Review: The Art Of Medicine At The BIR

M@
By M@ Last edited 116 months ago
Review: The Art Of Medicine At The BIR
The British Institute of Radiology. Not to be confused with the Royal College of Radiologists next door.
The British Institute of Radiology. Not to be confused with the Royal College of Radiologists next door.
The library, and main exhibition space.
The library, and main exhibition space.
Dudley C, by Mark Gilbert
Dudley C, by Mark Gilbert
Julian Warren's Steel Skull sits atop a copy of the Origin of Species.
Julian Warren's Steel Skull sits atop a copy of the Origin of Species.
Hope, by Julian Warren.
Hope, by Julian Warren.
PA Chest by radiographer and artist Christopher Benton. Note the Tube maps on the ribs, and butterflies in the stomach.
PA Chest by radiographer and artist Christopher Benton. Note the Tube maps on the ribs, and butterflies in the stomach.
By Angela Palmer.
By Angela Palmer.

"Do you like the bollards?" says Prof. Paul Goddard, curator of The Art of Medicine. "I made them myself."

It's a curious admission, but then this is a curious exhibition. The British Institute of Radiology on Portland Place are holding their first-ever art installation, which 'brings together professionals involved in the business of radiology, with artists drawing inspiration from radiological techniques and images'.

The fact that they're new to this game is apparent. The flamboyant Goddard not only curated the show and built the safety bollards (from breadboards, Ikea piping and curtain rope...less than ten minutes per bollard!), he also contributed a sculpture and watercolour and filmed the introductory video. He even 'wrote the feem toon' - most of the prizes in an unexpected tombola sideshow are copies of his 'Dr jazz' CD...also available on cassette if you can remember such things. Meanwhile, live entertainment is provided by the putative Mrs Goddard, who stands in the corner cutting up möbius strips for no stated reason.

The exhibits are also unusual. The ground floor is given over to vibrant and uncompromising portraits of people with facial disfigurements, by Mark Gilbert. The mood changes abruptly on the staircases, which are lined with medically themed cartoons on loan from Chris Beetles Art Gallery. Upstairs, a back room holds a set of remarkable sculptures in hammered steel by Julian Warren, and African canvases by father-son duo Gary and Alexander James. The main room - the BIR's gorgeous library - is given over to the more scientific aspects of the exhibition. Here you can withdraw imitation blood from a prosthetic arm used to teach medical undergrads and watch MRI imagery of an Egyptian mummy on a computer screen.

There's little regard for narrative as you walk around; it feels like the assorted curios have been acquired at whim and placed wherever they would fit, so that the exhibition might be subtitled "If John Soane had taken the Hippocratic Oath...". But the homemade idiosyncrasy coupled with the friendly explanations of those in attendance raises this exhibition to much more than the sum of its contents. Venues that fuse science and art are a commonplace in London, but rarely are they done with such charm and individuality. As we left, Goddard handed us a pair of 'X-ray specs' from the tombola stack. You wouldn't get that at the Royal Institution.

The Art of Medicine runs at the British Institute of Radiology, 36 Portland Place, until 21 March. Entrance is free and highly recommended.

Last Updated 17 March 2009