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FANTASTIC NEWS FOR THE DRAWING WOMENS’ CANCER PROJECT! (check it out on the project site)

The book, Like Any Other Woman is to be published by Cardiff University Press: https://www.cardiffuniversitypress.org/ this autumn!

Written by myself in collaboration with Rebecca Phillips, the first woman to be involved with the project. Like Any Other Woman creatively and movingly documents Becky’s story, along with those of several other women who contributed to the project.

At twenty-four, four months before her wedding, she was diagnosed with vulval cancer, an ‘old ladies disease’. She wrote about her pain, her hopes, her fears, and her writing is too authentic not to be heard on its own terms. We agreed that I would write a book in which I would express through words (both hers and mine) and imagery, her experiences and the resonances with those of other women who have similar conditions.

Like Any Other Woman speaks to the suffering that cancer causes, to the profound human experience of re-negotiating the physical and emotional balance between sickness and health when that balance is tipped by the onset of disease. It is not a book about cancer itself, the etiological world of causes and symptoms. It is not about biomedical interventions that characterise individual treatment. It is about what it feels like when all sense of normality, all expectations of a future, suddenly become submerged in degrees of suffering that impact both on the individual, and on those who care for and about her.

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This is the continuing work in progress of a life-size figure that I am modelling in wax. The title of the piece, ‘without consent’, alludes to many issues around women, and women’s health, that have given me pause in the work that do.

More news is that I have just signed up to do a Postgraduate course in human anatomy with Edinburgh University! I have finally decided to take the plunge and study the subject more deeply so that I keep on developing my work and also enhance  my teaching abilities in the anatomy for artists course that I run at The Broadway Drawing School here in Cardiff.

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Here is my very first attempt at modelling with wax. I have a lot of experience with clay but thought I would try a new material. I’ve found that I prefer the wax…it allows me much more detail and for the particular work I do – where I need to express as much emotion as I can in the figure – it is a much better medium. I built the skull first and then laid on the muscles and the flesh as in an ecorche. I finished the piece over three days of work. This first effort will definitely not be the last!

IMG_0774IMG_0777The piece is based on Kostoglotov, the main protagonist in Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward. He and I have become close friends since I have been drawing and painting him for the Cancer Ward 12 project!

Even though the Cancer Ward 12 show is now over the project continues. I am working on a publication relating to the work done to date. This, alongside a book based on the Drawing Women’s Cancer project is keeping me busy, but I still need to draw and paint, (and now model with wax ), the emotional spaces in between scientific anatomy and existential experience to keep my creative insanity at an acceptable level!

 

So, the Cancer Ward 12 Exhibition at the Dynevor Centre Gallery is now closed but you can see it on the new exhibition page on my other project site https://cancerward12.wordpress.com

Once there just click the appropriate heading on the page menu and do scroll down as there is  lot to see!

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The exhibition might be over but the work continues. I am currently putting together a publication based on the project which will be available in e-book and print format. More on that very soon.

I hope that you enjoy the page and that it provides some feel of the physical exhibition. Please do send comments/feedback either by posting here or contact me directly: jacsaorsa@hotmail.com   All such feedback really helps in progressing and developing my work.

Here is a detail of a painting for the Cancer Ward 12 project

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In support of the development of my Drawing Women’s Cancer project toward working with women who have gone or are going through the experience of breast cancer I have taken what is for me an unprecendented and indeed quite scary step! I have created a Just Giving page which can be found here.

https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/drawingwomenscancer

You can find more details if you click on the link, and on the DWC website, but a snippet from the Just Giving page may help…

for the majority of the work I have been self-funded, and the work has taken place within the Wales area. Now I would like to expand the project to include breast cancer and take the work beyond Wales. I am totally committed to the Drawing Women’s Cancer project and from the responses and feedback I have received since the very beginning I am convinced of the necessity to continue developing the work.

Already though after only a few hours I have received some donations so I am humbly appreciative of the support out there for my work.

This is the latest one of my drawings in the Glasgow University Anatomy Museum. It is from a plaster cast William Hunter made of a dissection of a pregnant woman at around the sixth month of pregnancy. My aim was to get a more ‘lifelike’ feel about the drawing  – to find the innocence and the warmth of the ‘real’ foetus under the painted plaster.

Its been a while since my last post and things have been quite frantic. Since returning from Tanzania I have been working on drawings for the Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula show at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London in May (more on that later) but now I am in Glasgow working in the Medical Humanities Research Centre, with many thanks to the Wellcome Trust who have funded this three month visit.

Through this post are some of the drawings I have been doing in the Glasgow University Anatomy Museum.

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I am writing a paper in which I hope will put the Drawing Women’s Cancer project into historical and philosophical context. All of the work up to now on the project has been directly concerned with the here and now – with the experiences of women in the present, and this was the primary aim from the beginning . I feel however that to enhance the validity and indeed the credibility of the work, it is very necessary to ‘ground’ the project in relation to what has gone before. Here is a pertinent section of the proposal that WT approved:

The paper will look at how perceptions of the woman patient between the 18th century rise of obstetrics and the ‘man-midwife’ persona of William Hunter and his Scottish contemporaries, through the 19th century advancement of gynaecology to the present day treatment of gynaecological disease, have influenced present day attitudes – both medical and general – towards gynaecological illness and its overall impact on women’s lives, and moreover, how these attitudes were and can be affected by and through visual art. I will focus on a methodological and philosophical comparison of Hunter’s Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus (drawings by Jan Van Rymsdyk) and the development of my own drawings for Drawing Women’s Cancer as a basis from which to explore how visual art as a form of expression and communication can, as a form of ‘metalanguage’, effectively serve to ‘speak the unspeakable’ in this area women’s health.

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I have been here for two weeks now and it is the historical context that has been engaging my time and thoughts  as I have discovered the University Anatomy Museum. The experience of drawing from the very same bodies that Rymsdyk drew from is a gift and in many ways very humbling. Further, Glasgow University Library holds the full set of Rymsdyk’s drawings for the Gravid Uterus in their Special Collections and I spent a whole afternoon studying them, trying to understand how he executed them – one artist to another –  and I have to admit I had a few surprises after only ever seeing the reproductions. I discovered that he definitely does use graphite in the drawings,  which are often considered to be just red chalk alone, and he also uses what looks like dilute ink in blue yellow and green. The drawings are less defined and precise in the flesh -and better for that!. In some there is definitely a ‘wetting’ if the chalk – and this is further evidenced by the buckling of the paper- but it is a technique he seems to use sparingly. Most of the tonal quality comes from exceptionally sensitive blending of the chalk and overall, to my mind, he does indeed have a very ‘painterly style.

In the drawings here I have used red chalk (or at least the modern equivalent) and graphite. I am not in any way trying to emulate Rymsdyk, I am simply trying to ‘get inside his head’ in search – through practice – of the subjective nuances of what he was doing. I am also – undeniably – enjoying myself enormously, and especially savouring the necessity to get back to a level of ‘discipline’ in the work!

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See more here: http://drawingof.wordpress.comimage

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