Meghan Sims was born in Kitchener Ontario in 1980 with a rare visual condition called Achromatopsia. (You can find more information about achromatopsia here: http://www.achromatopsia.info/) Being an achromat, Sims carries a unique visual perception of the world around her. It is this perception that has shaped and become characteristic of her artistic style.
She is fully colourblind, near sighted and extremely sensitive to light; causing day blindness. These factors have inspired a lifelong curiosity with the idea of perception, light and shadow, both with and without the emotional values of colour. Through her work, Sims hopes to communicate her visual perception with the world around her. Ideally, the artist strives to open a dialogue where education and communication around differences in perception are contemplated; especially where the idea of disability is concerned. Sims believes that through connection, healing and growth can take place; making art a universal communicator for all to see.
I was familiar with Meghan's work via the local art community before we officially met late last year at a social event. You can view Meghan's previous work here. I was honoured when she invited me to see a preview of the work she will be presenting in October at the Kitchener Public Library Central Art Gallery. Each month, KPL Central Library hosts a new exhibit featuring the work of a local artist or artist group. The Artist Program is extremely popular and Meghan had been on the waiting list since 2014. October is Vision Health Month and KPL contacted her about exhibiting. When she got the e-mail, she knew exactly what she was going to do for the show. She'd never been so excited about a project before.
I visited her earlier this month at GLOBE Studios where she was working out of a fellow artist's studio. I found her splattered with paint, listening to CBC Radio and creating in the middle of chaos.
With the exception of learning in school, this is her first time painting in colour. She has "avoided it like the plague". Her attitude was that she didn't understand it or need to know about it. The main idea of her artistic career up until now has been about showing her own visual perception. She always painted what she saw. Still, she has been thinking about colour for years. Being aware that the world is very colour coded and having knowledge of colour theory and the science behind it, like what colours mix to make other colours, has not given her the experience to know what the value of a colour is to colour-seeing people.
Her personalized introduction to colour came at a young age. Her favourite colour is green, so she used that as an example when explaining to me how she catalogues colour. She was taught that a Granny Smith apple is a light green with a lot of yellow it. These informal experiences were the building blocks of her mental colour catalogue. Later as she studied under photographer Patrick Wey, they would perform paint chip experiments by lining up the chips from light to dark as a way for her to understand light as a photographer. These experiments sparked her curiosity and urged her to further explore her tonal experience of colour.
I can’t share any photos of the paintings prior to the show. In this series, she takes a photograph and then matches the colour from the images tonally to the best of her ability. At her workstation, the tubes of paints are laid out from dark to light. At the show, for cross referencing purposes, there will be a small photograph with each painting.
It's unnerving for her to not know what others are seeing. She wondered if there were any offensive colour combinations in these works. How much weight does colour hold for people? This series begs for interaction and she wants the public to come out and engage with the art, start conversations and tell her what they are seeing.
She's signing these pieces in a colour that she calls "Slutty Grey" (It's all of the colours mixed together). We joked that she may have to create a signature line of paints.
Meghan plans to keep experimenting and exploring. It's been great for her to paint what she sees, but she has found that to be limiting. She's been keeping a journal of the whole process of working in colour. The experience has been cathartic and has strengthened her skills. She plans to keep learning and carry that forward. She's also interested in collaborating with other colour blind artists.
Meghan will be interviewed on Rogers daytime on September 28th. Her exhibit "Colour Blind Colour" will be hanging from October 1st-27th, with an opening reception on Saturday October 8th, from 1-4 pm. Take some time to look through her past work and then come out and see the results of almost a year of her hard work on this very unique series.
Artist photo provided by Meghan Sims
Story and all other photos by Glodeane Brown