Othello De’Souza-Hartley

Blind, but I can See

For our commissioning project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Othello De’Souza-Hartley reflects on the notion of stillness, loss and how to navigate grief.

Othello De’Souza-Hartley’s artistic vocabulary encompasses photography, film, performance, sound, drawing and painting. Working across multiple platforms, his practice is concerned with ideas around the human body as a site of embodiment, often taking inspiration from classical paintings and art historical tableaux.

Autograph commissioned De'Souza-Hartley to create new work in response to the wider context of the Covid-19 pandemic for our project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other. The series, Blind, but I can See (2020) began as a reflection on what De'Souza-Hartley experienced as the 'treadmill of life that never stops'. Following the unexpected loss of his father Nevil Hartley to Covid-19, the artist created an extended self-portrait in three parts in his father’s bedroom to capture, in his own words, 'the unequitable stillness within it'. Ideas of absence and presence become tangible signifiers in this evocative new body of work.

Alongside a film work comprised of symbolic moving imagery of a tree outside his apartment window and a large-scale painting, the series of photographs taken at his family home represents a mediation of grief whilst emphasising the inevitability of change and seeking tranquillity in the beauty of the everyday – especially amidst the personal and collective crises we are living every day. 

To contextualise this new art commission, we invited poet Raymond Antrobus to write a short essay reflecting on themes of loss and grief – as well as time – in Blind, but I can See. This is published alongside an in-depth conversation between the artist and Autograph's senior curator Renée Mussai.


In That Green
Poet Raymond Antrobus responds to Blind, but I can See

In Search of Stillness: In Conversation with Othello De'Souza-Hartley
Autograph's senior curator Renée Mussai speaks with the artist

View the Commission

Blind, but I can see (2020)

Absence (triptych)


Study 17 (Blind, but I can See), acrylic on canvas 60 x 48in 


Othello De’Souza-Hartley (born 1977, London) explores ideas around the human body as a site of embodiment, taking inspiration from classical paintings and art historical tableaux. His multi-faceted practice encompasses photography, film, performance, sound, drawing and painting.

Through an intimate – and ongoing – engagement with auto-portraiture, Othello De’Souza-Hartley often stages his own body in multiple settings, both private and public – from domestic interiors to vast industrial spaces. The result is a deeply personal, poetic mediation on notions of self and other, offering viewers different depictions of masculinity and vulnerability as visually performed ideas.

De’Souza-Hartley has been the recipient of numerous artistic commissions including from Camden Art Centre; The Photographers’ Gallery; Platform for Art and the National Portrait Gallery – his recent works have been exhibited at The Museum of Liverpool, UK; Shanghai Centre for Photography, China (2019); Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool and Gasworks, London.

You can follow the artist on Instagram and Twitter, and visit De'Souza-Hartley's website to see more of his work. 

About the project

Initiated during the first months of lockdown in 2020, Autograph has commissioned a constituency of ten UK-based creative practitioners in our immediate artistic community to create an open-ended visual arts project in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Working with photography, film and lens-based media, Autograph’s curatorial team Mark Sealy, Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora have been in close dialogue with each artist to produce these new bodies of work. The artist commissions reflect Autograph’s long-standing work advocating for photography and film to address visual politics of rights, race and representation.

Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other will be presented as a group exhibition at Autograph's gallery in Shoreditch, London, from autumn 2021.


Read our senior curator Renée Mussai's introduction to the Care | Contagion | Community project

View the completed artist commissions

"We Were Here": Remembering Nevil Hartley

Visit the Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other exhibition at Autograph

Purchase a copy of the Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other book from Autograph's online shop


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Supported using public funding by Arts Council England

Works from Othello De'Souza-Hartley's commission Blind, but I can See, 2020, © and courtesy the artist, commissioned by Autograph for Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other: 1) Absence, 2020 [detail]. 2) Blind, but I can See, 2020 Video, 5' 44". 3–5) Absence, 2020, Triptych, C-type prints, each 20 x 24 inches. 6) Room, C-type print, 20 x 24 inches. 7) Untitled, 2020 C-type print, 20 x 24 inches. 8) Garden, 2020, C-type print, 20 x 24 inches. 9) Study 17 (Blind, but I can See), 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 inches.
 Other page images: 10) Othello De'Souza-Hartley. Photograph by Nico Froechlich.