June 2019 Med-El Blog
Saulo Silveira is a Brazilian artist living in Portugal, who was born profoundly deaf in both ears. Saulo talked about his decision to get cochlear implants, the roles art and painting played in it, and what painting sounds looks like.
My name is Saulo, and I am an artist. I am originally from Brazil, but I now live and work in a small village close to Lisbon, Portugal. I enjoy walking through the Serra de Arrábida, a wonderful natural park with beautiful landscapes and beaches close to my home town. Recently I have also started to enjoy listening to the goldfinches.
My love of art started when I was still a boy. I remember the solitude of deafness, which made me feel isolated, like on an island. Like all children I had a vivid imagination and I loved to paint. In my mind I had this idea of building a boat with my paintings that would allow me to leave my island of loneliness and travel the world. Painting was a way to overcome my communication problems. Later I attended mainstream schools and tried to listen to my teachers, which was impossible.
I felt really lonely, and my way of dealing with my loneliness was going to libraries, museums, and art galleries, which opened my horizons, and painting always felt like a safe haven to me.
Today I am a full-time artist and collaborate with art galleries in Paris, Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro.
Painting In Silence For me, painting is an eternal spiritual search. The more we evolve, the more we become modest and humble – this is the fundamental aspect of painting. It has tremendous therapeutic power. I used to paint in the deep silence of my profound hearing loss. I can’t tell if my deafness has affected my art, but I think that with a limitation of some kind, we develop other potentials. Deafness, in a way, helps us to improve concentration.
However, as time went by I decided at some point that I had to do something about living in silence and my hearing loss. I had already heard about cochlear implants and had read about the technology in newspapers and magazines. I also knew that because of my profound hearing loss, they were the only option for me. After getting my cochlear implant, there have been so many wonderful moments and exciting listening moments.
Once I walked down an empty street in the evening and I heard footsteps. I looked around to see if there was someone nearby. Then I realised that they were my own footsteps, and I started to tap and enjoyed the happy tapping sounds. Or, for example, when I heard someone laugh in a supermarket for the first time, or when I noticed the very special way some Portuguese greet you and say “Bom Dia!” in a sing-song way. And, of course, I also love the sound of birds singing.
Painting The Sounds
As a painter, I am now at the beginning of a new phase that I call “Painting the Sound”, and for me it will be interesting to see how the sounds around me will influence my paintings and my approach to art. With my cochlear implant I am now also able to listen to music while I work, and I really love doing so! I particularly enjoy listening to Jazz and Blues and artists like Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong.
I still don’t know where this path is going to take me, but I am attentive and observe the changes in my mind and in seeing the world. But I am immensely happy and looking forward to seeing where my hearing journey will take me! I also want to give my heartfelt thanks to Drs. Luís Antunes, Helena Rosa and Lília Ferreira, my wonderful medical team, who helped me so much in my hearing journey – I am very grateful for their support!