Stef Will

Stef Will

• 10 July 2022

‘Blood Flowers’ for Helen

I love looking at the work of other artists working at the interface of art & medicine, for example the amazing Annie Cattrell, whose practice is informed by wide ranging collaborations with doctors and scientists to support her interest in exploring the connections between art and medicine. She, like myself, has adopted MRIs and other medical imagining techniques as part of her artistic methodology to make the unseen visible, and explore the embodied self from a new perspective, such as in her work ‘From Within’(see left).

Josephine Pryde is another artist who works with the clinical gaze, for example in her series ‘It’s not my body’ (see right). Here, Pryde references medical imaging by superimposing low-resolution MRI scans of an unborn baby in their mother’s womb, with photography of unfamiliar looking desert landscapes shot through coloured filters, raising questions about the extended Self.

Another artist who worked with a related subject matter and whom I would have loved to meet is Helen Chadwick, but sadly she passed years ago. She, too, navigated the intersection of art and science to help answer questions about identity and the Self by looking at the body. In ‘Viral Landscapes’ (below) for example she juxtaposed coastline photography with cells from her own body, presented in the format of a microscopy slide. However, I have been particularly fascinated by Helen Chadwick’s ‘Piss Flowers’ (sorry, not sorry…). So, in response to ‘Piss Flowers’, I created ‘Blood Flowers’, as an homage to Helen.

You may or may not know that my work often features blood or blood-like matter (a pigment and resin mix, plus a few drops of my own blood). Blood with its instinctive abjectness, ritual importance and cultural meanings is of interest to me, because it is a fundamentally essentialist matter – the essence of live and a symbol for physical embodiment, as well as being strongly connected to identity, as it contains the body’s entire genetic information.

Instead of flowers, I could have brought one of my ‘Blood Flowers’ along as a gift (as you do…), when visiting Helen for a coffee and a chat – what do you think?

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