from my now defunct website which I decided to revisit (cannibalise, if you will) a while back. They are a few years old and date from a day out that Doreen, my wife, and I had with two friends who were showing us something of the area in which they live: The Thames Valley around Walton and Richmond. We stopped at one point, thinking to take a walk along the towpath, but were stopped by a poster outside a small gallery announcing that within was an exhibition of work by Victor Pasmore under the title Seen with the Eyes Tight Closed - or something along those lines; memory fails over such detail these days. We went in.

I had thought that I knew the work of Victor Pasmore. He had first come to public notice as a leading light in the Euston Road Group and had then fallen under the spell of Ben Nicholson and moved into abstractionism.
Later still he pioneered the growth ofConstructivism in this country; but what we found in that small gallery beside the River Thames was unlike anything I had seen of his before. It was exactly as it had said on the tin, visions (could there be any other word for them?) seen with the eyes tightly closed.

Much of it consisted of arrangements of lines, squiggles splashes and flat areas of
paint. A sort of minimalist Jackson Pollock, I thought at the time. The work had,
though, more impact and was more thought-provoking than I have made it sound. But what struck me in retrospect was how different were his visions in the dark than my own. At that time I would tend to see recognisable images. This I knew because I had made similar experiments, but as a writer, using the sights that arose behind the closed eyelids as stimuli for poems. Strangely enough, I had not thought to use them for any form of visual art.

I experimented and found that what I saw was influenced by a number of factors.
In roughly descending order of importance they are:

  • The last image seen before closing the eyes.

  • My thoughts.

  • Ambient sounds.

  • The movement (if any) of the eyeballs.


Sometimes the images evolved in response to continuing stimulus. What is the relationship between dreaming and this phenomenon, I wondered?

The image above and those below are the results - recreations by whatever method I thought would get nearest to the remembered image. Oh, for the technology to photograph the image that the brain sees!) These days I tend not to see recognisable objects, but more of that later perhaps, in part II, which will deal with writing - if I proceed that far.
I wonder if any research been done on what people see with the eyes closed? Do any of you knowledgeable folk out there know of any? Or has anyone a theory or observation to offer?



55 comments:

John Hayes said...

Fascinating topic, & I for one would love to see the possible Part 2. I don't believe I've really thought of this regarding writing; I do know I love to play guitar with my eyes closed, but that has to do with hearing, not seeing. Great topic.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Again.......beautiful writing....awesome art!!

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Derrick said...

Hi Dave,

What a different post today! I love the "flora" and "tunnel vision". The colours are what attract me.

I have just been experimenting with my eyes closed! All I tend to see are black and grey "things", or perhaps red if I look towards a light source. I'm jealous of your technicolour visions!

Louise said...

Wow, Dave, fabulous images. Happy Valentine's day!

High Desert Diva said...

What an interesting post. Must ponder...

Bill Stankus said...

Interesting idea. Shut off the most important of senses and take stock of mental flashes. Very zen-like and methodical.

lakeviewer said...

David, this is interesting stuff you are teaching us. I went back through your posts, to last Saturday's Faking It, and was fascinated by your narrative. Not only did I learn about Paolo Uccello's techniques, but I learned about the power of your words, weaving the story, explaining your own act of creating an explanation when it came to supporting your interpretation. Brilliant!

The Weaver of Grass said...

I had completely forgotten about Victor Passmore - thanks for the reminder - very nostalgic stuff for me.

Stephen Dell'Aria said...

Wow!!! What fascinating pieces of art. When I shut my eyes I sometimes seen strange tubes with small circles traveling through them like blood cells except the circles are dark in color. This image (or sensation) is fleeting and doesn't hold long before a consciously willed image appears(sort of). I don't always see these flowing dots but they can appear if I am not trying to focus on any one particular thought. I think the face emerging from the field that you've painted is very akin to some of the sensations I have experienced with my eyes shut. The jelly bean shaped imagine you’ve painted reminds me of Richard Artschwager’s bleep paintings. What an interesting world you've tapped into here, Dave. You certainly post the most interesting blog I’ve come across. I also love Victor Pasmore's work.

Meri Arnett-Kremian said...

Much better results emerge from painting with eyes wide shut than with heart tight shut.

Abe Lincoln said...

When I was in the hospital and taking Morphine shots every four hours I saw lots of things but the one that really bothered me as it was repeated many times was this old scraggly grape vine that simply covered my eyelids. The vine was without leaves. There is no way I could draw it or even paint it but there was a time when I would have tried.

