Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
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By: Alison Craig
The Art & Anatomy "Student Selected Component" in Medical Humanities at Keele University Medical School was inaugurated in 2010. We offered four academic modules plus life classes for 3rd year students, and ran the course for two years. The modules were cancelled by the University for 2012.
# 23 [15 March 2010]
As may be guessed by the long interval between posts, I have had other things on my mind lately, but suddenly the long-anticipated but not really expected deadlines are unnervingly very close at hand.
Next week we have the "workshop" for tutors in Medical Humanities, then the course itself starts...and I still haven't managed to find a life model in the area.
On a more reassuring note, several students have expressed an interest in the modules - so here's hoping that we will actually have something to talk about at the Association for Medical Humanities conference in the summer.
And the "Lines & Strata II" exhibition (including my drawing "Homage") has opened in Denbigh.
# 22 [13 January 2010]
Pretty quiet on the Anatomy & Drawing front over the last month. I have not been to life classes since before Christmas and am unlikely to get to any until the weather improves. This is due to a combination of a very dead car, over a foot of snow and the lack of public transport home after 6.15p.m. The bus service is great during the day, but there's nothing from the nearest town to my village at night.
I have had an email today with the abstract for the meeting in Truro - I do appreciate someone else writing it for me! As there are three of us involved in the presentation it shouldn't be too stressful.
My only recent anatomical experience has been discussing the position ("relations" in the jargon) of the Plantaris muscle with relations/relatives, one of whom may have ruptured said muscle. I'm not sure I remember anything about it. My ancient copy of Gray's Anatomy describes it as "sometimes double and at other times wanting...(it) is the rudiment of a large muscle, the tendon of which in some of the lower animals is inserted into the plantar aponeurosis (bottom of the foot): in man it is an accessory to the Gastrocnemius..". The accompanying illustration looks like one of the originals by Henry Carter. I'm waiting to hear from the publishers whether I can post a copy of the illustration (from the 1935 edition, but presumably still under copyright).
# 21 [18 December 2009]
Some good news about the project, even though the SSCs haven't actually started yet (so we don't know if anyone will choose them): we have been asked to attend a conference in Truro.
"CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN SURGERY, PATHOLOGY, THE HUMANITIES & THE ARTS - relationships between surgery, surgical culture and the arts and humanities, or the wider theme of the ‘pathological’ and the ‘normal’ at the levels of biological systems, culture (and history), societal organization and networks, or the interpersonal and intrapersonal. "
This promises to be interesting, and also Fun as I worked in Cornwall in the 1970s. Mind you, those were the days when the county closed for the winter at the end of October, and didn't open up again until Easter. I don't suppose it's like that now.
# 20 [1 December 2009]
Some interesting correspondence by email has produced the following link to a fascinating website hosted by Loughborough University: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ss/AHRC/index.h...
Too many issues to start analysing them one by one here. Lots of things to think about at leisure. Our attitides to our own bodies and those of others are so complex... does it all boil down to some basic need for privacy? Why? memo to self: look up theories on the development of ideas of "personal modesty". Likely to be somewhat fanciful? certainly Very Cultural.
At the Life Class yesterday the model was posing (unclothed) "in public" for the first time, and the pose was obviously arranged with this in mind. The tutor seated him on a padded box with a cloth backdrop - relatively comfortable, and no draughts. The pose also effectively concealed the young man's genitalia and meant that he had no-one seated behind him, out of his range of vision and likely to cause him more unease.
Downside - one pose for 2 hours (including tea break). The big problem with this particular class is that most people want a nice drawing to take home, and veto any warming up exercises, short poses or anything seditious which might be additionally challenging.
Another memo to self: remember this is a public blog, and keep rude remarks to a minimum.
But I can't spend two hours with dry media on one piece of A1 paper without running the risk of producing something tight and overworked. (most other folk are using 2B pencils and A4 max.) So I'm usually up and down stepladders, sitting on the floor, walking round the room and generally making an exhibition of myself; but yesterday I didn't want to worry the model ...
Why do I keep going? a question of travelling distance, I'm afraid, particularly at this time of year when the waterlogged roads have turned to sheet ice. But I am on the lookout for something a bit more challenging, if it's not too far away.
