Eşref Armağan (born 1953) is a blind painter of Turkish origin. Born without sight to an impoverished family, he taught himself to write and print. He has painted using oil paints for roughly thirty-five years.
Using a braille stylus to etch the outline of his drawing, Armağan requires total silence to create art. Oil paint is then applied with his fingers and left to dry fully before a new color is applied. This unique method is used so that colors do not smudge. The art pieces themselves are created without help from any individual. He is also able to create art that has visual perspective.
In 2008 two researchers from Harvard, Dr. Amir Amedi and Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, tried to find more about neural plasticity using Mr. Armagan as a study case. Both scientists had evidence that in cases of blindness, the "visual" cortex acts differently than how it acts with the non-blind. Pascual-Leone has found that Braille readers use this very same area for touch. Amedi, together (with Ehud Zohary) at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, found that the area is also activated in verbal memory tasks. When Amedi analyzed the results, however, he found that Armagan's visual cortex lit up during the drawing task, but hardly at all for verbal recall, meaning that some unused visual areas might be used in collaboration with ones needs from the brain. Moreover in scans that were held while Armagan drew, his visual cortex signals seemed as he was seeing to the extent that a naive viewer of his scan might assume Armagan really could see.
Mr. Armagan is married with two children. He has displayed his work at more than 20 exhibitions in Turkey, Italy, China, Holland and the Czech Republic. He has appeared several times on television and in the press in Turkey and has been on programs on BBC and ZD. In 2004, he was the subject of a study of human perception, conducted by the psychologist John Kennedy of University of Toronto.
In 2009 Armağan was invited by Volvo, to paint the new model S60. As it was not meant for a TV-commercial, more of a community "PR-trick", Volvo made a series of documentaries, posted on Volvo's Facebook page, where Armağan paints the S60, as well as single parts, wished by community. The painting was for sale on Ebay, and sold for US $3,050. The Canadian non-profit charity organization World Blind Union (WBU) was the benefactor of the auction.