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From Van Gogh to Pharrell Williams, artists have explored how synaesthesia enhances the senses. For the first in our Sensory World series, we find out what it can teach us about how individuals experience the world differently.

Synaesthesia is a different perception of the world, where the senses are mixed. Some people hear colours, smell flavours, or see shapes based on temperature.

Hearing from people with synaesthesia can help us to understand how individual perceptions of the world differ, and how reality is a subjective experience.

Throughout history, several artists – including Vincent van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky and Pharrell Williams – have recreated their own synaesthetic experiences in their work.

Josefa (Pepa) Salas Vilar is an artist with synaesthesia who sees colours and movement in written words, sounds, and numbers. She found the best way to express her unique perception of the world is through artistic means. “I think of synaesthesia as an intensity enhancer,” she says. “I am a piece of a puzzle, and art is like I found my puzzle.”

Video by Gabriel Pecot & Cecilia Guardati
Commissioned by: Griesham Taan

This video is part of BBC Culture and BBC Reel’s new series, A Sensory World.

Source: Synaesthesia: The ‘superpower’ behind great art