Skip to content
left end
left end
right end

28 June 2018

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter 1

On 14 July 2018 a new exhibition, The Heart of the Matter will open at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) and Centrespace Gallery in Bristol.

Merging art and medicine to reflect on the human heart with artworks inspired by patients with congenital heart conditions, their families and clinicians, this exhibition invites the public to discover the extraordinary nature of this complex organ.

The exhibition is a collaboration between British artist Sofie Layton, bioengineer Giovanni Biglino (Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics, Bristol Heart Institute) and health psychologist Jo Wray (Senior Research Fellow in the Cardiorespiratory Division and in the Centre for Outcomes and Experience Research in Children's Health, Illness and Disability at Great Ormond Street Hospital).

The Heart of the Matter will run 14 July to 19 August 2018 before continuing its tour to London later in the year at the V&A Digital Design Weekend and Copeland Gallery from 31 October to 11 November 2018.

The Heart of The Matter was first conceived by Sofie Layton and Giovanni Biglino in 2015. Since then they have brought together patients with heart conditions from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, the Bristol Heart Institute, and the Adult Congenital & Paediatric Heart Unit of the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, exploring the heart in workshops with patients as well as scientists, artists, students, clinicians and nurses.

The Heart of the Matter 2

Conversations and stories arising from these workshops have in turn inspired artworks that offer insight into the heart's beauty, fragility and resilience, using scientific and artistic methods.

A patient who took part in the workshop process said: "The work with the artist allowed me to reflect on what my condition meant to me and how it impacted me growing up. This was a good way to mark the transition into being an adult patient."

The exhibition will be curated across both the RWA and Centrespace Gallery in Bristol, exploring the heart through different lenses - medicine, technology, metaphor and storytelling.

The anatomy of the heart and the medical language used are explored and reinterpreted through 3D printed heart models, printed textile diagrams and sound installations, while immersive installations and sculptural forms explore allegorical conceptions of the heart and patient experiences of cardiac care.

The artworks reflect on how personal, unique and precious everybody's heart is to them and on key elements in the journey of cardiac patients, such as the supporting role of the family, the puzzle of complex heart surgery, the sacredness and fragility of life.

A large-scale animation represents patients' narratives using the visual language of advanced medical imaging and a more intimate animation conveys a story of resilience, with an animated soldier floating within a 3D printed heart model. As such, diagnostic tools become vehicles for telling patients' stories. Admission to the exhibition is free.

The Heart of the Matter 3

Sofie Layton, lead artist says, "The Heart of the Matter has been the most extraordinary personal and artistic journey. Working with patients, parents, scientists and clinicians in a workshop setting, I have listened to people's metaphorical stories of their heart and in some circumstances, I have watched them discover what their own or their child's heart looks like."

"We gathered together the heart narratives of dozens of people, patients, parents, artists, clinicians and scientists," continues Sofie, "all of whom have participated in a series of day-long creative workshops which explored the medical and metaphorical heart. The images, ideas and stories that emerged from these workshops are extraordinary, beautiful and thought-provoking."

Giovanni Biglino, Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics, Bristol Heart Institute says, "Being able to take part in creative workshops and listening to other people's stories, meeting their families and creating something together, gives a complete different connotation to scientific research - it adds an absolutely necessary dimension of humanity."

"Technology and art can be absolutely complementary in representing the human body," Giovanni continues. "Today we can describe in exquisite detail the path of blood flow in an artery, but we can also start to unravel the stories that are carried within it and listen to them."

The Heart of the Matter is produced by Susannah Hall (GOSH Arts), Nicky Petto and Anna Ledgard in association with Artsadmin, and is supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, Above & Beyond, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol and public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. With thanks to RapidformRCA, 3D Life Print and British Heart Foundation.