Artworks exhibited here are connected through the way they contemplate our knowledge of, attitudes towards and experiences of past and present emotional and physical health. Taking shape through a range of visual media including painting, collage, sculpture and installations, the artists have drawn upon The Wellcome Collection archive material to develop their individual artistic concerns. While some artworks resonate a lived experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, some are investigative of unconventional or non-Western medical treatments, and others explore unseen psychological or biological processes. But, by carefully intertwining these new medical and scientific insights with their own personal understandings of the themes they handle, all artists have created works injected with emotive poignancy, suggestive of overwhelming loneliness, futile longing, and experiential vulnerability.
After being trapped in three lockdowns I was tired of staring at a screen and limited space in student accommodation. All I had to reference was my experiences. The loneliness of lockdown, becoming sick with COVID and getting a dangerous inflammatory response. I was limited to my camera documenting what was happening to me as well as what was happening in the UK. However, when the government lifted restrictions I craved to work with tangible materials. I wanted to transcend the celluloid. So I experimented with resin to create a mixed media sculpture. COVID frozen in time. Echo the sensation of entrapment. The isolation drove me to this self reflective space. Internal and external reflection. I tried to manifest this in the resin.
Hart has deepened her personal interest in the human condition of nostalgia and has explored this through a comprised series of five greeting cards displayed on a shelf together with an oil painting, To Rosetint explores her personal experience of homesickness and is informed by historical understandings of this theme as a disease. Snippets of text appropriated from Hofer’s medical dissertation on nostalgia, elements of kitsch aesthetic and fragmented, almost empty compositions come together to compose a diaristic narrative concerned with the interplay of fond reminiscence and melancholic longing. The artist hopes to create an unsettling collision between memory and actuality.
The artist took inspiration from an illustration found in The Wellcome Collections archives by J.C. Whishaw of circulatory systems. She reduces the bodily systems into a simplified and abstracted model that aims to give a universal, visual language to the more invisible energies that flow through and around us, the same way oxygen and blood flow through the heart and around the body. The artist employs tension of thread pulling in opposite directions to precariously suspend a spherical form between two ‘black holes’ which form a frame to the structure where thread lines vanish and re-emerge on the other side.
The works are inspired around the theme of touch, this has been In response to some of the Wellcome Collection’s images of ancient anatomical votives, often cast from terracotta they were once used and taken as offerings to the gods to give thanks, or as a request for healing to almost any part of the body. Touch is undoubtedly so important for our wellbeing, a subject so prevalent now in these times of social distancing and self isolation, touch has become almost taboo. Not only this but thinking about the absence of touch; touch deprivation where we might only be touched by a few loved ones or just the wind and rain. Using mixed media this sculptural installation aims to give the impression of dream like visions emulating a desire for touch but also separation, tension, restrictions and the spaces within, a reminder of not only our resilience but our fragility.
Fire Cupping, Herbal Tea Medicine and Acupuncture
Inspired by the Wellcome Collection’s Acupuncture Figure, Wong’s recent works are references to the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Her collection Life Source consists of three separate oil paintings, each representing the concepts of Fire Cupping, Acupuncture, and Herbal Tea Medicine. Wong views a bowl of herbal tea a part of the organic world of nature, as it is filled with ingredients taken from Earth, consumed by our body, eventually making us in one with nature. Acupuncture and Fire Cupping are also meditative practices that help her relieve stress and anxiety. These are all medical practices that gives her peace and a strong immune system. Hence, she aims to introduce East Asian culture and influences on the familiarised Western culture, and reflect that Western Modern Medicine is not the only form of treatment available in the world, despite being the most common treatment accessible.
Marshall’s work looks at online question and answer forums associated with medicine, health and healing. She has incorporated photography from the Welcome collection together with text to create a hand bound book. It looks at how health and medicine can become complicated and blurred with the dawn of modern technology and how misinformation can be spread quickly and easily through the online world. The book covers the topic of pregnancy and highlights questions and answers that wouldn’t be seen in medical journals or pamphlets. It uses humour to focus on this growing use of technology as a form of quick and easy medical help whilst highlighting the growing concerns raised due to possibly dangerous answers provided by non-medical professionals.
Inspired by the ‘Being human’ exhibition from the Wellcome Collection, Cherry has explored the representation of the human body with anatomically correct models and imagery that explores what makes us human, as well as individuals. The artist created this work to reflect on what we show others on the outside, versus the insides that unite us all together. Cherry reconstructs the core elements of humanness, focusing on organs they feel reflect the most basic things making us human and how they unite us; we all breath the same air, feel from our heart and think our thoughts – however they differ – and finally bleed when we get hurt.
Transience of existence in shift
The installation delves into the artists’ journey with mental health, exploring natural remedies, such as meditation and mindfulness, and science through medication and technology-based treatments. There is a juxtaposition between science and nature, the preservation of life and acceptance of death. The optimisation of health is primary part of our culture, highlighting our relationship with life and death. The artist understands the nuance of this, representing death as peaceful and calm, whilst still reflecting how our fear of it has been commodified.
Each material used has been carefully chosen to further the themes of life and death. Oxidised metals and plants bring actual life and decay into the work. The meditative element of craft is an important part of the artists’ personal connections to death, mirrored throughout the piece with carefully chosen crafting materials, such as air-dry clay and plywood.