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Sunday, 23 January 2011

London-based artists explore the brain through science

This week I spent a good three hours wondering around the the exhibition Brainstorm: Investigating the brain through art and science at the GV Art Gallery in London. Brainstorm puts seven contemporary artists in the spotlight to consider the human brain.

The exhibition showcases the work of Susan Aldworth, Annie Cattrell, Andrew Carnie, Katharine Dowson, Rachel Gadsden, David Marron and Helen Pynor, who have each responded to the the subject in different ways and using varying techniques, from sculpture, painting and etching to photography and scientific materials. The result is a collection of beautiful and thought provoking works of art, not to mention a look at the brain from every angle possible, including sliced up on a table top.

The inspiration for Brainstorm was an invitation for GV Art to observe a brain cut up at the Joint MS Society and Parkinsons UK Tissue Bank at Imperial College London. GV Art say that some of the works featured were created in direct response to this experience.

Below is a picture of the brain slices that were put on display. GV Art is the only private gallery in the country to hold a Human Tissue Authority Licence for Public Display and Storage.

Sections of brain and spinal cord at the Tissue Bank, Imperial College
My favourite work was that of Helen Pynor, whose work involves taking C-type photographs of human organs floating in salt water. Helen explains - 'Text is scribed through an ocean of sea-salt green water, threads drift downwards in a slow-motion descent, then tangle or fuse with recognisable or unrecognisable organs and spaces of the body'.

Poisonous Sores
C-type photograph on Duratran, face-mounted on glass
Installation photograph: Danny Kildare
Helen says 'The hidden insides of our bodies , our organs, are somehow shameful.  They inspire fear and disgust but at the same time, fascination: life-givers, pink, creamy, crimson, fleshy and shining with possibility, beautiful, repulsive and intriguing.'

If the way helen describes her work inspires you, in the way it does me, I would recommend reading her full description of this collection. Below is my favourite photograph from the exhibition, and one that has been adopted by many newspapers and reviewers as the poster for the exhibition.

Headache, Helen Pynor
C-type photograph on Duratran, face-mounted on glass
Installation photograph: Danny Kildare
The brain is inherently fascinating and something I think this GV Art exhibition has done exceptionally well is to open up and demystify the brain as well as forcing it's visitors to look at the brain in new and thought-provoking ways (sliced up on a table being my favourite way). I couldn't possibly write about each of the artists or works of art, as much as I would love to, so I will leave you with a few more photos and the knowledge that I will later focus in on a couple of the other artists I was introduced to at Brainstorm.

My Soul Glass, Katharine Dowson
laser etching of the artist’s brain
Lt: 'Inside' (gilded bronze), rt: 'From Within' (silvered bronze cast interior of the skull) by Annie CatrellPhotorgraph: Richard Valencia/GV Art

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