Taste the Tube

Many years ago whilst I was doing an early A level Art project, I came to the attention of a condition called synaesthesia whilst watching a documentary about extraordinary people and savantism. I was interested enough by the whole thing I actually contacted James Wannerton who was featured and has the condition syneasthesia. It really is a fascinating neurological condition whereby the human senses are muddles and mixed. So somebody could see sounds or hear colours for example. James has lexical- gustatory syneasthesia so he can literally taste words and sounds. Everything he hears gives him a taste sensation.

He is you could say a celebrity syneasthete, he has been the subject for countless news articles, scientific experiments and is still pestered by the media today. He even knows Oliver Sacks which is just the best thing ever. It is only because in the last 15-20 years syneasthesia has been widely researched and James was one of the originals included.

Anyway back to the topic here, I contacted James years ago and asked him some questions. I remember one question was, 'what taste do you get when you travel on the London Underground?'- he answered with rhubarb...the whine of the motors gave him tastes of rhubarb. It was really cool at the time and I made some artwork based on it. I still have them and are probably on this website. Like Magritte and his odd awkward scenes I attempted to include sticks of rhubarb into my work. 

Years had passed, and then only last year I got an email through from James seeing if I wanted to get involved with a project he was undertaking. He heads the UK Syneasthesia Association and always has interesting ideas. It was amazing he remembered me. What the project was, was to help design a logo for a 'taste tube map' that he was designing. Over the years he has documented every single taste he gets from the various tube stations in London and then replaces the station names with the associated taste. It's been big news, you only need to type 'taste tube map' or 'James Wannerton' and you get bombarded with articles.

I helped him do the logo, and I even met him in Manchester late last year to have a chat whilst he was filming for a documentary. It's really surreal how it started years ago, and now today we're still in contact. Recently he acquired one of my original paintings from my school days. He mentioned the painting before and said he wanted to include it on the new 'taste tube' website. You may wonder what the point is, but actually it's being used for educational purposes as well as private use, universities (Edinburgh, UCL) and schools have shown interest and James said he's getting a lot of interest from markets abroad especially in Asia. It's a jokily gesture of the tube map, and it's an iconic image, so people like that. James is now expanding into sculpture, he's planning on doing the map in glass tubing...Originally he wouldn't consider himself an artist but he's now being labelled as one. The whole 'taste the tube' project and website will hopefully launch this summer.

I hope to get involved again, I've mentioned to him about maybe curating an exhibition based on synaesthesia, involving today's art syneasthetes. What is certain, is this whole development has really impacted my work. I'd like to think I had syneasthesia but sadly I don't think I do, however that doesn't stop me researching and looking at it in my practice from a non syneasthetes point of view. I plan to use it in the future and to aid me in freeing up colour, space etc.

Sorry for the rambling