by Katie Grimes

Esref Armagan, a Turkish painter, was born blind: one of his eyes had failed to develop fully and the other was scarred and stunted. Esref has never seen a day in his life, but that has not stopped him from teaching himself to draw and paint without any formal training or schooling. While flipping through his online collection, I can’t help but pause in awe to admire his dramatically vibrant use of color, his ability to draw in perspective, and the realism present in his paintings.

Esref’s ability to paint recognizable, detailed images without ever having seen them has impressed and inspired many neuroscientists and prompted them to begin asking question about how our brains make mental images. In 2004, Harvard scientists scanned Esref’s brain and found that his visual cortex–a brain region normally quiet in the visually impaired–became active when he picked something up and began to draw it. These results lead us to believe that seeing goes far beyond what we view with our eyes, extending into other senses like touch.

Esref Armagan and other artists like him challenge our notions of what it means to see and what sort of vision is needed to produce works of visual art. Esref interacts with the visual world in an unconventional way, but as evidenced by the striking realism and vibrancy of his art, he observes it in great detail and with a unique perspective. The fact that his artistic works have influenced not only art lovers, but those in the world of science, attests to the strength of his talents. Just as he feels the objects he portrays, Esref is able to touch those around him in a significant and meaningful way.

Katie Grimes is a member of the Exceptions Journal editorial board. She is a sophomore at Michigan State University pursuing a degree in Professional Writing.

The information in this blog post came from the sites below. Check them out to learn more about Esref Armagan.

Esref’s official website:
Article about Esref in New Scientist magazine: