May 2017 Greater Dandenong Leader

Being blind and nearly deaf are no barriers to Alex Sar’s artistic pursuits. The Springvale man lost his sight aged 13 and relies on a cochlear implant for his limited hearing. He’s one of about 330,000 Australians to have lost both senses. But the 26-year-old hasn’t let that slow him down and said he wants to be known for his paintings, rather than his impairments. “Stevie Wonder is a good example,” he said. “People can see past the disability and think of him as an artist.” Art is just one of many projects on Mr Sar’s busy schedule, which includes public speaking, learning Auslan, and organising camps for fellow blind-deaf clients with Able Australia. 

Alex sarThe painting was suggested to him as a form of therapy a few years ago.

“It isn’t really something I focus on day to day — it’s more something I enjoy doing”, he said. His portrait of newsreader Peter Hitchener was entered into the 2013 Archibald Prize.

Describing how that artwork came together, said it involved a lot of prodding of the Nine news presenter’s face. “Peter was very patient,” he said. “We had him sitting next to the canvas for two sessions (four hours). I had one hand on the paint brush and the other on the top of Peter’s head, and was just making my way down. “The nose was probably the hardest bit,” he said. Mr Sar has since turned his focus to painting dogs, which he says presents its own challenges. “They’re a lot less patient and they’ll just jump up and run off on you,” he said.

Mr Sar has been a client of Able Australia for seven years and said the organisation has helped him gain confidence to pursue his passions. Mr Sar said losing his sight on top of his hearing was a lot to deal with, particularly at a young age. “I had a glycauma since I was born but previously I had a fair amount of vision. I totally lost my sight at the age of 13 which is a pretty crappy age to deal with that,” he said. “I’d just started year 7, I was two weeks in. I was walking down the corridor and couldn’t see properly at all. I started bumping into doors. I woke up one day and couldn’t open my eyes properly.”

Mr Sar said his paintings, public talks and use of social media have helped him express himself and advocate on behalf of the deaf-blind community. “It’s about putting myself out there, just sort of getting involved in different activities. My hope is that people can see past the disability and appreciate people for what they do.”

Able Australia is this year marking 50 years of operation. Details are available on their website.