Interfacing Anatomy and Art
By Professor Paul McMenamin
When most people think of medical students Now this type of body painting has extended
learning anatomy they probably have a vision of beyond the walls of the medical school. ‘Anatomy
dreary eyed students hunched over thick textbooks for Artists’, a series of classes run by Professor
and reams of anatomical minutiae learning thousands McMenamin, started through the collaboration
of terms that no one else would ever care to know. of Hans Arkeveld, artist in residence at the UWA
However, the world of science and medicine has School of Anatomy & Human Biology, and Joanna
changed in the last 50 or so years and with it so Robertson of Kidogo Arthouse in Fremantle. From
6 have teaching methods. There has been a reduction a single session on the musculoskeletal system the
in both didactic teaching and the expectation for class has grown into a series of six classes in which
students to recall lots of unnecessary detail. Instead artists interested in life drawing can participate in
more emphasis is placed on teaching students how body painting on a life model.
to learn and how to solve problems. In response,
anatomy teachers worldwide have adapted by Over the series of classes Professor McMenamin
Professor Paul developing other learning tools including the use first of all teaches participants some of the skeletal
G. McMenamin of high quality multimedia and novel teaching basis of human form (Fig 1) by allowing participants
is Associate innovations such as ‘body painting’. to paint the position of the major skeletal structures
Dean (Teaching onto a model. Particular emphasis is paid to the
& Learning), Body painting can serve several functions in medical
Faculty of teaching including reinforcing surface anatomy by
Medicine, illustrating anatomical features on the body surface
Dentistry and how these relate to landmarks which a doctor
& Health must learn to palpate when examining a patient.
Sciences and It also aids students in building up a visual image
School of of underlying anatomy. At UWA in classes dealing
Anatomy & with the musculoskeletal system we have recently
Human Biology, introduced some body painting sessions into our
the University practical medical anatomy classes where students
of Western are actively encouraged to paint on one another.
Australia These sessions include hand painting, foot painting
(UWA). and face painting.
points where the skeleton lies close to the surface However, schools of anatomy can be greatly
and can be felt and seen. We discuss joints and enriched by having artists around not only to
their movement (shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, help academics illustrate their own observations Reference:
ankle, back) whilst participants actively paint the or produce high quality teaching aids. Equally the OP DEN AKKER
body. In the next 2-3 sessions the participants are plethora of fascinating subject material makes JW (2002)
introduced to the underlying basis for the contours, anatomy schools fertile ground for artists to Giving color to a
ridges and visible features that one sees on a work. If, as I have discussed above, we can use new curriculum:
human life model. Understanding the definition art, for example body painting, to make learning bodypaint as a
lines is so critical to good life drawing. Professor of clinically relevant anatomy more enjoyable for tool in medical
McMenamin involves the participants in painting medical students then those positive educational education.
the major muscles not only in the correct positions experiences in perhaps a small way may help Clinical Anatomy
but replicating the pattern of the underlying muscle produce more rounded and knowledgeable 15: 356-362.
fibres as closely as possible and in life-like colours doctors of the future.
on the skin of both male and female models. This
really has the effect of bringing the muscles to ‘life’ Images:
. Whilst this is taking place the functions of these Courtesy Professor Paul McMenamin + Kidogo Arthouse
major muscles are also discussed. Gradually the
model comes to look like a detailed reproduction
of the body minus skin and could be classified as
a living art form. In another session we focus on
the anatomy of the head (eyelids, nose, cheek,
mouth, ears) and the muscles of the neck which 7
is aimed to help participants in portrait work. The
last session is a reflective one where participants
are allowed to simply draw a life model and we
discuss how their knowledge of anatomy may have
helped them in their interpretation and therefore
representation of the amazing human form.
Anatomy and artists have had a long association at
UWA through well known local artist Hans Arkeveld
who has been working in the School of Anatomy &
Human Biology since 1968. His sculpting expertise
is used to create unique models and reproductions
of rare anatomical material such as hyoid bones,
[You can view these articles online at
vertebrae, primate skulls and human ancestral
skulls. Hans also assists in formal teaching sessions
by sharing his love of drawing and showing students
the value of drawing as a method of making and
recording accurate observations. The school many
years ago had a dedicated medical illustrator but
with changes in technology that style of illustrative
work has become less necessary.
introduction of numerous objects
of art in every conceivable
location, his own as well as those
by many other artists such as
Jon Tarry who also worked at
the School, he has worked a
particular magic over its physical
and psychological spaces.
