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Experimental Film

With the help of my partner Nigel, I have been working on a series of abstract films based on movement of different fluids around structures I made from plastic film and tissue. The structures are based on drawings I made of spine deformaties and sketches from researching surgeon's drawings made in the 1930's to the 1960's. Nigel has been struggling to convert files that will play on this site, so hopefully you will be able to watch a film successfully. The sound is based on ambient sound caught at the time of filming and processed to match some of the movement and flow of the image. I want to get away from the literal view of the bodies interior -we have all seen views of going down an oesophagus- and capture the exploration of an interior which is unknown and yet has an organic feeling. the element of movement has always been important in my work, so the tiny twitches and pulses are repeated, but not always in the usual rhthymic mode of a healthy body.

Print Experimentation

 

One of the great things at Camberwell is the print making department, not being a printmaker has not held me back, because I am not sure what I can do I have a go anyway, if I make a mess I have the perfect excuse I am not really a print maker, I have just snuck in, although I don't know how long I will be able to keep that excuse up! Anyway I have been fascinated by overlapping paper to form layers, and have got some wonderful Japanese tissue paper called Gampi, which has the texture and feel of a very thin layer of skin. I am at present learning to manipulate the fine tissue as its delicate structure tends to want to adhere to itself really easily. I have also found the joy of embossing, making layers of different papers over my deformed plates, which have been dissolved and distorted by many immersions in acid. The images are of the embossed prints, it is difficult to see on the screen the delicate details and the embossing, but there is a good idea of the shape of the plates I have used.

 

 

More MA Shows

For the last in the series of 4 MA students show on Identity I decided to get right away from the prints which are still a huge part of my present practice and show a series of mixed media experiments -   still based on Mr Jeffs   - captured in glass jars. What more appropriate setting for   dry specimens   constructed from clay, copper and manganese, as an homage to   Mr. Jeffs, who was disinterred from the grave and is   now on show in the "Crystal Gallery", to be placed in jars in a case and viewed by passers by at Wilson Road, Camberwell.

It was quite a surprise for the tutors and students not to see some prints as they know my present obsession in the print room. However they found the work challenging and interesting, and I have had many interesting discussions based on the research work I have been doing at the Royal London Hospital and Barts' archives and the morality of having anatomised bodies on show to the public. I look forward to more research; the drawings from the 40's and   50's are particularly interesting as they   record actual surgical procedures, and surgeon's notes. The Georgian to Victorian   water colour sketches at Barts have less interesting detail, and tend towards portraiture and are variably competent but are supplemented by some remarkable photographs of patients from the 1890's.

Dry Specimens

Mixed media objects in 8 glass jars

Based on specimen Mr Jeffs circa 1770,  RCSHC/P804

 

Jar 1   copper mesh manganese

Jar 2   ceramic glue

Jar 3   copper wire manganese

Jar 4   ceramic glue

Jar 5   copper wire manganese

Jar 6   ceramic glue

Jar 7   copper mesh  manganese

Jar 8   ceramic glue pins

jars in cabinet

 

MA Shows

 

The Camberwell MA Student Shows at the Wilson Road site are in full swing, I had a framed etchng in the show on 'Abstraction' on the 28th January, the first show in a seres of four. I have entered a series of mixed media objects in glass jars,  for the last show on 'Identity', which will be held from Feb 18th - 22nd. I have just finished the work, based again on Mr Jeffs. The more I investigate him the more attachment I feel. Being buried only to be exhumed, anatomised and sold on to be used as an object of education and entertainment is quite troubling. I can't quite keep the thought is this what Mr Jeff's have wanted out of my mind? But I am still using / exploiting his body in my work. He certainly has gained some measure of fame, even within the confines of the Camberwell MA group, as I used prints in a seminar last week with members from different MA groups, and had to discuss my source materials.

Images from the abstraction show

 

MA Drawing day

 

Each student brought in a sketch book and drawing equipment / materials to reflect their drawing practise. A double page spread was allocated for each student to illustrate each drawng session timed for 15 mins. The drawings used collaged textile, quotations, as a response to objects brought into the session, abstract forms, work including text and image.

We attempted to try and be as 'rule free' as possible, which allowed students to draw on others work, encroach on pages already or about to be used. We also did not pass books around in a systematic fashion, which helped towards the end of the session as we had to find books we had not already used.


The session began at 11 am and ended at 4pm, with 2 breaks totalling an hour. Towards the end of the time fatigue certainly set in, but not so much that there was a discussion about what to do as a group for our next drawing project.

It was an interesting experience to draw for such an extended period over such a long time with a group of people. The next morning I felt the physical effort in a gentle ache in some muscle of my right arm, which was also interesting, as it was a tangible reminder of the actual parts of my body that are involved in my art work.

Images are of students at work in the MA drawing studio and an example of my work

 

Print making experimentation

 

Having discovered the joys of etching I am busy finding ways to develop work which reflects how structures within the human body are layered, particularly with reference to the abnormal structure of Mr Jeffs at the Hunterian Museum. The way that some of the muscles on the spine, arms and shoulders have become ossified, some looking very much like 'real' bone that has melted and dripped onto different parts of the body structure, and other ossifications look like clinker or lumps of ash that are partly crystalline is intriguing, and I am very much indebted to  the expert knowledge of the surgeons who have discussed Mr Jefff's case with me.

