Search
Norfolk Tourism Awards

How art is being used to raise awareness of Charles Bonnet Syndrome

PUBLISHED: 16:27 24 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:33 24 April 2018

Artist Devin Smith, left, with Nora Atkinson who is visually impaired and has Charles Bonnet Syndrome, with the painting Devin has done of Nora's hallucinations for an exhibition showcasing visions of blind and visually impaired people. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Artist Devin Smith, left, with Nora Atkinson who is visually impaired and has Charles Bonnet Syndrome, with the painting Devin has done of Nora's hallucinations for an exhibition showcasing visions of blind and visually impaired people. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

Imagine what it is like to be losing your sight while at the same time suffering from strange hallucinations that only you can see.

Artist Devin Smith, left, with Nora Atkinson who is visually impaired and has Charles Bonnet Syndrome, with the painting Devin has done of Nora's hallucinations for an exhibition showcasing visions of blind and visually impaired people. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYArtist Devin Smith, left, with Nora Atkinson who is visually impaired and has Charles Bonnet Syndrome, with the painting Devin has done of Nora's hallucinations for an exhibition showcasing visions of blind and visually impaired people. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Imagine what it is like to be losing your sight while at the same time suffering from strange hallucinations that only you can see.

That is the reality for people with Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS), and a new multi-media exhibition by Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind aims to raise more awareness about the condition.

Seven artists have been working with people with CBS and have created art visualising their experiences, and the result is the show Seeing Things which opens at the Forum in Norwich on April 30.

Ninety-year-old Nora Atkinson, a retired nurse and mother of two from Sprowston, said working with Heartsease-based artist Devin Smith, 24, to create a painting for the exhibition had helped her to further deal with her condition and she hoped it would also help others understand CBS.

Artist Devin Smith, left, with Nora Atkinson who is visually impaired and has Charles Bonnet Syndrome, with the painting Devin has done of Nora's hallucinations for an exhibition showcasing visions of blind and visually impaired people. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYArtist Devin Smith, left, with Nora Atkinson who is visually impaired and has Charles Bonnet Syndrome, with the painting Devin has done of Nora's hallucinations for an exhibition showcasing visions of blind and visually impaired people. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mrs Atkinson’s story began some years ago when she started seeing figures, many of which appeared to come from her airing cupboard.

“It turned my world upside down when I first saw these things. I just wondered what on earth was happening to me. It’s very frightening at first, you can’t understand it, you know nothing about Charles Bonnet Syndrome so you don’t know what it is,” she said.

Over time the figures have disappeared but Mrs Atkinson still often sees Catherine wheels and has her sight often obscurred by what she describes as netting and twigs. She hopes by telling her story through Miss Smith’s painting she will help others who may as yet be unaware they have CBS and stop them being frightened of what they see.

“Now that I know, I can put up with Catherine wheels, twigs, and all that sort of thing because I know what it is all about. It doesn’t worry me,” she said

Miss Smith’s painting shows Mrs Atkinson sitting thoughtfully on her bed with a chair placed in front of the cupboard from which the figures used to appear. Miss Smith said she wanted to show how Mrs Atkinson was not letting the figures control her life.

“I think the painting really tells everything,” said Mrs Atkinson.

The experiences of other people with CBS are represented in the exhibition through the work of artists Henry Driver, Matt Reeve, Louise Richardson, Jeremy Webb, Chedgey and Martin Laurence. Seeing Things is at the Gallery at The Forum will run from April 30 until May 13 from 10am until 4pm each day. Visit www.charlesbonnet.art

MORE ABOUT CHARLES BONNET SYNDROME

Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) is a condition that is thought to affect more than 100,000 people in the UK.

The condition can affect people who lose a significant amount, or all, of their sight. The brain, deprived of visual stimulus, creates its own imagery which takes the form of vivid, realistic hallucinations, which are frequently bizarre or unsettling.

Gemma Baldwin of the NNAB, organiser of the Seeing Things exhibition, said, “We are aiming to illuminate and explain this strange and often misunderstood condition in an engaging and accessible way, as well as to destigmatise an eye condition which is often perceived as a mental health issue. Charles Bonnet Syndrome is still largely unknown by visually-impaired people and the medical community alike, and yet it affects many thousands of people each year. Understanding the syndrome makes it much less frightening for the sufferer.”

The syndrome is named after 18th century Swiss philosopher, scientist and writer Charles Bonnet who wrote about his grandfather’s experiences after he lost his sight and began having visions.

Most Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Latest from the EDP

Show Job Lists

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 15°C

min temp: 11°C

Listen to the latest weather forecast