Blind artist wants to be ‘as famous as Picasso’ with Braille creations

  • london
  • January 4, 2023
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A blind artist is determined to become ‘as famous as Picasso’ – and hopes to inspire a new generation as he does so.

Clarke Reynolds grew up in a working-class family in Portsmouth where domestic violence and alcohol both plagued his childhood.

As a boy, he only had toys for a short period of time before they were sold by his stepfather to buy alcohol.

His future looked bleak, but a school trip to the Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth would change Clarke’s life forever.

The-then six-year-old became enamoured with a painting called ‘The Yellow Cow’ by the artist Franz Marc.

Clarke vowed to become an artist too, whatever it would take.

The same year, he lost the sight in his right eye and was later diagnosed with the degenerative condition retinitis pigmentosa.

Further health issues followed and Clarke was forced to leave school early due to kidney problems.

He went onto get a degree and got a job as a dental model maker but, just as things were picking up, he began to lose his sight in his other eye.

Clarke reached a crossroads, but vowed to continue his love of art.

He told ‘Art saved my life. The majority of people from my old block of flats are either dead, in jail or struggle with addiction.

‘Like my brother. He passed away on a street corner in Newquay about four years ago and struggled with alcohol and substance abuse.

‘We had the exact same upbringing, which was horrible, but I found art and everything that has happened to me came from that. Art has always been the context.’

Clarke went on to experiment more with his art – using different textures and light to shape the experience of both him and the person viewing the piece.

He teaches Braille in a number of schools and is determined to have it become part of the curriculum.

‘Children can be kinder than adults,’ the artist added.

‘I love going into schools and talking with the kids, they’re really open to learning about Braille.

‘It’s the Minecraft age, children like codes and patterns and building things practically – Braille is perfect for them.’

From January 11 to February 4 – the 41-year-old will host his first ever solo exhibition at the Quantus Gallery.

‘The Power of Touch’ will feature a variety of his works and encourage people to touch and interact with the pieces.

Clarke hopes to sell enough art to be able to move from his council flat, where he has to carry his daughter up several flights of stairs due to not having a lift, which he does this with minimal sight on a daily basis.

He added: ‘This opportunity really is changing my life, Quantus have taken a chance on me and I couldn’t be more excited.

‘My daughter is my inspiration with everything, so to think what this could do for us is just amazing.’

As Clarke’s sight has decreased over the years, one thing that remains the same is the use of dots in his work.

He pushes the boundaries of what Braille was intended for using the English language and how we say words, their descriptive power and using dots, often in neon form as a vessel to bring that word to life.

Clarke’s hope is to highlight visual impairment through his artistic language and show how a blind artist can co-exist in mainstream art world.

He added: ‘My story as an artist has just began and I hope one day people will talk about me in the same vein as Picasso who changed people’s perception of art that is my dream to be recognised as an artist that pushes boundaries.’

World Braille’ Day takes place today, January 4, and Clarke will showcase his work in ‘The Power of Touch’ at the Quantus Gallery on Fashion Street from January 11 to February 4.

For more information on Clarke and his projects, including a podcast, click here

For more information on the Quantus Gallery, click here

What is Braille?

The braille alphabet is used by people who are blind or visually impaired as a basis of the larger braille code for reading and writing.

Blind children and adults read braille by gliding their fingertips over the lines of embossed braille dots and write braille using a variety of tools.

People who are sighted can learn braille as well, either by touch or using their vision.

A great place for everyone to begin learning braille is with the braille alphabet.

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