With the help of Paul Atkins at Camberwell print making department I have begun to try out methods of adding layers of tone using the spit bite method. Sometimes I have started a plate with the spit bite process of painting on acid and then drawing into the plate with etching, at other times using the spit bte on top of the drawn etchings.

The images show etchings with and without spit bite

 

spine etching

spit bite spine

 

Continued experimentation

 

I am continuing to develop paper structures based on drawings of skeletons, the spine and rib cage to be still quite a focus. I have begun to include elements of sewing as a means of extendng the paper I am working on, also mixing acrylic paint and glue. The acrylic I added first to define some of the shapes of the bone, but the painted area has sometimes grown to indicate areas that have more depth. Drawing over the acrylic with glue has an element of growth and chance as it spreads between sections and into spaces, rather like strings of tissue or muscle linking bone. In some areas I painted over the wet and drying glue so that speckles appear, rather like the colour and texture of some of the ossified muscle seen on Mr Jeff's shoulders and upper arms.

paper glue experimentation

 

Ceramic experiments

 

Using porcelain paper I am experimenting constructing shapes based on previous drawings of 'Mr Jeff's' spinal column. I have been overdrawing with Manganese, scratching into the surface and allowing the manganese mixed with water to flow into the ceramic. I have been struck by how much more interesting the shapes are when they are stacked - like layers of skin and body tissues and will continue to experiment threading the structures together. I have been intersted in the work of Marco Maggi and how he uses stacked paper to occupy a space, the work I have seen occupies the floor space, it might be interesting to see if this work hangs.

Images are of work in progress

tile detail

 

Reading around art and surgery - "A Surgical Artist at War"

 

During a very productive visit to the Hunterian Museum in London I was introduced to this book by a very knowledgeable retired surgeon- unfortunately I did not get his name - while I was once again drawing Mr Jeffs,   or rather his skeleton   showing symptoms of myositis ossificans, where the muscles become ossified and the bones fuse and seem to melt into one another.

Having purchased " A Surgical Artist at War" I have been doing further research on Goya and continue to look at how there is a cross over between art and medicine.

A Surgical Artist at War

The paintings and sketches of Sir Charles Bell 1809 – 1815

 

M K H Crumplin and P Starling

                       

Published by RCS Edinburgh 2005

 

This book reproduces images and text of the work of Sir Charles Bell (1774 – 1842), Scottish surgeon and artist. The images are of dead and wounded soldiers from the Spanish Peninsular War (1807 – 1814), and the Battle of Waterloo (1815). The images include notes describing wounds and possible treatment together with information, where available on the regiment and even character of the soldier.

 

The work appears primarily to be for the development of surgical knowledge and treatment of wounds found on the field of battle with specific areas of the body catalogued with different wounds and likely outcomes indicated.

 

Further comment about medical knowledge and technology of the time are added separately by the authors, Peter Starling, a retired Medical Support Officer with the RAMC, and Michael Crumplin, a retired surgeon, who has made a study of medicine during the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

 

This book, however is not valuable only as a document relating to the interesting period of the Napoleonic era, it is a link between the art work of the time, how surgeons were able to use their excellent anatomical knowledge, and the early development of how art and science could cross fertilize and produce work that could be used to educate and have great aesthetic merit.

 

The sketches – of which only a few of this period have been documented, some sketch books are ‘missing’ – are detailed and humane, the men are treated as individuals, their pain and anxiety is not hidden, they are not mere anatomical structures useful for instruction or as curiosities. In these works and in the paintings there is a feeling of the power of Goya, although Sir Charles would not have seen the prints of the Disasters of War, at the time he made these works, as were not published until 1863, 35 years after Goya's death, and 21 years after his own passing, there is the same power of pathos and horror in the non medical onlooker. His previous work on facial anatomy and links with artists in his book,” Essays on anatomy of expression in Painting”, show how keen he was to share the fruits of his research, as well as having a good mastery of drawing technique. An example of this is available at  <URL: http://www.uic.edu/depts/mcne/founders/page0007.html> [accessed 22 december2007].

 

The book includes contemporaneous paintings of the battle scenes; although probably geographically accurate they do not carry the same weight as the images of the wounded soldiers. The authors have included information about regiments and the probable sites, and action seen  where these individuals were wounded, this does not have the same weight to me as the medical notes made about the follow up treatment and possible future life style of these men. The comparison with modern procedures and knowledge is a humbling thought, especially when considering the debt we owe to surgeon / artists like Sir Charles Bell in the development of modern medicine.

 

 

print making experiments

 

Work continues with further experimentation using different materials. Etching has helped me experiment with line ad using overlapping marks to indicate areas of depth. I have begun using small plates making drawings based on the skeleton of a Mr Jeffs who can be seen in the crystal gallery of the Hunterian Museum in London. He is particualry interesting as many of his muscle structures have become ossified due to disease. The Ossification has caused many areas of bone fusion and overgrowth, which in some parts give the impression that the bones have somehow begun to melt onto one another, and odd shaped spurs form, especially on some of the longer bones. This print was included in the MA printmaker's exhibition at the Wilson Road Gallery, Camberwell.

bone print

 

MA Drawing Camberwell

 

Combining elements of anatomical drawing with the energy and spacial awareness of Capoeiristas has been the starting point for much of my practical work and research. My preliminary research proposal is to investigate how drawing is used as a tool by surgeons, together with producing work that uses layers of different media and materials. Being at Camberwell has given me the opportunity to use the excellent print making facilities to make a series of etchings based on anatomical drawings made at the Hunterian Museum London.

 

mixed medi body

 

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