A unique exhibition at SES

In August we welcomed friends, family and associates to the opening of an exhibition of some simply stunning artwork.

Believed to be the first exhibition of its kind in a NZ ophthalmology clinic, As far as the eye can reach offers a series of dramatic photographic artworks – images that can also be appreciated by those with low vision and blindness. The touchable, large-scale works by local artist Conor Clarke are now on display in our Kilmore Street premises for a limited time.

With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland, Clarke travelled abroad, spending many years in Berlin before settling back in New Zealand and making Christchurch her home. Her work as a lecturer in photography at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury has been instrumental in shaping a new generation of aspiring artists.

Clarke’s interest in the effects of visual perception on landscape representations is widely explored in her work. For the pieces in this exhibition, she worked alongside the blind and low vision community to create images representing landscapes as participants remember them.

The description of each artwork is recorded in braille across the surface of the image, allowing those with low vision or blindness to engage with each story.

The description of each artwork is recorded in braille across the surface of the image, allowing those with low vision or blindness to engage with each story. There are also QR codes accompanying each photograph where, upon scanning, a recording can be heard of the original description as told by each participant.

The event has been organised by Dr James Borthwick, the Southern Eye Specialists (SES) doctor facilitating the extension of a similar recent exhibition held at the nearby Christchurch Art Gallery.

This has been an opportunity to merge Dr Borthwick’s various interests, combining his expertise in Ophthalmology and value for patient care with his passion for supporting New Zealand art and local artists. It was in part due to his role on the Board of the Christchurch Art Gallery that he discovered the artwork.

“I first saw some of Conor’s work at the gallery last year as part of a group exhibition called Touching Sight,” says Jim. “I believe this is now the first art exhibition to be undertaken in an ophthalmology practice in New Zealand.”

The use of art to inspire and entertain is one of the important ways in which patients are made more comfortable in the reception areas of SES.

“When we designed this building six years ago, we worked hard to create an open, airy waiting space,” says Jim. “We wanted to get away from train station-like waiting rooms. We knew there was a better way – one that could make the wait more tolerable and less stressful for patients.”

As these patients often must spend time in our reception area as they move through a variety of different tests and processes, the exhibition provides “a great opportunity to see art and to touch it.”

Putting together both the exhibition and the opening event was no small feat. One of our team leaders, Chris, took up the organisational challenge.

Her efforts helped ensure the opening night was well-attended with representatives from Blind Low Vision NZ, BLENNZ, The Lighthouse Trust and Blindside, along with other VIPs from our local network.

Jonathan Smart, of Jonathan Smart Gallery, also attended, his assistance with arranging the exhibition and hanging the art a great help. The night was a wonderful occasion to celebrate the unique talent of an amazing local artist.

The artwork is now available for sale with a portion of proceeds going to Blind Low Vision NZ, Glaucoma NZ and Macular Degeneration NZ.