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This report is taken from PN Review 183, Volume 35 Number 1, September - October 2008.

The Mind's Eye and the Mind's Ear Neil Powell

It's doubtful whether any but the most obtuse visitor to Sargy Mann's exhibition at Cadogan Contemporary in May and June, which featured recent paintings of his wife Frances, could have been unaware of the unusual circumstances in which these works were created, and in one way that's a pity. It might be useful to encounter them first simply as very striking paintings, without knowing that the artist is, as the subtitle of a wonderful book published to coincide with the exhibition winningly puts it, 'Probably the Best Blind Painter in Peckham'. That joke, though good, is showing its age - Sargy and Frances have lived in Suffolk since 1990 - and wasn't even quite accurate in its time: for, as he explains in both book and exhibition catalogue, Sargy Mann didn't become completely blind until 2005, just after he returned from three weeks in Spain. Then, he says, he had Spanish subjects in his head to last him a year; but what to do after that? 'There would be no more "seen" subjects, no more new ones, that is', while 'when I consulted my memory, nothing came to light with sufficient clarity or urgency'. He decided to return to painting Frances:

I asked her to sit in the armchair in my studio and I knelt on the ground so close that I could touch most of her. As I tried to understand her position and the chair in my totally blind state, by touch alone, I found ...


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