The artist Angela Palmer describes her work as “mapping”. She charts the geography of the human body using thin layers of glass, on which she paints detailed biological topography. Her source material is scans from MRI and CT machines normally used to detect disease in the body. The resultant effect is precise but not medical. Her work has been compared to an Ordinance Survey map of the human body. The overlaid marks are gestural and sketchy and could delineate a mountain range or undulating dessert.
Her latest exhibition, Life Lines, opened in London this week. It records this artistic journey through space and time, from Ancient Egypt to the eighteenth century to the present day. It includes a sculptural portrait of legendary eighteenth century racehorse Eclipse, after the artist worked from the horse’s skeleton which is preserved at the Royal Veterinary College.
The show also includes portraits of the novelist Robert Harris (above). She and the Ghost author are old friends and he was inspired by her artistic technique while writing his 2011 novel The Fear Index. Harris gave Gabrielle, the artist wife of his anti-hero, Palmer’s artistic style because the book’s theme of marking out the trajectory of human fear held great parallels for him. In turn Palmer produced an intimate portrait of Harris which was used for the book’s jacket.
“I had expected not to recognise myself but it’s unmistakably me. It’s like looking at the equivalent of an interior monologue - very apt for a novelist. The more one looks at it the more one sees: it’s impersonal and yet almost embarrassingly intimate,” Harris told the Financial Times last year.
Amongst the other new works on display there are portraits of animals including the head of a cow and a pig and also a representation of the layers of a red cabbage. The Ashmolean Theban Priest is concerned with the mummification of the human body and captures a sensitive portrait of an Egyptian male, Djeddjehutyiuefankh, who died nearly 3000 years ago. The portrait is based on CT scans taken of the entire body of the mummy and was created with the Ashmolean Museum.
Angela Palmer: Life Lines until 15 June 2012, www.waterhousedodd.com