Don’t make me lipread, ok?


There’s a misconception that lipreading is just like reading a book. You look at the mouth and read, right? Actually, no, lipreading is not about “reading” the shape of the lips. It’s far, far more complicated than that.

When I lipread, I catch every fifth word or so. I queue them up in my mind and guess the rest by inventing possibilities that fit facial expressions, body language and approximate number of syllables. Sometimes there are a couple of possibilities, and I hold both in my mind, waiting for it to become clear through subsequent conversation, which is correct.

It can take a minute or two after the speaker finishes for me to understand what was said. Sometimes though, I get to the end and realise that none of the possibilities work. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. And then I have to say, “Sorry, can you go back to the start?”

And you might wonder, why were you nodding and smiling and saying yes all along when you didn’t understand? Because that’s how lipreading works. It’s the only practical way to do it.

As you can imagine, this is incredibly hard work. I can lipread for an hour a day, tops. After that, fatigue sets in. And if I go too far, pushing myself for three hours, I am WIPED afterwards, and my head pounds. It can take me days to recover.

This painting is one of the pieces I’ve done for my exhibition.

The exhibition, Looking Out… Looking In… is up at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne until 28th Sept and at 11am on Sun 25th Sept we are having a wrap up brunch / meet the artists session. Come along if you’d like. Event details here.

I have giclee prints of this piece available in my shop.

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