My Granpa was a GP, I believe he had wanted to be either a physicist or doctor of tropical medicine but compromised with his families’ wishes and his own choices with being a GP. He always hoped he would have a Scientist as a Grandchild. My cousins, my sisters and I failed him on that – though there are lots of us who have a certain Scientific approach to life. However, curious as generations are, it would appear my eldest shows a real aptitude for physics though she is interested in an engineering route. Sad he will not see this, nor will they be able to share this with him. When I announced my A-level choices, 2 of which were Art and Biology, he disgustedly remarked that I wasn’t going to make much of my life by drawing scientific illustrations of flowers. However…he who laughs last: I believe that Science and art both demand skills of observation, determination and discrimination. Skills that perhaps he nurtured in me but was unable to see them once they’d been through the translation of Me!
As a 6 year old he gifted me a book for my birthday. I remember my parents absolute disbelief and my father’s joke that hurrah he was free, my Grandpa had evidently given up on him ever becoming a Scientist and now it was my turn. I do recall feeling a little bowled over by the book, but I don’t remember thinking it was inappropriate for a child, nor a rotten gift. I remember becoming aware that here was something that my parents’ didn’t think I would like when I secretly loved it. Many many books have been lost in my life as I’ve talked about before, but this book never catches the eye as a pressing read and has managed to stay invisible and safe and is still on my bookshelf today. It came back to mind after my train of thought had tracked off in the direction of surgeons. I looked at it again yesterday and was flooded with recognition and joy in the same way you look back at childhood photo albums. I knew every diagram as I had poured over them as a small child trying desperately to decode these mysteries by myself.
All these diagrams and illustrations are part of my visual psyche. I looked again at the plastic casts of the heart’s blood system, the kidney’s, the liver, the lungs and again wondered how would you make the cast of this internal space – would plastic be poured down each vein and artery and then the original heart dissolved away? My village have their suspicions about me anyhow, wandering into the next village’s butchers and asking for a set of heart, lungs and kidneys might raise more than a few eyebrows – especially when they can smell the resin that I mixed up today (but yet that curiosity is still there – what does my internal space look like, what could be inside my organs metaphorically?
The book also has another vivid picture that used to really fascinate me – these early valve replacements and the fact that heart transplants were becoming a reality in the 70s.
So, Grandpa, I think your book is great and it has kept me interested for a whole lifetime. I’m not drawing flowers, but I am trying to work out what my inner landscape looks like and how I could convey this effectively to another.
The time has come then to tackle the clear resin. I have never used this substance before. It feels really grown-up and must be some crazy chemical reaction given the heat a few mls of catalyst added to the resin create – and this I now learn affects the final outcome and therefore is something to be controlled and exploited. First of all I started playing with heart forms – what could be done with resins to enclose and inform this space?
Playing with samples of crochet wire, chicken wire, fence wire, crocheted stainless steel wire and crochet cotton envelopes including sea glass allowed me to explore possible surface embellishments after the resin has formed. It feels at the moment that the direction I am travelling in is to explore how the form of a human heart coud be used to hold all that symbolises through surface, item, image and concept.
I chose a number of plastic containers and found objects to embed within the resin.
I wrapped the wire in clingfilm, suspended this from a chopstick and filled with the most dense mix of 5 ml catalyst with a (not measured tut tut tut) medium amount of resin. Then I put all of this in a cut-off plastic milk carton.
The sample before had 3ml of catalyst and a medium-ish amount of resin. I tipped the 3d handwritten poem ‘Windhover’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins into a crunched plastic bottle. I was worried the text would simply sink to the bottom so tried to wrap some around another chopstick.
The next three samples used the most dilute mix and were the first samples that I mixed and poured:
Pressed rose petals, scrunched sacrificial dictionary, seed heads made up the contents, just to explore what happened to different materials, structures and forms.
Parallel to this experiment was a test with wax having read up on Leonardo’s experiments with anatomy – he cast a wax from of a heart wich allowed him to study the interior and also enabled him to make his own glass heart from which he could draw and observe closely. Although this experiment predates this work by 500 years, I was curious.
Then I had to step away and leave the resin hidden from view for what felt an interminable amount of time.
I amused myself with a blood capillary inspired 3d scribble as a distraction – for about 5 minutes.
Then I was called away for a few hours – at some point between 2 o’clock and 8 pm the resins had set. Mr Man helped me cut away the moulds and reveal the results of my experiments, being a regular resin employer (usually more epoxy and fibre glass in his line of work) he was able to comment on what had caused the different results – they might be seen as successes and failures for his work, but on my terms I saw them as specific effects.
Oh and he did guess that I hadn’t measured anything or followed any instructions…but I told him I had, I’d worn gloves since he told me if I got the catalyst on my nails they would go soft and fall off – so I wore gardening gloves.
Sample sharing tomorrow…