Thinking about eyes, sight and blindness ahead of next Sunday’s sermon on Bartimaeus, who was blind, I was taken back to the exhibition of Edvard Munch at the Tate Modern that I saw a week or so ago. Munch was fascinated by the thought that each of us sees things differently, not necessarily more truly. He experimented a lot with painting the different perspectives associated with film, for example. People had been terrified in the cinema when a galloping horse first came charging out of the screen, apparently, towards them. Munch painted figures almost coming out of the picture frame straight at you.
But it was when he had a haemorrhage in his right eye that he really saw the world differently. He was fascinated by it, and painted what he saw – including the ‘distortions’ made by the blood inside his eye.
Some people would just have considered it a disability and tried to paint round the blob in his eye, rather than make it an integral part of what he saw and recorded. For Munch, it was an experience of being ‘differently-sighted’, that fed into his artistic vision. The exhibition blurb said his notes suggest “the damage to his eye had enabled him to experience new visual sensation that would not otherwise have been available to him”.