Dr Claire Robertson, Senior Lecturer on Global Public Health Nutrition MSc, took part in the joint project ‘Picture of Health: A Deep Connection’ exhibition shown at the Elephant West Gallery.

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Dr Robertson was invited to give a presentation at the Medical Research Council and University of the Arts, London collaboration ‘A Picture of Health’, where six academics were invited to give talks, before running discussions with artists who submitted proposals for a small fund to create a piece of art based on that theme.

The work was part of a Pop-up exhibition at Elephant West Gallery in White City on 18 November, with another showing on 27 November as part of the Science Museum’s Lates series. 

A Picture of Health is a joint project between the Medical Research Council’s London Institute of Medical Science and MA Art and Science at Central Saint Martins. It depends on human beings living in harmony with support systems such as the air humans breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, the weather they experience, the economics that support them, the culture that nourishes them, the medicine that treats them and the rights that they enjoy. Individuals are an integral part of complex systems and so are the trees.

Phil Barton is an artist undertaking the MA in Art and Science at Central Saint Martins who was invited to take part in the project by the London Institute of Medical Science at the Medical Research Council. Barton responded to presentations from Westminster’s Dr Robertson on Diet and Lifestyle as well as Dr Enrico-Casto-Sanchez from Imperial College on Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection, and Dr Sibylle Ermler from Brunel University on Environmental Impacts. All three were interested in the relationships between the health of individuals and the systems in which they were embedded - economic, cultural, agricultural, environmental and social.

As a former practitioner in local environmental and community regeneration, Barton put these concerns together with his own experience and recent research on the Health of Oak Trees in the UK provided to him by Ian Willey of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, to develop a project considering the similarities and differences between the health of urban trees and the health of individuals in more deprived communities.

Through creative workshops in which medical researchers offered up scientific evidence, they participated in brainstorming and developing ideas, wrote poetry, some of which was incorporated into the final artwork, and drew their ideas and connections on paper. The result was a woodcut artwork named ‘A Deep Connection’.

Dr Robertson said about the project: “Listening to the other speakers describing their interpretation of ‘A Picture of Health’ in work focused on antimicrobial resistance, artificial intelligence, genetics and mental health – the importance of diet and lifestyle (and scientific theories we use to explore such relationships) was explicit.  Those overlaps clearly engaged the artists and the opportunity to work with some of them to facilitate realisation of their ideas in art was a real privilege.  The importance and benefit of such collaborations could really benefit health improvement more widely, and I hope to see – and be involved in – many more such projects in the future.”

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