David C. said...

Dave,
Thanks for rescuing these images and sharing them with us. The concept is fascinating.

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Fascinating post, David. Love the imagry. As far as having any knowledge on the subject, I bear none! Have a wonderful day!

jinksy said...

If the pictures behind my eyelids were as beautiful as yours, I'd maybe sit all day with my eyes shut! I like the idea of trying to capture them, though. I have tried describing what I see to others. You have taken the next step.

Jeanne said...

Dave, you are a fascinating man. Sometimes after I come here I feel like I've just taken a long, satisfying drink after being thirsty. But other times I leave even more jumbled-up than when I came! Taking pictures of what the brain sees. Perilously close to mind-reading....

Totalfeckineejit said...

Seeing with the eyes closed? Now there's a thought worth thinking!
Thanks Dave.

Sheila said...

I'm glad you brought those images from your other website! They're wonderful! Happy Valentines day to you and your wife!

SUSAN SONNEN said...

I see in this the possibility of facing my fears of darkness and the unknown. I think that using this technique would allow one such as myself to grow comfortable with, even appreciate, the dark corners that one sometimes stumbles upon in life.

Dick said...

No theories from here, I'm afraid, Dave, but, stimulated as ever by a post of yours, I'm processing its substance. But thank you for the Passmore. When I was at school in Yorkshire I went to a Passmore exhibition in Leeds and was knocked out. I still have my copy of the Penguin Modern Painters series that I bought that day.

Cynthia said...

The second painting in blue is
gorgeous, reminds of the sky at
my favorite time of day, dusk.

And the fourth one, purple, looks
like an x-ray of a person shaded
in shades of purple.

Lovely!

Cloudia said...

You are a magician!
Thoughtprovoking and beautiful post, Dave. aloha-

The lady in Red or A dama de vermelho said...

Your blog is a gift.

Best wishes,
Rosana

Dave King said...

John
Thanks for the comment. Part2 has begun to take shape in my mind, so I guess I shall be posting it.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff...
And again.... many thanks. Nice to have feedback.

Derrick
Thanks for that, but don't gey too jealous - not until you've read Part 2!!

Louise
Thanks Louise. I did have a happy V-Day. Hope you did too!

High Desert Diva
Thanks for that.

Bill
Yes, I suppose it is zen-like - hadn't thought of it that way.

Lakeviewer
Welcome, and very many thanks for your interest and comments. Glad you liked it.

Weaver of Grass
Snap! I too had completely forgotten about him until we walked into that gallery.

Stephen
Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Some of the elements you describe I recognise from my past experiments. It has often happened that I can trace how or from where an image has appeared, though not always. I don't think I know the work of Richard Artschwager, so I shall have to look that one up. Thanks again.

Meri
Very true, thanks for reminding us.

Abe
That's an interesting reminisce. My wife had polio in her teens, and tells how she saw spiders and other crawlies everywhere, over the walls and on her body.

David
And thanks for visiting and for the comment.

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway?
Thanks and a wonderful day to you, too! All contributions welcome.

Jinksy
Thanks for that comment, though maybe I should point out that they are not always there - less and less these days, alas.

Jeanne
Sounds like you shouldn't drive after a visiting me! I suppose it would be a kind of mind reading. Wow, you've scared me off, now!

Totalfeckineejit
Absolutely!

Sheila
Welcome, and very many thanks for your visit and good wishes.

Susan
I can certainly agree with that, and hope to give an example of it in Part 2. Thanks for the observation.

Dick
Yes, it's such a shame, I always thought, that most people seem to associate him only with the Euston Road Group. Thanks again for a valuable comment.

Cynthia
Welcome and much thanks.

Cloudia
Thanks, but no magic wand, I am afraid.

The lady in Red or A dama de vermelho
Welcome and thanks for visiting, commenting and your good wishes.

Adrian LaRoque said...

Great images and writings Dave!

McGuire said...

I'm loving those pictures. Surreal to the hilt.

As for the eyes shut method, never heard of that before, but certian I can relate to having 'a circus of light' playing out sometimes when I close my eyes.

Always edifying to read you Dave.

Joanne Licsko said...

Less than an hour before I found your blog and post of Eyes Tight Shut, I was laying in bed waiting for the first daylight (the excuse I need to leave my bed). I often like to play with those vision and usually there are only two. This morning it was my favourite, a small blue light in a sea of blackness. I call it my star. It always moves up and out of sight only to reappear immediately. Thank you Dave for the inspiration to look deeper.

