[From the Irish Times >] For the past two years the school of medicine at Trinity College Dublin has collaborated with the Royal Hibernian Academy. Eleven artists were invited to celebrate 300 years of the school by working closely with staff and students. Aideen Barry, Megan Eustace, Andrew Folan, Nick Miller, Ciaran Murphy, Maria McKinney, Theresa Nanigan, Abigail O’Brien, Eilis O’Connell, Garrett Phelan and Grace Weir spent time in departments ranging from anatomy to neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry and social medicine.
The experience, for many, was profound, and this is evident in the work on exhibition at the RHA.
Aideen Barry describes the anxieties patients experience on recovery from a life-threatening illness, in this case adult mature leukaemia, and explores what clinicians term umbilical-cord syndrome: a complex dependency on the institution that cured them.
Megan Eustace and Ciaran Murphy went back to the roots of art and medicine, with Eustace making drawings exploring the “silent teachers” – the donor bodies in the anatomy department – and Murphy looking at the surroundings in which these encounters take place.
Andrew Folan and Nick Miller both became absorbed by the ways in which neuroscience enables us to see how the brain works and, in Miller’s case, to reflect on memory and forgetfulness. Her own experience of serious illness led Abigail O’Brien to focus on the sense of love and care she experienced in hospital, an aspect of healthcare less often highlighted in the media. Meanwhile, the experience of the project led Garret Phelan to consider faith, both in medicine and in God, in relation to healing and death.
Giving artists such a long time to work, coupled with a high level of access to the school of medicine, has resulted in a compelling exhibition that underlines the similarities, as much as the differences, between artists and scientists.
Artists and doctors are both assessed, though in very different ways, on the results of their work, but to each the processes are vital. Each is engaged in trying to see and to understand how things really are, and in exploring what makes them that way: and what, ultimately, that means for our lives.