The pages of a research report tell more than facts and figures; the underpinnings of failure and perseverance are framed by the perceptive and often, ecstatic lenses of art. Each stroke weaves a narrative where impulsive insanity and inspiring revelations blend into an amazing story of humanity.

Research is the lifeblood of the medical profession and in a move to celebrate the creativity and courage of researchers, and perhaps more importantly, the laborious yet rewarding process of research, Swansea University organised Research as Art, a revolutionary art competition. By encouraging visual representations of research, the university hopes to provide a platform for researchers from all disciplines to communicate their work and its impact in a different way – art.

“Research as Art is an opportunity for researchers to reveal hidden aspects of their research to audiences they wouldn’t normally engage with,” said competition founder and director Dr Richard Johnston, associate professor in materials science and engineering at Swansea University.

“This may uncover their personal story, their humanity, their inspiration, and emotion. It can also be a way of presenting their research process and what it means to be a researcher; fostering dialogue, and dissolving barriers between universities and the wider world.”

Perhaps the most striking and compelling pieces are not just about its visual appeal but rather, the courage to share the years of failure in the laboratory, the spurts of inspiration, and the way researchers question themselves daily.

A total of 15 stunning images were selected as winning entries of the 2017 competition. Here we share four masterpieces.

1. Data saves lives : How do feelings become numbers?


Data saves lives : how do feelings become numbers? by Ann John (Swansea University Medical School). Photo credit: Swansea University/Flickr
Data saves lives : how do feelings become numbers? by Ann John (Swansea University Medical School). Photo credit: Swansea University/Flickr

Are we medicalising unhappiness or are we under-recognising and under-treating young people?

Ann John attempts to depict how Big Data has invaded our lives in this digital age and she harnesses new technology to explore feelings more directly. In collaboration with artist Karen Ingham, she asked young people to create a 3D immersive version of their state of mind using the Virtual Reality VIVE headset with the ‘Tilt Brush’. They could walk in, out and around these visual representations of feelings- a true mind-body approach. Her art is an attempt to answer the question once posed to her during a public lecture – How do feelings become numbers?

Speaking of her art, Ann explains, “This is an image from one young person, used to ‘connect’ them back to their session- technology as an affective object and it shows how technology Is an affective object.”

2. Like gold dust: how to deliver essential medicines for all?


The title befits the concerns of the affordability of medicine which Davies sees as being similar to gold dust that is beyond reach for some people, and the challenge lies in delivering essential medicines to all. This forms the theme of the art piece and Davies believes that the availability of affordable medicines for all is far from a global reality.

“My research explores the justifications for the pricing of medicines, including the intellectual property rights which encourage innovation and development of new medicines while protecting the creators’ capacity to control the cost,” said Davies.

For the researcher, the piece “explores whether we all have a human right to have access to affordable essential medicines to ensure that everyone has the chance to enjoy the highest attainable quality of life”

3. The feeling of memories

‘The feeling of memories’ by Amy Jenkins (College of Human and Health Sciences). Photo credit: Swansea University/Flickr
‘The feeling of memories’ by Amy Jenkins (College of Human and Health Sciences). Photo credit: Swansea University/Flickr

This visual impression shows Rene holding her great grandson with immense pride. It was an endearing but fleeting moment of humanity, for within 15 minutes Rene forgot that she has held him. Rene is a portrait of the devastating effects of dementia and how loved ones often see no meaningful reason to visit, thus intensifying feelings of anxiety and isolation in the demented person.

Rene was 96 years old and passed away 3 days after the photograph was taken. She remained happy and content till the end.

4. I, Human: the moral dimension of medical device design


‘I, Human: the moral dimension of medical device design’ by Jay Doyle (College of Science). Photo credit: Swansea University/Flickr
‘I, Human: the moral dimension of medical device design’ by Jay Doyle (College of Science). Photo credit: Swansea University/Flickr

Around 600,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with epilepsy This piece tells the stigma faced by these patients whose aesthetically crude headgears are frowned upon by others, affecting the quality of life of the wearer.

Researchers at the CHERISH Digital Economy Centre, Swansea University are rethinking the design of protective headwear to go beyond functionality, to be aesthetically and technologically smart, and to appeal to the cognitive and emotional needs of the wearer.

Here, the narrative is one of Paul, who is epileptic, wearing a standard issue protective headwear designed to prevent head injuries during seizures.

“Patient dignity is a core value within healthcare; it is embedded in our NHS Constitution. Understanding how medical devices can be designed to deliver patient dignity is, therefore, a fundamental aspect of healthcare delivery,” said Doyle. MIMS

Read more:
Art as a means to become a better healthcare professional
The role of art in helping patients heal
When theatre meets medicine: Medical schools in Singapore use actors as patients to train up empathy

Sources:
https://theconversation.com/research-as-art-revealing-the-creativity-behind-academic-output-80990
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education/stunning-images-show-beauty-research-13328035
https://www.flickr.com/photos/swanseauniversity/35582764551/in/album-72157682788279123/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/swanseauniversity/35582721141/in/album-72157682788279123/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/swanseauniversity/35674036726/in/album-72157682788279123/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/swanseauniversity/35582729521/in/album-72157682788279123/