Hands, the eyes of the soul.
I remember something very interesting my tutor told me a few years ago. It was when I was preparing my portfolio for the Foundation year of Art and Design at Ulster University. A bit of a story here. You see, when I moved to Northern Ireland I didn’t really know how to draw. So I enrolled in a couple of drawing classes and I had a private tutor to help me prepare the portfolio. My tutor was very kind, and as I have said many times, I felt like I had a mother here in Northern Ireland in this strange new place. Anyway, I am really and forever grateful to her. Now on hands.
So, she was regularly giving me tasks to do at home. One of those tasks was to draw my face, like a portrait drawing. The interesting part was that I had to draw my face without looking at it, but touching it. So I was touching – exploring – investigating my face with one hand and was drawing it with the other. Interesting right? Of course for me back then that was the only way to draw my face as we had just moved to NI at the house we were renting didn’t have mirrors.
So now after 4 years I’m doing my Masters at Ulster University and hands and touching comes back to the surface.
Another bit of story here.
In my master, I wanted to explore space. Space like a room, or an installation, or everything people can see and experience. So while I was researching for art installations that challenge and provoke visitors’ views, I realized that everything was visual. At the same time I was reading some books for the same subject “Space” and I was reading for things that people see. Words like eyes, see, visual, sight, etc. were always appearing in front of me.
And then it just hit me. What if people cannot see? How people who are blind or visually impaired can enjoy an art installation, or a painting.
Fortunately, people thought about that before me. People who can’t use their eyes to see, use their hands. Research findings suggest that tactile learning is very important to bling people, as the brain learns to recognize and remember textures, patterns, and different sensations without having to think about them. Is similar to how people read words and sentences without thinking how to read.
Not only that, but a lot of museums (not in Northern Ireland yet), allow visitors to touch some exhibits. Other museums have created raised painting copying original ones, so people can touch them. There are many initiatives around the world, people and organizations try to create inclusive environments and spaces.
End for the end of this story, just to say, that I visited the ulster Transport Museum in Cultra blindfolded, scary experience. And I created some clay tiles with textures and I asked two people to feel them and tell me if they could understand the patterns they had on them.
And then semester 1 was over. I wish I had a tutor from the start of the semester 1 and not in the middle of it. As I believe I would have done so much more.
Anyway, during the Christmas/ New Year holidays Ι’ve continue my research. And this time my research led me to hands.
I mean, when we talk about tactility we primarily talk about hands! It’s not like I discovered the wheel or the fire. But it was something so obvious that I couldn’t really see until I saw it! After that so many things came and I was like bombarded with ideas and revelations.
You see hands are limbs, are tools. Hands are covered with skin. Skin is the biggest organ in the human body. The skin on our hands has a lot of nerves and the density compared to other parts of the body is huge! There are nerves for temperature, vibration, pressure, pain, everything really!
But we don’t use our hands just to feel things, we use them for so much more!
- With our hands we can express emotions, like love (hug, caress, pet) or we can express hostility (slap, rude gestures)
- We can act, do things, like eating, holding things, playing
- We can speak! Sign Language
- We can read! Braille
- We can see, explore. Tactile experiences
- We can learn. Tactile learning
- We can express ourselves
- Our hands are an extension of ourselves
On the other hand, through years people have been using their hands for so many other reasons. And mainly for things that nobody can really see.
- We use hands to tell the future. Palmistry, Cheiromancy, Dowsing.
- We use our hands to also heal. Reiki, Reflexology, Accupancture, Cheiropathy, Bioenergetic Analysis – Orgone.
The above examples are all about energies. Energies that are not visual to the human eye. And as a result people use their hands not to see but to feel, and to feel not something that can be detected with many other ways.
Isn’t it amazing? I really find it fascinating cause there aren’t only the above examples. The Hands play a significant role in different cultures too!
There is the Fatima’s Hand or Hamsa
The Hand of the Philosophers
The Hand of glory
The Ulster Hand.
The “We can Do it” poster that shows an arm with a hand gesture.
Different gestures with different meaning in each culture, like the high five gestures.
And there are also the mudras.
The mudras are being used not only in Buddhism and Hinduism, but in yoga exercises too.
Hands: the eyes of the soul
As you can see hands are very important for so many reasons and not just to feel textures or temperatures.
Hands are an intimate way to feel other people in a physical and metaphysical way.
Are here to help, to offer and provide. Hands are here so they can reach things, but also dreams.
Hands have so many powers that we haven’t even thought about them. I would love to be able to explore and through experimentation to manage to present all these beautiful things hands can do.
Anyway, I hope you find hands as interesting and exciting as I do. You can also see some of my hand sketches on my Instagram!