# 19 [27 November 2009]
A discussion on life drawing, anatomy & art has just started on the Drawing Research Network:
Contributers, so far, are enthusiastically in support of observational drawing from life as a valuable activity at all levels. Well, they/we would be, wouldn't they/we? The drawing versus no-drawing debate is probably set to continue for ever, a bit like the "painting is dead" debate. I don't think there's any doubt that you don't need to be able to produce Victorian Art School style drawings in order to be an artist, and probably the academic, 5H pencil, drawing from plaster casts for a year method of teaching did enough to kill off drawing for ever. The fact that it didn't do so shows that the need to draw, or make marks, is deeply ingrained in the human brain.
# 18 [24 November 2009]
Life classes again, and this time a model who teaches Yoga. She held the pose for two forty minute sessions without a break: I tried it at home later and suffered acute discomfort over the greater trochanter of both hips (the sticky-out bony bit at the outer edge of the top of the thigh - it's quicker to use the anatomical term). It's seriously difficult to get the gesture of the pose correct when the body is contorted: in fact, some of the limbs don't even look human.
The nature of the pose raises some questions about the relationship between artist and model: we're all concerned about the model's comfort to start with, but then get engrossed in our work and run the risk of forgetting the person on the dais. The subject becomes an object if you're not careful - satirised nicely in "The Horse's Mouth" by (Mr.) Joyce Carey when sculptor's model Lolie eventually succumbs after days of posing in the nude for her husband, Abel:
"The diagnosis at the hospital was exposure, shock, displacement of the caudal vertebrae and malnutrition.....Abel's fussing about his lump of nonsense [the stone] and the trouble with Lolie, did not, as I had feared put me off my work." (from the Penguin edition1978, © the author 1944)
Some similarities with the alleged indifference of medics to patients? Shurely not, as they say in Private Eye.
# 17 [4 November 2009]
Back to life classes after the half term break. The "proper" model failed to turn up (again - and it's not always the same model, either) and (again) one of the tutor's friends stood in. These "temps" are always really good, stand or sit very still and have interesting shapes, but - being amateurs - don't take their clothes off. I don't find drapery very exciting to draw, never have, and it doesn't help my anatomy revision....
Still, I sat on the floor below the dais to get some interesting foreshortening, and then wandered around drawing the surface anatomy. Reviewing these last drawings today, I'm struck by the resemblance between the shapes underlying the upper arm and the landscape drawing posted earlier; how the light flows over the surface planes, delineating the underlying structure.
# 16 [6 October 2009]
All quiet on the project front at the moment - the SSC briefs are submitted and now I have to wait to find out whether anyone actually selects one of my topics to study next year. It took me a whole day and a half to get four SSCs written complete with "learning outcomes" -so they'd better get picked.
(and who on earth coined the phrase "learning outcome" in the first place? a classic example of using two words when one will do. Two words presumably have twice the impact of one word. Discuss, writing on one side of the paper only.)
(Sorry, been reading "1066 and All That" again. Still funny after all these years, and many of the little line drawings by John Reynolds are tiny masterpieces).
# 15 [1 September 2009]
Looking out of my living room window, and thinking about the book I'm reading on Peter Lanyon I appreciate his comments about the landscape and the figure. "long drawings...there may be a stretch right across a thigh and a leg which would lead to paintings of very long landscapes..."
The lines of the old field boundaries lie in slow curves on the hillside, throwing shadows across the fields in the evening light. The effect is sensous, "pleasing to the senses", and intriguing, hinting at things hidden under the surface the sinews and muscles of the land.
# 14 [26 August 2009]
I've had a lot of emails forwarded from The Drawing Research Network this week: the topic is "drawing exercises", and several suggestions have been quite interesting. I liked one suggestion which treated the drawing of a simple line almost as a meditation, although when I tried it it seemed a bit ordinary. Probably needs to be done v e r y s l o w l y on a large piece of paper.
During a recent workshop with Sandy Sykes at the Regional Print Centre in Wrexham we did a series of warm-up exercises which, although somewhat off the wall, produced some intriguing results. Starting with sheets of paper loosely assembled into book format, we drew under instruction: first a simple shape, "make it bigger, make it smaller, turn the page, give it some socks" (really!) "wash the socks, give it some friends" and so on and so on until the book was full. The idea was to use the drawings as a basis for what might be called free-form print making.The results were varied, interesting and entertaining.
I don't know whether the whole exercise would be very popular with a class of intensely serious science students, but I think something similar would be worth considering. It's important to loosen up physically and focus mentally if you're going to get any proper work done. However, bitter experience suggests that a lot of hobby artists don't like preparatory excercises. I'm not sure why. I wonder if they consider it distracting from the real business of producing a "proper drawing" that they can sign & date, and show to their friends.
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