News / 03 Mar 2023

Visual Communication students collaborate with writer Roger Cowell

BA (Hons) Visual Communication

BA (Hons) Visual Communication students have once again collaborated with local writer Roger Cowell.

Author Roger Cowell lost his central vision in 2019. Shortly after this he began writing about his experiences of ‘variable vision’ and the vivid hallucinations he frequently experienced on his daily walks. In 2021 he invited BA (Hons) Visual Communication students to respond to excerpts of his writing. Appear, Disappear, Reappear was an exhibition documenting the resulting creative collaboration between Roger and Leets Arts students.

This year Roger has once again collaborated with BA (Hons) Visual Communication students, and the 2023 exhibition of work inspired by Roger's experiences will on display at our Blenheim Walk site of Leeds Arts University, kicking off with a panel discussion about the work, involving Roger and the project team, taking place on Wednesday 8 March at 2:30pm.

Over the past three years Roger has been writing a book about his experiences, parts of which describe the visual effects and hallucinations he has encountered along the way. These have included visions of octopuses, Pharos and startling moments of full-colour visual clarity. Second-year students were given the opportunity to meet with Roger, and these direct conversations alongside his written accounts have inspired the work for this year's exhibition.

“My central vision began to deteriorate in October 2019 during a trip to Japan. And by mid-March 2020, it had been replaced by a blurry blob, and a tiny sliver of peripheral vision, which appears, disappears, and reappears, dependent on the light around me. At times, the changes of my sight have been depressing, frustrating, and puzzling, but mostly I could not have imagined them if I had not experienced them personally. For these reasons, I want to share them with others, so they may glimpse the fantastic world in the hidden dimensions revealed to me over the last few years. I do not suggest these are anything but my own experiences, but they are mine, as far as I can describe and reflect on them.”

Roger Cowell

Once the exhibition of student work had been installed at Blenheim Walk, Roger visited the University to experience the work in its public form, giving the students the opportunity to talk through what they had made. The next stage of the project will move the work to Roger’s house so he can look at it in a more controlled and familiar visual environment. This will mean he can view the work in the softer evening light which often allows him to experience far stronger visual effects than at other times.

“I really enjoyed working with Roger, it was great to be able to visualize his unique experiences with his unreliable eye sight. My aim was to create a piece that visualized Rogers experience with the Octopus but I also wanted Roger to be able to experience my piece too, so that's why I decided to go with the lino print medium as I could present the print but also the lino itself so he could experience it too. I learned a lot whilst researching for this project about how visually impaired people experience art, and how inaccessible a lot of art galleries and museums are for them. I feel like as artists we need to advocate for more tactile and auditory alternatives in galleries and museums to make them more accessible for everyone.”

Erin Williams, BA (Hons) Visual Communication student

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