Kingston Stories: Harry adapts his life following an eye disorder by studying at Kingston University


It was never really a choice for me I would
be an artist, my father was an artist, he was a potter and a sculptor. My mother’s
an art teacher who was previously a jeweller, so this was always a path that I was always
going to go down. Interviewer: Are you having trouble?
Yeah…It’s really annoying when it doesn’t…I can see in my head what I want to draw.
I just started off trying to draw a fox, so you’ve got the ears, but then the initial,
the two triangles that make up the ears. I can’t even draw them straight. They just
don’t work; they look like children’s drawings. It’s bent, it doesn’t work,
I didn’t mean to draw that. And {sigh} It’s just really, really frustrating.
When I first started to lose my sight I found it very difficult because I had very little
peripheral vision, the best way to describe it is like looking through a dirty pain of
glass, everything’s slightly out of focus, it’s blurred, the colours are washed out
and you’ve got all these black lines everywhere. Doctor: Last time you came to the clinic was
January, is that correct? Harry: Yes.
Doctor: Has anything changed? Harry: No, I did mean to ask you about wearing
glasses… Doctor: Well let me just take a look at you
today, as long as we’re happy that everything is under control then it would be possible
to consider that option. Okay? When I go to Moorfields I meet my consultant
who’s been a lifesaver for me. I’ve never so much confidence in a man to look after
me as he has. [An eye examination takes place]
He’s reassured me and obviously broken bad news ; that there was a good possibility that
I would lose all of my eyesight. This is a rare disorder, what happenes is
that a virus sets off your immune system which then starts attacking your eye. It started
off in one eye and I thought; ‘oh fine if one eye goes down I’ve still got the other
one’ and that one became even worse than the other one. The damage that’s been done
is irreversible. Consultant: What the scan is showing today
is that your left eye is absolutely fine but we have a bit of a recurrence of the swelling
in the back of the right, so the vision is down for that reason. So I suggest we meet
again in four weeks. Great. Thank you. Who knows what the future holds, but, yeah…I
dunno, it upsets me to be talking about this. I almost kind of cut any form of art out of
my life, I got rid of almost everything. I’ve got a couple left now that I couldn’t bear
to be parted with. I’ve got one piece that is a cat I cast for my brother.
This piece has got sentimental value, it was produced from a piece of wood my ex brought
back for me, I made it for her…I definitely don’t like looking at it anymore!
Kingston’s opened a new chapter in my life. From feeling very depressed and down and feeling
that I had nothing left to give. I found that there was still an outlet for my personality,
my creativity, my artistic expression. It gave me hope again and made me think that
there is a future now. I can still be part of the business world,
I can still make a living, I can still have things that I’m interested in and that it
wasn’t all about what I was losing but in fact there was something else opening up for
me. The course I’m doing is ‘Creative Economics
and Advertising’ and what I get out of it from the creative economics is an understanding
of the nature of the business around art. So, how art can be sold, how artists interact
with the business world, now I can still be involved with art. I can be involved in the
selling of it, the commissioning of it for businesses, I can still have a link with all
the people I know and it’s given me a much better idea of what my future holds for me
rather than this black void that was the loss of eyesight.
I’ve had a lot of problems using computers mainly for the fact that most people carry
small laptops around with a small screen. That’s just not possible for me. I need
high magnification, I need the words to be large, I need to be able to move them around
easily. My eyes just won’t allow me to see small detail anymore.
My dissertation is on the rub between artists and business. Where the conflict happens,
where business men are commissioning art for the sake of financial gain and where artists
are trying to produce a concept based around artistic merit and emotion.
It’s been great, I’ve really enjoyed interviewing various different artists especially for my
MA. To be able to go out there and talk to people, usually friends or people I’d just
like to meet. I went to meet Ian Byers, who’s been working
as a sculptor for nigh on 40 years and was a very interesting character, he has done
bits and pieces for design agencies. Ian: Art is a sort of glue-on, I think, for
a company. Harry: Did they ever say ‘well we love the
shape of this but can we change the texture and colour of it? Can you make it this big
and stuff like that? Ian: Yes I have had that in the past where
interior designers have asked me to make something that maybe matches the curtains.
For pretty much the first year, even when I was at Kingston, I was just obsessed with
what would happen to me and what my life would become as a blind person. I had to come to
terms with the fact that it would be me wandering down the street with a little stick, walking
into things. That’s how I envisioned my life going.
Now, coming to the end of the course, I think my life’s going to be completely different
it’s going to be what I make it, it’s kind of given me back my choice of what I
want to do for my life.

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