CLAY said...

"Sometimes the images evolved in response to continuing stimulus. What is the relationship between dreaming and this phenomenon, I wondered?"
Sterling point Mr.King, in fact, it is a very good topic for a post! As you have stated before--all is flux, yes? Brilliant sir.

Karen said...

As always, much food for thought to be found at your site. I love the representations of your visions.

Michelle said...

I don't have a theory....but I love the images!

Very interesting and maybe we should look at things with our eyes closed more often.

Thank you Dave

again :0)

ELAINE ERIG said...

First you learn the tecnicque then you will into the landscape, not to look like in the Western landscape, drip is almost the same the same. These cases are connected with one of the forms of chinese painting...(Pasmore times)..close your eyes and see or feel, ligth, reflections,bizarre forms. (remember flash ....go then disappears ) it is so beutiful Dave , as a poem is .

Hurricane Me said...

These are amazing. I especially like the black and white, like a face sinking in quicksand. I sketch, I suppose that is why it is my favorite. :)

Dave King said...

Adrian
Comment much appreciated. Thanks.

McGuire
a circus if light: brilliant phrase. Love it.

Joanne
Welcome to my blog. Interesting insight. Thanks for that.

Clay
I have posted before about dreams that continue ina single senory made after waking. Had never drawn a parallel between that phenomena and this - until reading your comment just now. Not sure where that gets me, but thanks!

Karen
Thanks. Much appreciated.

Michelle
Especially at problems, maybe? Thanks.

Elaine
As your much-appreciated comment is. Thank you for it..

Hurricane Me
Yes, I was quite pleased with that one, myself. Thanks for the observation.

Cynthia said...

Thank you for your thoughts on the creative process and Victor Pasmore.---And thank you for coming over to Oasis in Puerto Rico. I look forward to reading more of your artistic and personal insights. <3

watermaid said...

This is a fascinating topic. (I used to live near Walton-on-Thames and remember walking along the Thames towards a weir.)

I can't summon up images with my eyes closed, although they sometimes come spontaneously. I'm more of an aural person...I think.

Roxana said...

incredible post, and the images have got me hooked! do you know Michaux's drawings while he experimented with drugs under medical supervision? I had to think about them while reading you. I've alawys liked to play this game with names: close my eyes, say a name loud, and then look at what emerges before me.

David Cranmer said...

I'm going to look into the work of Ben Nicholson a little more. I was unaware of him before your post. Thanks.

Barry said...

I was so captivated by the images and the ideas that I almost overlooked the clarity and simplicity of your writing.

Still another thought-provoking and intellectually entertaining post David.

Thank you and I hope those thoughts on a Part two that are beginning to form, come to gestation in the near future.

Mary Ellen said...

I've actually thought about this eyes-shut visioning a bit. I often notice movement and light when I shut my eyes and wonder what it means, and why it changes.

You are a thought-provoking man!

Natalie said...

Dave! What an original, and might I say, fascinating post. I think this one is my fave so far. Excellent! Thank You.x

Sharon Wright said...

Totally enthralling post! Never thought of such a thing, and having just sat for 5 mins with my eyes tight shut, I saw nothing, only blackness, inpenetrable. I am missing something, for sure!

Crafty Green Poet said...

oh this is fascinating, lovely paintings you've created. I've never thought of trying to recreate the images I see with my eyes closed, maybe that's something I should do...

Cestandrea said...

So very interesting, the topic here, Dave. I have already thought of that, I mean as an artist I often paint my thoughts, and, (the abstract) my feelings. But this here is different. I like to think about it a bit:) Thanks so much for the inspiration, (and for your comments on my morning dragons and their stories)
have a great week
Andrea

Linda McGeary said...

I love them all, but my favorite is the purple-blue one that has an oyster shell and two pearls.
One of the interesting things about art, poetry, novels, all those creative explosions, the creator may have one thing in mind and the reader, viewer, listener may receive another, depending on life experience.
I would be proud to hang any one of these on my walls.

I have often used dreams to source poetry and stories. Sometimes when I'm deep into that creative place I dream of the places, images, story lines and the people of my stories.
In dreams they seem so real.

There was a documentary a few years back about a man in England who saw colors when he heard different frequencies of sound. He would associate colors with different peoples voices. To him colors where always associated with sound.

It was a fascinating documentary.

What a treasure our differences and individual talents can be to each other.

Thank you so much for your beautiful art. And the will to bring it out of hiding behind eyes tight shut to share with the rest of us.

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