On receiving the news that my solo show at Kings College Cambridge had been cancelled (scheduled for 2012), along with the refusal of access to Cambridge University's anatomy lab for a pre-show residency, I felt deflated. After virtually navigating around the entire University's network of medical and clinical departments, and weeks of a wild email goose chase, I felt defeated...
Having already been awarded three solo shows at various venues around Newcastle, for the traveling phase after Kings College, and having completed the first draft of an Arts Council Grant....I paused.
'To bite the bullet': Accept the inevitable impending hardship and endure the resulting pain with fortitude.
It would have been far easier to give up and accept this defeat. But my artwork has never sprouted from 'ease'. Its roots are nourished by endurance, persistence and faith.
And so, I bit the bullet and began to dream up PROJECT ANATOME.
I began by asking myself the simple question: “what is it that excites me about anatomy?” My answer – the cadaver. I emailed Newcastle Medical School – every finger crossed – hoping for a response to my proposal of access. Contact with the Director of Anatomy and Clinical Skills, Dr Roger Searle, was a success! We arranged a meeting for the end of October. As I waited, I got to work on a shining proposal of creative persuasion.Dr Searle deemed my project possible and expressed great interest in my visions. As with most University Professors that share the same territorial soil, Dr Searle had working experience with the head of Northumbria and Durham anatomy labs, and thus, encouraged me to share my project with them.
Several emails and meetings later, I had been granted access to both Northumbria University Anatomy Teaching Centre and School of Medicine and Health at Durham University. At first, correspondence with such high profile academics felt daunting. But each professor and doctor showed great interest in my proposed project, and committed to offering their support in whatever capacity I presented (obviously, within reason...!)
Professor John Mclachlan at Durham University was particularly encouraging for me to apply for a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, as he has proven success with previous grant applications:
New Doctors- Working with an artist convinced John McLachlan of the value of ‘humanising’ the teaching of medical students.
Obviously, I presented a willingness towards this opportunity (...with every attempt to display my excitement as professionally as possible!) and simply said "DEAL!"
And so, in brief:
ACTIVITY FOR 2011 - 2012
DECEMBER 2011 - APRIL 2012
- Weekly visits to Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham anatomy labs (via a rotation) for visual research
- Wellcome Trust Arts Award (deadline January 27th,) (decision end of April): academics involved - Prof. J McLahlan and Dr. Gabrielle Finn (Durham), Dr. Roger Searle (Newcastle), Dr. B Curry (Northumbria, Ian Simmons (Centre For Life)
Sketches from jar specimens at Newcastle anatomy lab (Thursday 17th November):
(More sketches and notes from my observations to follow...)
If awarded the Wellcome Trust Arts Award:
SEPTEMBER 2012 - JUNE 2013
- Wellcome Trust Project at Durham University, during the entire academic year, integrated into phase 1 & 2 of Undergraduate Medicine Degree.
- Weekly visits to Newcastle and Northumbria anatomy labs, medical libraries, and other primary and secondary research sources.
JUNE - SEPTEMBER 2013
- Evaluation of Wellcome Trust Project and creation of final artwork and outcomes for scheduled exhibitions.
SEPTEMBER 2013 - 2014
- Exhibitions commence: Centre For Life (confirmed)
- Other Science Centres and Museums nationwide (managed by myself and Ian Simmons)
(Alongside the exhibitions, I will deliver creative art workshops on anatomy and artist talks related to my research project)
SEPTEMBER 2012: Newcastle Art Centre
NOVEMBER 2012: The Holy Biscuit, Biscuit Factory
NOVEMBER 2012: Life Bioscience Centre, Centre For Life
NOVEMBER 2012: Anatomy and Clinical Skills Centre, Newcastle University (private exhibition)
Contact with Ian Simmons, Director of Science Communications at the Centre For Life, has opened up opportunities for further exhibitions nationwide. He has established links with science museums and centres around the country, and I hope to utilise his expertise in this field, alongside his enthusiasm towards my project (and mutual love for human anatomy!)
And so, the possibilities for research and exhibitions are endless.
I remain realistic. If I am unsuccessful in my Wellcome Trust Arts Award, I will submit an application for an Arts Council Grant to fund the scheduled exhibitions and creation of artworks. If I am unsuccessful in this application, I will follow the re-submission process and keep trying. I really believe in the strength, viability and potential for this project; both artistically and within the academic arena. The need for creative expression exploring arts and science (and everything in between) is ever evolving.
On any given day, there are messages I long to arrive in my inbox…
Friday 25th November didn’t disappoint.
Stephan Boddy, the anatomy technician at Northumbria University, mentioned he had established contact with Prof. Peter H Abrahams during his BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences
Details of Prof. Peter H Abrahams
Details of Prof. Peter H Abrahams
He sang the Professor‘s praises for his enthused commitment and support to anatomical research, and promised he would pass on my proposed project to him, in the hope of a similar assistance. He replied via my website:Goodness knows what ‘Phantom of the Fens’ means but, again, DEAL! And he has Gunther Von Hagens specimens, oh my!
Stephan from the anatomy at Northumbria said you were interested in 3D anatomy and plastinates - can I help in any way, Phantom of the Fens? We have a collection of Von Hagens specimins I had prepared especially for teaching medics.
He has a reply waiting for him. A trip to Warwick to meet the professor is on the cards; grants or no grants!
Things are moving quickly. Sometimes feels like too quickly. But I’m not reaching for the pause button yet.
If declined the Wellcome Trust Arts Award:
APRIL - SEPTEMBER 2012
- Application for Arts Council Grant, and other avenues or funding
- Continue weekly visits to Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham anatomy labs (via a rotation) for visual researchEXHIBITIONS (solo shows)