'On the Mend' explores how the craft processes which underpin modern surgery can be revealed through making.
Arranged on a long table the pieces show a journey from damaged to repaired. Using porcelain to reflect the value of the body I have created organic forms which appear soft and yet are still fragile. Highlighting the haptic skill of the surgeon, the individual vessels bear the marks of the hands and the surgical instruments used as tools in the making process. Viewing the instrument as an extension of the hand, the surgical instruments have been altered to reflect the gestures and movements made by the surgeon.
Reflecting on the vulnerability of the patient and the trust we place in the hands of the surgeon, some of the pieces are carefully balanced: a porcelain object gently held above the table by an instrument; an instrument supported by a bandage; an instrument suspended over the edge of the table, balanced by the weight of the porcelain vessel and the taught suture that connects the two. The skillful balance of science and practicality, and humanity and care observed in surgery is also reflected in the juxtaposition of the hard, cold stainless steel and the soft bandages which wrap and support some of the delicate porcelain pieces.
The installation includes a slow motion film which references the tacit knowledge of the surgeon's craft. Gestures made with a light source create gently moving shadows. These deliberate movements contrast with the still forms of the static surgical instruments suspended above the floor.
Through this installation I hope to reframe surgical practice, challenging the natural reaction of most towards surgery (that of fear and perhaps revulsion) and instead convey the meaning behind the work and the craft that is essential to achievement of the purpose but invisible in the end.
I would like to thank Consultant Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeons Mr Tim Goodacre, Mr Marc Swan and colleagues at the Oxford University Hospital Trust for generously allowing me to observe and sketch them at work in theatre.
Some of the research behind this project was presented at the Oxford Brookes Get Published Event and is now available online.