The Mind’s I: 'Bridging Perception and Reality' by Christopher Challen, Nicola Clark, Karina Gabner and Barbara Leidl

11may(may 11)10:00 am17(may 17)5:00 pmThe Mind’s I: 'Bridging Perception and Reality' by Christopher Challen, Nicola Clark, Karina Gabner and Barbara Leidl

Event Details

The Mind’s I:

‘Bridging Perception and Reality’

For many of us, the ability to visualise is something we take completely for granted. For artists however, the power to harness the ‘mind’s eye’ in the service of artistic expression can make the difference between success and failure, plaudits or derision.

ln ‘The Mind’s l: Bridging perception and reality,’ four artists/musicians tackle this mysterious process through a variety of methods. Their work, which will be exhibited at the Gardens Gallery in Cheltenham between May 11 and 17, 2022, features local artists, Christopher Challen, Nicola Clark, Karina Gabner and Barbara Leidl. Their aim? To address specifically the experience of ‘The Mind’s l’ and how it affects artistic process/practice.

One artist, Leidl, lives with a condition known as aphantasia, which is the inability to create a visual image from memory The other three artists, Challen, Clark and Gabner occupy the other end of the spectrum with hyperphantasia–i.e. characterised by extremely intense mental imagery, ‘as vivid as real seeing’.

All four artists process internal/external imagery very differently, but nevertheless rely on visual expression to convey their artistic vision.

Today, even leading neuroscientists are unable to explain why some individuals can visualise, while others cannot. Thus, the mind’s eye, becomes the Mind’s I, a uniquely personal interpretation of what most of us believe is a shared experience, but one that is in fact, anything but.

The artists featured will also explore the concept of transcription: how we produce artworks through a variety of creative processes, including copying or ‘transcribing’ a visual experience into something else–into a musical score, for example, or holding an image in one’s consciousness and setting it onto canvas or paper. lt can involve copying a drawing or painting, but in a such a way that the reproduction becomes a unique product of the copier’s own creativity–much like undertaking a cover of well-known folk song or reinterpreting a piece of classical music into a jazz format.

This striking exhibition reminds us that ways of seeing can also be very much ways of being. Thus, the ‘Mind’s I’ offers a window into the very soul of humanity.

Barbara Leidl


Traditional oil painting techniques and the interpretation of people, creatures and scenes of the ‘known’ are what drive my creative expression. Currently based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, I am interested in classical modes of painting using earth pigments, and the techniques of the old masters. Although l live with aphantasia, the inability to create images in my minds eye–I rely on other aids such as photographs, painting/drawing from life, and written descriptions, thereby harnessing other sensory modalities to develop visual representations.

My objective? To create a sense of timelessness that is infused with an emotional resonance that transcends contemporary trends and motifs. Although I paint from life, I am not interested in replication so much as of re-interpretation of lending my imagination and intuition to explore the emotional world of my subjects more fully–thus fusing my own consciousness with their corporeality, Painting from life involves a deep dive, not only into the physical being of the object/ subject, but also an act of empathy for the emotion and ‘beingness’ of the sitter. It is a form of fusion and intimacy that challenges both artist and sitter to engage in an act of mutual creativity

Chris Challen

To what degree has a lifetime of dyslexia informed my ‘Mind’s I’ with both synaesthesia and hyperphantasia added to the mix?? I prefer to let the viewer decide.

Having observed dyslexia in myself and others during the course of many years, it appears to me to be nothing more mysterious than coming into this world with a selection of skills switched off and others switched on. Perhaps dyslexia is not, as many believe, the sole prerogative of those experiencing difficulties with the three R`s: reading, riting and rithmatic. So called ‘dyslexia’ is in fact, a different– not a lesser– way of functioning.

For this exhibition, I’m having fun producing sheets of faux postage stamps on various subjects which make either social comment or just tongue-in-cheek silliness. Stamps are my default activity when I’m not writing, filming and editing.

I enjoy writing for film because hyperphantasia allows me to construct entire scenes in my head, not only visually, but with all five senses– similar to having vivid dreams characterized by a high level of detail. Until recently I imagined everyone possessed these faculties, that it was normal. (what is normal though? perhaps all these ways of thinking are ‘normal’), that’s until I met Barbara Leidl.

Sometimes I become aware that I’m perceiving a conversation visually as well as audibly. With eyes open, various images, sometimes curiously abstract, appear before me, offering insights into the conversation. These images can occasionally be very humorous. Sometimes they are too clever for me to comprehend in the time given. It doesn’t happen with everyone, but then sometimes it does, and yet l’m not always aware of it because it is so easy to assume that everybody functions with the same faculties.

Nicola Clark

I probably have a strongly developed mind’s eye. l can paint without direct reference to an external object and can move things around in my head so that I can see what they might look like from different angles I have always assumed it to be a sort of engineer’s way of visualising. I also use a feeling sense to capture movement–as if I am the animal or person and that energy transfers itself to the canvas or paper. At art school I was never permitted to say I painted from ‘imagination’–it was only ever from memory. I suppose it may be true–in the sense that my
work is ultimately based on observations retained, but l like to think that an element of the internal landscape of people, places, objects and creatures that inhabit the Mind’s l, also played a role.

Karina Gabner


‘But it’s only a copy’
Transcription or Plagiarism?

No work of art can ever be wholly original–we are all influenced by any number of weird and wonderful ideas during our creative process. But to make a successful ‘transcription’, to reinterpret an existing work of art into something dramatically, or even slightly different can be one of the most inspirational tools of understanding and learning from those artists who have gone before us.

Having worked in art education for a number of years, I found that students who lack confidence in their ability, or for whatever reason, have not experienced the normal stages of artistic development in terms of skills and conceptualisation, may want to ‘copy’ works they admire. With many students, ‘slavish’ copying may be seen as symptomatic of low self-esteem or avoidance of new challenges. However, when re-interpretation is encouraged as a compromise between the need for direction and the desire for authentic creation, high quality, exciting solutions often occur–as does the ability to learn based on real experience culled directly from the masters themselves. For this exhibition, my contribution will focus on investigating a connection between my own ideas and those of artists whose work I have long admired.



11 (Wednesday) 10:00 am - 17 (Tuesday) 5:00 pm