“I’ve had the experience of losing my sight,” Tom Condon said as he removed his new pieces from a flat-file and began to arrange them on the worktable, “I’m intrigued by visual art that can make people consider sight.”
Tom suffered from impaired vision and temporary blindness when he was in his early teens. An onset of Idiopathic Pseudotumor Cerebri, caused by an excess of spinal fluid, meant that he would spend the latter half of his childhood in and out of military hospitals. Doctors conducted detailed scans, painstakingly mapping out his changing fields of vision. The years of medical examination, and his subsequent treatment, made an indelible impression on the young artist. After two decades, he would return to that trying period in his life as the basis of a new experimental series.
Condon’s current body of work blends his interests in painting and photography with his own personal history. At the heart of his series is an intriguing irony, making a visual experience out of Braille. “I love the symbology of language.” Tom continued, “Most languages are visually rich apart from their content.”
The series began as a simple digital documentation of a Braille textbook, which he fished out of a dumpster behind the library. The textbook sat with him for nearly eleven years, until Tom decided to photograph its pages. Removed from its context, and rendered functionless to its original intended audience, the tactile language forms a bizarre landscape in each print. Traces of fingerprints left on the most read sections of Braille inspired the artist to make each print a unique piece.
Tom demonstrated his process during a recent visit to his studio. After printing the photographs at 30”x20”, Condon applies an encaustic wax directly to the surface. Carefully melting the wax with a hand torch, he mixes in metallic powders and pigments to the surface. He repeats this process for as many as three coats. This intricate application process demonstrates his desire to make each piece unique, and reveals his background in painting. He has always been intrigued by the singularity of a painting, and strives to create a distinctive visual experience with his work. New patterns emerge on the surface of the piece as you walk around it, viewing it in different light. “Digital images don’t do the work justice,” Tom admitted, “I prefer that they are seen and experienced in person.”
Two of the most striking pieces in the series, “Retinal Rivalry” and “Little White Ghost”, evoke the work of Anselm Kiefer and Sigmar Polke. Perhaps it is the monochromatic color scheme, ominous mood, or the visceral act of branding the paper with the Braille pattern, but these pieces in particular bring Holocaust imagery to mind. There is a sense of destruction and new creation in these works that connects to Condon’s earlier efforts.