Thinking in circles. Writing in lines

Returning to Synesthesia

A little over a year ago I left my profession to pursue old ambitions and loves more wholeheartedly. Mainly painting and writing but also other things not remotely related to medicine. One of the greatest revelations had been the ability to think more effectively, something that is harder when a job not only requires its own specific thinking but is also physically demanding with long hours worked in a challenging environment.

I was always a ponderer. To say I was always a thinker sounds way more impressive. Ponderer is more accurate . I can’t quite fit the brief of reflector either.

As an only child I was very happy in my own company. Pondering.

When I was in my thirties I became aware that my way of thinking was not the same as others and specifically that I have Synesthesia. This was discovered when I volunteered as a normal baseline person for some Psychological tests that were being trialed for people with acquired head injuries. It turned out I was not quite the help to the testers that I had hoped to be, but I had a diagnosis, in reality just a name, for my peculiar version of thinking. Early on I had self diagnosed myself as stupid and muddle headed. To achieve things I really had to concentrate hard to get quickly to the same place mentally as other people or I could use Synesthesia and get there quicker but with no sensible explanation. Without concentration my thoughts would swirl around dipping into my huge reserves of useless information or concoct creative but irrelevant sub texts to the tasks in hand. Learning to read was the first time I felt the fear of having to learn in a way that was proscribed by an outsider, rather than by a scheme of my own making. Fortunately words and writing seem to suit my form of synesthesia, so the concentration I had to muster, to learn to read, paid me back quickly by opening new worlds accessed more easily by literacy. Words are almost my favourite things.

Not that I realised that at the time, at the age of about 5 I was asked to read in a school assembly. Guided by my self -belief that I was muddle- headed I assumed it was to make an example of me and show how dumb I was. Some years later I was told it was because my concentration had boosted my reading age significantly. The same feelings of inadequacy swept over me when I was given an adults ticket for the library when I was eight. I assumed once again that my muddle- headedness had made me not clever enough for children’s books. It took a while to realise it was a promotion of sorts for the opposite reason.

Maths was not the same, wonderful, numerical worlds did not open for me. My absolute biggest fear was being asked to explain how I had got the right answer. The classic request to show my working out was such a fearful demand that I learned fast how to concentrate on getting the job done ‘normally’ and getting out . My maths career finished at the age of 16. I passed one exam in maths, an ‘O’ level, got a high grade and walked away.I never wanted to ever show my workings out again. The exception to this was Cusinierre Rods, The joy of learning maths with colour and shape. Sublime

By the time I realised Synesthesia was my thing it was too late to talk about it with my parents, it took me a few years to realise how fully it affected my thinking. My parents died before I even realised it was a thing to share with them. My mother almost certainly had it, she taught me to count using imaginary coloured clouds in the wide blue skies of East Anglia. Our real life was constantly overlaid by unrelated thoughts or feelings that, to her, explained the real world far more simply than it could explain itself.

Now I am free to express myself creatively, I’m freeing up my innate Synesthesia.

The best analogy I can come up with is that of a left handed person being forced to write with their right hand. To exist in the academic and working worlds I have had to concentrate on normal thinking and to an extent put Synesthesic thinking to one side because it is so hard to explain and justify.

Thinking in circles, writing in lines, is the closest I can get to describing my synesthesia/accepted normal thinking interface.

I know the spectrum of synesthesic experience is vast . My sensation is that before formal education I was more in tune with it, then life takes over and traditional thinking,  which has been learnt,  takes over. A year of not being in an environment that constantly requires individual accountability has allowed me to think and perceive more intuitively and allowed me to let the synesthesia do the shortcut thinking quickly and without explanation. To be continued.

“ I know the sound of blue and it tastes delicious “

Creative Port- Linda Winter talks to theoldmortuary

theoldmortuary is a place where artists and creative people come to talk. Creative Port is a series of conversations with artists and makers who have a connection with Plymouth, Devon, UK. Plymouth, the Ocean City, is a creative city of arrivals, departures and settlers.

Linda Winter is a regular at all three. She will be exhibiting at Bens Farm Shop, Yealmpton soon.

Coming from a family of creatives, it would have been easy for Linda to become a painter. Creativity is in her blood, descended from an East End tailor, her mother was a woman compelled to make the intricate and fabulous, if not always useful, fabric creations. Her brothers are Art School trained and successful. Christopher Stevens is a painter of note and Head of Painting at Brighton School of Art. William teaches art in Bristol. However, and perhaps perversely, Linda avoided the art school route, her work is solely the product of her innate ability. Sibling rivalry may have made her pick up a paintbrush initially but it did not lead her along a traditional route.

Linda had an uneventful education and then ran away to Cornwall and had a family. Her rebellion was short lived. Three young children, little money and a house on the edge of Bodmin Moor meant that she was thrown back on old painterly habits to keep her sane.

Using Gouache on Arches paper, she painted large vibrant semi abstract boats that quickly became her signature style. Selling though the Barbican Gallery in Plymouth helped to establish herself as an artist. In Plymouth in the 1980’s and 1990’s, being a female artist was a struggle. So, in spite of having numerous one woman shows, Linda went to University to learn how to teach. Again the rebel surfaced, instead of studying art, she studied Psychology and is now teaching Psychology in London, but she still comes home to the sea most weekends and holidays.

One eventful afternoon with only a small canvas to hand, she noticed some beetroot on her kitchen table that had been purchased the day before, (She paints in her kitchen). The leaves were beginning to wilt in the sunlight. The purple of the bulbs vibrant against their fading glory. She picked up her brushes and an idea was born. Although a classic still life subject, fruit and veg were not an obvious choice for an artist as vivid as Linda. The Fruit&Vegetable Series however made a serendipitous connection when Linda had a chance meeting with the Management from Ben’s Farm shop in Yealmpton (where the Beetroot came from). A unique exhibition will be held in the newly extended eating space at Bens, featuring paintings of her naked organic vegetables. The exhibition is special, following a conversation over coffee about the difficulties some families have in affording quality food, it has been decided that the commission, 20%, of each painting sold will go to the Trussell Trust and Plymouth food bank. Organisations’ that Ben’s already support. In addition, Ben’s will also donate a proportion of the afternoons takings from Food and Drink sales. Unconventionally, the opening, at 3pm will be a family event with kids painting, burgers, the paintings and Linda telling her story. Regular adults not accompanied by children are also very welcome. The fruit and veg show opens at Ben’s farm shop on the first weekend of June.