Artist Bianca Raffaella, whose work is currently on show as part of the Shape-supported Layers of Vision exhibition and who was featured in this year's Shape Open, sat down with the Shape team to talk about her practice, collaborations, and ambitions.

Layers of Vision is an art exhibition that explores the experiences and perspectives of blind and partially sighted (BPS) artists living in a world made for sighted people. In meaningfully co-created and joyful ways, Layers of Vision raises attention to, and challenges, the barriers that people who are blind or have sight loss are facing in everyday life. It does so by exhibiting ten artworks that celebrate and creatively explore accessibility.

Listen to an audio description of Bianca's artwork, In The Rose Garden

Listen to Bianca talk about her artwork

Visit the Layers of Vision website Read Bianca's artist profile

Can you tell us about the work you created for Layers of Vision?

My artwork titled In The Rose Garden is a polyptych image of a rose bush in summer.

Inspired by my visual and tactile experience of touching the rose bush, I have tried to capture the intricate details of the scene before me.

The coloured paintings hung on the wall suggest, soft whispers of pinks and yellows, representing my distinctive colour spectrum and how my eyes respond to colour.

The painting on the right-hand side shows the perspective of the rosebush from my right eye. The painting on the left-hand side pictures the rosebush through my left eye.

The sculpted shapes are made from layers of collaged tissue paper, which replicate my unique visual perspective as a visually impaired artist. 

The white canvases are symbolic as they describe the importance of touch for a blind person. 

The effect of white indicates to the fully sighted viewer, what it is like to rely on touch but no vision. Both my approaches to painting and displaying my artwork, seek to challenge the traditional and the inaccessible in the contemporary visual arts.

Much of the show, including your work, is intended to be tactile. What does it mean for you as an artist for your audience to engage with your work in this way? What difference does it make?

My collaged paintings have been made to be touched, they are painted sculptures on the wall. In this way, I feel it brings the viewer closer to me.

There are no barriers distancing the view to accessing the artwork. The paintings are open and free, however there is still some hesitation to touching the artwork as traditionally artwork cannot be touched.

As an artist creating tactile paintings, I feel I can fully express my creative approaches and ideas to the world without any physical or societal limitations.

Are there any lessons you have learned in this process - either from things that worked well or mistakes along the way - that you want to inform your practice in future? 

I feel my creative practice has a purpose and that my ideas have been acknowledged for pure creativity.

I have met others along the way who I admire and have inspired my own creative practice.

I no longer feel so alone and isolated, my creative process is open, and my artwork is being explored and considered.

I do feel however that my art should speak first, instead of my visual impairment. The labelling / title of being a visually impaired artist is limiting in itself, I would like to be known as an artist who has overcome my visual impairment and is helping to break down barriers for other artists with sight loss.

I want to champion and celebrate the abilities of artists who happen to have sight loss. The aspect of overcoming challenges is important to me and my art.

I feel passionate about helping others on this journey.

Has this exhibition inspired any new lines of enquiry or plans for your practice? Has it given you something meaningful or significant to build on? 

I have loved being a part of the exhibition Layers of Vision and the process has been one of discovery and challenges. 

I challenged my creative process with large scale collages on canvas and blindfolding each eye to share what I could and could not see. I did find it difficult to promote the exhibition and still feel this is a barrier to the wider audience.

If you had to choose one thing to change or redesign with regards to access in the arts (you can think about access in however broad a sense you like), what would it be and why? 

I would like to see tactile interpretations of all artworks in exhibitions, museums and galleries for those with visual impairments. 

Layers of Vision is free and open to the public in London until December 16th 2022. In 2023, Orleans House Gallery are hosting a free-to-enter solo exhibition of Bianca's work, Hushed Impressions, from January to March.

Banner image: Bianca Raffaella's polyptych work, In The Rose Garden. An audio description is available at the top of this page.