My experience of sight loss inspires my work as an artist
Fae Kilburn, a visually impaired artist and arts facilitator based in the Midlands talks about her experience of making art with deteriorating vision and challenging preconceived ideas.
I was first introduced to art as a child by my parents. I had a natural love for it and this was encouraged, resulting in me completing an MA in Fine Art. Now I specialise in printmaking. My work is inspired by history, disability and identity and uses many techniques including etching, monoprint and embossing.
My own lived experience of sight loss inspires my work
I have a passion for access and inclusion. This comes from my own lived experience of sight loss and the barriers that I have faced accessing workshops and events, and the preconceived ideas that people have of what a person with sight loss can and cannot achieve.
I’ve always had low vision but I was officially registered as partially sighted in my twenties due to a genetic condition called Marfan Syndrome. In 2021 my sight deteriorated further and I was registered severely sight impaired. I’m blind in one eye with a detaches lens and torn retina. In my other eye I have a detached lens, swollen retina and no peripheral vision.
My changing vision influences my work
As my vision changes, it influences my art. It changes the colours that I use and the composition of the image. I used to make linocuts to create high contrast images, then as my sight has deteriorated I started to create a visual documentation of my sight loss.
‘Transient Moments’ is a series of landscapes in translucent tones that on a first glance just look like standard landscapes. When you look closer, you see that there are no details and areas are blurred or even missing. Other pieces such as ‘Nightfall’, an abstract monoprint in rich blues explores the challenges that I face navigating the world at night.
I rely on my other senses to continue my art work
Over the years I’ve had to adapt the way that I work. I can no longer rely on my sight and so I rely on my sense of hearing and touch to know when my inks are rolled out correctly and if the pressure on the printing press is right. These things enable me to continue to create independently but what’s most important is that I’m creating art that celebrates my perspective.
I’ve been told throughout my life that people will not understand my art and that I won’t be taken seriously but I’ve found that people find this body of work relaxing to be around, moving if they have a similar lived experience and information if they know someone with sight loss.
I want to challenge people
Transient Moments is currently on display at Sense TouchBase Pears in Birmingham. Their gallery invites visitors not only to look at the art but to explore it with their hands too.
I hope that Transient Moments continues to challenge people’s perception of sight loss and that those that visit leave the exhibition seeing it as another perspective, rather than a depleted or less valued way of being.