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Esref Armagan, the blind painter, born with no eyes



COLORS IN THE DARK: Esref Armagan - An artistic and scientific unique case

    Esref Armagan is a very unusual Turkish painter. His artwork has been exhibited in Turkey and abroad. Hanging in his apartment in Turkey is a framed thank you letter from Bill Clinton because Esref had painted his portrait. There have been newspaper articles written about him and he has appeared on Turkish television as well as CNN and BBC. Whoever meets Esref is touched and awed by the freedom of light in his paintings and the depth of his colors.

    Esref is a blind painter, blind from birth. He has never been able to see nor understand colors as seeing people do. He has never been able to see the magic light at sunset nor the beauty of a flowering meadow in the spring. The stubborn persistence mixed with his unique genius has given Esref the voice to express himself and "the eyes to see with."

    Esref's singularity perplexes not only the seeing, but even the non-seeing and the therapists that work in the field (opththalmologists, neuro-opththalmologists, neuro-psychiatrists and neuro-therapists). Whoever wants to analyze his unique case rationally can'' help but be skeptical: It's impossible!, "There must be some trick!", "There has to be somebody who helps him secretly!", "Maybe he's not really blind from birth!"

    Specialists that have met him have been confused by Esref's capacities. "He moves and represents space with ease, his details are precise and full of visible information (color variation, shadows, light and shade effects, light reflection, contrasts and perspective).

   At 6 years old he began to draw with paper and pencil and later he started painting with oil paints on poster paper. He found this technique to be too time consuming. After having painted one color, he'd have to wait a couple of days for the oil to dry before he could begin with the next color.

    Ten years ago Esref discovered that acrylics dried quickly and that he could paint directly on canvas. He started painting for his own pleasure: for his curiosity and for the satisfaction of knowing that the things he could create, without the help of others, could correspond with reality. His 'eyes' are his hands. When he draws for others to see, he uses his right hand he traces lines and makes impressions on a piece of paper that is placed on a rubberized slate. At the same time, he feels his traced lines with his left hand. When he paints, he puts the colors, which are lined up in a particular order so that he can always find the right one desired, on directly.

    He has had exhibits in many cities in Turkey as well as in New York, Chicago, Shanghai, Assisi, Italy, the Czech Republic, Rotterdam and Northern Cyprus. Last year he visited Harvard and was Turkey's only representative at the VSArts Festival (the equivalent of Special Olympics and also sponsored by the Kennedy family) in Washington, DC. Documentaries have been made by the British, Turks, Koreans and Americans.