View all news

The heart of the matter

Press release issued: 15 August 2018

Members of the public still have time to visit an exhibition that brings together art and medicine to reflect on the complexity of the human heart.

The Heart of the Matter is open at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) and Centrespace Gallery in Bristol until this Sunday [19 August]. 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 Dr Giovanni Biglino, Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics at the Bristol Heart Institute and Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences (THS) 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 runs until 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. 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. 

Sofie Layton, lead artist said: "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 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.” 

Dr Giovanni Biglino, Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics at the Bristol Heart Institute, added: "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 open until 19 August 2018 at RWA Queen's Road, Clifton, BS8 1PX, Tuesdays–Saturdays from 10 am–5.30 pm; Sundays from 11 am–5 pm and Centrespace Gallery  6 Leonard Lane, Bristol, BS1 1EA, Tuesdays–Saturdays from 10 am to 5.30 pm and Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm.

Admission to the exhibition is free.

Tour dates:

22–23 September 2018
A selection of works from The Heart of the Matter will be included in the Digital Design Weekend at the V&A Museum as part of the London Design Festival.

31 October –11 November 2018 
Copeland Gallery, 133 Copeland Rd, London, SE15 3SN

A programme of events including seminars and workshops as well as opportunities to meet the team will run alongside the exhibition.

Further information

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.

About Sofie Layton
Artist Sofie Layton’s work explores the creative interface between patients and the scientific clinical landscape. Her past work includes site-specific performance, theatre, and installations. Projects include a Wellcome Trust-funded residency at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) (Under the Microscope) and an installation at Evelina Children Hospital (Bedside Manners). She was artist in residence with Historic Royal Palaces and created The Field of Flowers at Kensington Palace (2007) where 6000 people contributed to ten 3.5-meter metal dandelions to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of the Princess of Wales. Sofie regularly collaborates with other artists, makers and musicians; collaborators include Mark Storor and Anna Ledgard, on projects such as The Barometer of My Heart (2015) and TMA Award winning For the Best (2009/10). She is an independently commissioned artist and has created work for the Blavatnik family’s private collection. She is currently leading “The Heart of the Matter”, a national project exploring the medical, experiential and metaphorical dimensions of the heart.

About Giovanni Biglino
Giovanni Biglino is a biomedical engineer. He studied at Imperial College London and obtained his PhD in cardiovascular mechanics from the Brunel Institute of Bioengineering. He has carried out research at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and University College London, with the cardiac engineering team, focusing on congenital heart disease. Now he is a Lecturer in Cardiovascular Bioinformatics and Medical Statistics at the Bristol Heart Institute. He has studied biostatistics at Harvard Medical School and has started to enthusiastically explore the world of narrative medicine at Columbia University. His current research is very collaborative, involving cardiologists, surgeons, imagers, psychologists and artists.

About Jo Wray
Jo Wray is a Health Psychologist in the Cardiorespiratory division and a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Nursing and Allied Health at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). Jo leads on psychosocial research and patient reported outcomes and experiences. She is involved in multiple research projects both at GOSH and beyond. Key areas of research include quality of life, outcomes of congenital heart disease and surgery, children’s health state preferences, transition and the use of qualitative methods to elicit child and family experiences of illness and treatment.                         

About RWA
The Royal West of England Academy (RWA) - Bristol’s first art gallery – presents local, national and international visual art by foremost artists from the present and past. By bringing contemporary and historic works together in new contexts, and through a programme of learning opportunities for all ages, the RWA aims to inspire and nurture creativity in everybody.         

About Centrespace Gallery
Centrespace is a thriving community of artists and craftspeople offering both studio space, workshops, events and a gallery space for hire. Centrespace was founded in the late 1970s and has been running as a cooperative since 1987. Centrespace continues to develop creative opportunities for the wider community in the heart of the City of Bristol. Our ethos is to show fresh and interesting work, with an emphasis on encouraging new talent and up and coming artists. 

About GOSH Arts
GOSH Arts is the arts programme at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Its award-winning participatory programme, art commissions and temporary exhibitions inspire creativity, create welcoming environments, and offer meaningful cultural opportunities across a variety of art forms for patients, families and staff. GOSH Arts is funded by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.          

About Artsadmin 
Artsadmin is a producing organisation, which enables artists to create without boundaries, connecting bold interdisciplinary work with local, national and international audiences. The advisory service supports artists at every stage of their development with free advice and opportunities.  In London’s East End Artsadmin has established at its base Toynbee Studios, a centre for the creation, development and presentation of new work, where, in the rehearsal, performance and meeting spaces, new talent is constantly nurtured.  Anna Ledgard is an Artsadmin associate producer.

About Wellcome
Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We’re a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate.

Edit this page