This was my first time attending the MAA conference and also my first visit to the fascinating Gordon Museum of Pathology. The first to deliver a talk was the curator of the museum, William Edwards, who proved to be most informative and entertaining in his presentation. The Gordon Museum is the largest medical teaching Museum in the UK and has a growing collection of approximately 8,000 pathological specimens.
There are a number of important historic collections including The Joseph Towne Anatomical, Dermatological and Pathological wax model collections that offer both perspectives of medical enlightenment and artistic mastery.
A break for coffee mid-morning allowed time to meet the members of the MAA and put faces to names. Afterwards Lucy Lyons talked compellingly on the relevance of drawing today as a practice and as a means of understanding. As artist in residence at Bart’s Pathology Museum, she is in a position to explore this further with her interesting and collaborative work.
Lunch was a buffet in the adjacent room and provided a further opportunity to meet MAA members as well as prospective students about to embark on the MAET course. It also gave the opportunity to explore the museum and the treasures on display.
Our new member Helen Day gave a insightful presentation entitled ‘The Inspiration Behind Popular Contemporary Anatomical Images’. Helen explained how anatomy is being used in Western cultures today through advertising, marketing, fashion and interior design. These images sparked an interest and caused her to investigate the reasons why modern artists were using anatomy in their work. She made contact with some of the artists to find out more about their concepts and categorised the artworks into four categories ranging from personal and cultural attitudes towards our bodies, health and mortality, the influence and validity of scientific exploration and progress, anatomy as a symbol, metaphor or a tool to communicate a particular concept and a visual or design based interest in anatomical forms.
Helen ended by explaining that most anatomical artwork had become part of contemporary Western culture since the millennium and that the possible influences were the incredible increase in internet usage and the infamous Gunther Von Hagen and his ‘Body Worlds’ exhibitions. The images in her presentation were amazing and made her presentation thoroughly enjoyable.
Jennifer Crouch concluded the day’s lectures with a talk concerned with the imaginative leap we take for granted with regards to the metaphors and symbols we use to communicate scientific concepts and how that depends upon a shared consent amongst us all; a fascinating talk.
After a short break we held the AGM and presented certificates to our two new members: Associate Member Miss Gillian Mobb and Affiliate Member Dr. Amar Naru. The Whitaker Award was presented to MAET students Catherine MacRobbie and Leonie Walker, each receiving the award for the excellent work they had prepared during their first year on the MAET Foundation Course.
As the conference drew to a close, we had a chance to look at the incredible paintings by Peter Cull, have a glass of wine and chat once more. It was an enjoyable day with a wide range of talks delivered by knowledgeable, engaging speakers and for a first conference it was very pleasant. I am looking forward to the next one.
Daniel Mundy, MAET Student