As we imagine, you’ve discussed synesthesia so many times now. If you can, though, try and describe a first moment when you realized you were seeing, sensing, and responding differently to the outer world than your peers?
One of the most prominent memories was the sound of my own heartbeat resonating colour to me. If you have ever experienced the ultraviolet, infrared radiation glow which is cast from a black light, this is how the sound of my heartbeat was perceived to me.
Pretty intense for a child. Were you scared?
I was very young, it scared me a little. I thought that it was just a normal human experience, part of growing up.
Then also a recurring fluorescent dream which I still have to this day, it happens on the nights of heavy rainfall. Visually dominant formations of colour surround me, elusively pulsating in time with each rain drop. It is automatic, I literally have no control over it.
Once you discovered your unique experience of the world how did it affect the way you interacted with others? Were you treated differently? Alienated?
It happened a lot growing up. I was always patronised by those older than me, I hated it. The inability to portray your feelings or visualisations to others is very frustrating. When you are experiencing something unique or unexplainable, it is difficult for others to comprehend - you are labeled as unintelligent or ‘different’.
How did that affect you in school, the patronization, being labeled as “different?”
Being treated unfairly was very aggravating as a kid. I really could not stand authority or set rules in school. School is setting you up for a realistic life in the ‘real world’ as they say. Kids don’t actually think about it, wearing a suit and tie, 7am start, obeying rules by your teachers. It’s borderline insanity.
Me and my friend Jack once ran away from primary school, we were incredibly young. Police were searching for hours, we were literally ‘On The Road’ which is ironic as we are both called Jack.
Kerouac would have been proud.
A fellow fan of the Beat Generation. Do you write as well?
I delve into all forms of expression. I have always kept notebooks/journals to document everything. I use a vintage Olivetti typewriter to document thoughts, writings, poetry—I became obsessed with typewriters after I discovered my grandfather’s as a kid. I have quite a collection now, also of vintage film cameras.
And the other forms of expression?
I also create a lot of video art—mainly faded layered visuals, very psychedelic dream-like sequences. I built my own sound studio, I compose original musical compositions. I love ambience.
How does your music play a part of your synesthetic vision? What do you listen to when you paint? Or do you actively prefer silence?
I usually listen to my musical compositions. My emotions dictate my surroundings. I adore the serenity, beauty, musicality held within silence. Silence screams the loudest, a silent mind is what we all crave.
Let’s talk a little bit about the relationship between the sensing self and the enacting self and your ability or attempt to express what you experience as a synesthete.
I paint to express myself, always. It’s like breathing. The moment that I ‘try’ to do something, I can’t. It’s hard to explain. Painting is a very intimate, visceral experience for me. It is impossible for someone to see the world through my eyes.
Has a piece of art you’ve made ever come so close to representing your unique sensorial experience that it frightened you, or startled you?
Yes, this happens a lot. There is no greater feeling than creating life on canvas.
Is it your hope or aim to create a visceral experience in your audience when they view your paintings? Is that what you see as an artist’s role?
If you stimulate yourself, it will stimulate others. I realised this after receiving a message from a girl that said my artwork saved her from committing suicide. After that happened, I realised that there is no ‘role’ as an artist, as there is no right or wrong in expression. I must only paint to mend myself, my heart, my soul. Artists stimulate change, all I can strive for in today’s society is contentment.
And what has stimulated you in the world of art?
My aunt Christine. She was an abstract printmaker, I was vastly exposed to her work growing up - my mum had her prints exhibited in every single room of my house. She mentored me in the earliest stages of my artistry, we were very close. I sadly lost my aunt to suicide the day before I began art college. I feel very privileged to have had my aunt’s influence. I have always felt somewhat heightened in emotionality, certain paintings really hit me in the heart. I cried almost the entire way through Pollock’s ‘Blind Spots’ exhibition.
I’m sure the Pollock comparison has come up a lot with your work. Is there a pressure, even self-imposed, that you experience to be something, to outperform yourself? Are you ever disappointed with your work?
I am my own worst critic, a lot of my work is fuelled by self-doubt. We exist within a consuming culture of fame, materialism, commerce. I am contributing to a very strange area for someone in my generation. I am a 21 year old artist inspired by post-war 1940s abstract expressionism, The New York School (1950s-1960s) whilst also taking influence from 1800s literary figures such as Keats, Rimbaud, amongst composers such as Franz Liszt. A lot of individuals have this perception that my only influences arise from abstraction, I also adore impressionist artists such as Berthe Morisot, Monet, Matisse, Mary Cassatt, Van Gogh.
It’s hard to remember how young you are. That’s a compliment. How do you think your art or art in general attacks the seclusion and alienation of digitally addicted youth of today?
I am infatuated with the idealisms of psychic automatism. It is very easy to tell when an individual is not emotionally or aesthetically immersed within their artistry.
We exist very much so in a digital age, a lot of individuals dismiss our ‘new world’ as such—however there are new platforms, tools, teachings which are dictating new means of expression. You must adapt to cultural change, otherwise your mind will remain unconscious in perpetual belief. Even though I am heavily influenced by past decades, I am open to everything the new world has to offer. Youth today have heightened sensitivities due to the vast expositions of technology. We have no idea how lucky we are.
It’s usually the kids who are unsure of their place in the world, they evolve into artists - I certainly felt like that. We may be the most intelligent generation to ever exist, or we may be the most unintelligent generation to ever exist.
Thought experiment—if you were to collaborate with say, a conceptual artist, or an “orchestrator” (someone who plans and executes an “experience” or a “happening”) what would that look like? Would you be interested in manufacturing an experience that induces a subjective “I” which aligns with your own unique “I” experience (in this case, through synesthesia)?
Brian Eno. The possibilities would be endless. I loved his collaboration with Peter Schmidt.
Images of artwork courtesy Jack Coulter