I remember when I was very young, two or three years old. I was having an argument with my mum because I didn't want to go round to *Claire’s house to play. My reason wasn’t because I didn’t like *Claire, or even because I just wanted to stay home, my reason was because she had a yellow name. Oh yes, the yellow names... Of course my mum told me not to be so silly, but in later years after recalling the disagreement herself she simply said it was because I ‘was like her’. I was oblivious to what she meant.
Roll on just a few years, sat on a plastic chair in an over bright classroom reciting times tables like robots (this was the 80s after all). I have always been terrible at maths and this is probably where it started, the trauma. We were asked to write the times tables down. I got in a terrible muddle and when the abacus was brought out to explain (I told you it was the 80s) I totally freaked out to the point it brought 23 other kids first to raptures of laughter, and then almost to tears as they struggled to figure out my distress.
It was then I realised I was either different, or stupid. Or both.
You see, even though in later years I was an A-grade student & have a university education, I just haven’t been able to see those numbers properly. 5s and 7s are so close in a blue-purple tone that it takes me time to see the number form through the colour. Neither have I been able to tell my left from right (hello driving test!), and I’m still unsure of ‘yellow’ people despite marrying one. Why? I’m synesthetic. I see words and numbers in colour, I see music in colour and timelines become spatial like something out of the Matrix.
There are two arguments as to the occurrence of synaesthesia. One is the ‘cross-activation’ theory, basically indicating an increased connectivity between adjacent brain regions, which physiologically does make sense. The regions for processing words visually is directly adjacent to that for processing colour visuals and in tests the region for processing colour activates immediately after the auditory processing region. Obviously these are not my own studies, they are that of V.S. Ramachandran and E.M. Hubard, I have issues with opening a packet of crisps let alone a skull.
The other theory is the ‘disinhibited feedback model’, which really does what it says on the tin. In most brains when the forward feeding connections receive messages from multiple pathways they are met with feedback connections, this creates one perception. In synesthetes brains it is thought that these neuron pathways activate each other, creating ‘feedback’.
So what am I trying to do with this blog? It was only in my early 20s I realised I was synesthetic and chromosthetic (the music bit) and to embrace the difference. Since then I’ve been trying to make my way in the art world, first as a graphic designer (don’t like computers and people who can recite Pantone numbers by heart, or indeed discuss kerning and the lesser attributes of helvetica as a font), then as a photographer (this worked well when I could live in an underworld of chemicals & red lights, oh yes) and now for the past few years I have been painting music alongside my commercial portrait work. I’ve worked with a few bands, created a few record covers...
It’s fun, but it just needs more. It’s quite lonely behind closed doors ‘being’ an artist. So I’m starting this blog so we can go on the journey together from here on in. Join me, let’s see what happens...
*Claire wasn’t necessarily her real name. Although it could have been. I really can’t