Artist: Hans Arkeveld, Anatomy Lesson of Dr Holst
“Hans has altered our awareness
of ourselves. His being here has
made a difference to us. He makes
us feel good about ourselves, what
we do and how
we do it.” 1
One Head of School has referred
to Hans’ regular interaction as ‘an
extensive symbiotic relationship
that has integrated art into the
everyday life of this Department’. 2
8 This empathy between art and
science has also enabled a group
known as SymbioticA 3 to
become established within the
Hans’ room on the first floor the specimens in the laboratory School.
of the School of Anatomy and jars and on the dissecting tables.
Human Biology could, at first
glance, be mistaken for a Shrine Since 1968 Hans has been 1
Dr Jan Meyer interviewed by Robyn
to Saint Sulo. But venture past the drawing from the body in the Taylor, 14 April 2004.
bear peering through the door School of Anatomy and Human 2
Letter of recommendation for Hans
with its computer disk eyes and Biology. His involvement with to be awarded the University’s highest
departmental work is being done this department has been truly degree, the Chancellor’s Medal. Dated
amongst the magpie collection remarkable and owes much to 20 April 2000
of ephemera. The apparent the open mindedness of the then 3
See page 10 of this newsletter
Excerpts from the incongruity of this artist’s studio Head of Department Professor
catalogue essay cum technician’s laboratory David Allbrook who encouraged Transient is a touring exhibition
by Dr Robyn reflects a very important aspect art students and had set up a supported by Art on the Move and
Taylor, Transient of the School’s philosophy. This series of lectures looking at the will be showing in:
1963–2004, is the need to keep medical interconnections between art Esperance 20 Aug – 20 Sept 2006;
a retrospective science within the social context and science. Busselton 29 Sept – 29 Oct 2006;
exhibition of the of life in all its complexity: to not Albany 3 – 30 May 2007.
work of Hans forget that conscious life and Hans has effectively infiltrated For more info see:
Arkeveld. thought once animated many of the place and through the www.artonthemove.com.au
What is SymbioticA?
Although artists have been working Intriguing projects resulting from inter-disciplinary approaches
with the Department for the last between art and science are bubbling here and across the
three decades, until recently, none globe. Take a look at some, profiled by the following:
actually used the laboratories to
produce their art work. Artists in Labs (AIL) [www.artistsinlabs.ch] offers
Swiss laboratories as a place of liaison between artists
SymbioticA is a research laboratory and scientists in order to create new levels of creativity,
dedicated to the artistic exploration innovation and communication. AIL supports collaborations
of scientific knowledge, in particular between international Artists and Swiss-based scientists,
biological technologies. SymbioticA and encourages trans-disciplinary groups with solid project
is the first research laboratory of ideas; e.g. Z-NODE, a PHD program, in corporation with the
its kind, in that it enables artists to University of Plymouth, (art, technology and science) with 14
engage in wet biology practices in a researchers enrolled.
biological science department.
The Arts Catalyst, UK, [www.artscatalyst.org]
SymbioticA is designed as an evolving believes that a repositioning of different specialised areas of
place of artistic investigation that investigation is necessary for an innovative, outward-looking
is accessible to people throughout and ethical society. They foster collaboration between 9
Western Australia and beyond. scientists and artists and seek scientists’ involvement in artistic
SymbioticA welcomes artists and and interdisciplinary projects.
scholars to work in interdisciplinary
research teams exploring new Art & Science Collaborations (ASCI), USA
directions for new technologies and [www.asci.org] profiles artists and scientists who use science
the effects on society they might and technology to explore new forms of creative expression.
have. Their ArtSci INDEX, an online database, connects biologists,
technologists, mathematical physicists, psychologists and
SymbioticA are happy to discuss playwrights, visual artists, dancers, and musicians for projects
different models of residencies and of mutual interest. are using this service [http://asci.org/
seek expressions of interest from INDEX/].
artists interested in exploring art
and science in general and art and
biology in particular.
For more links to informative sites see “Resources” at
Inspired by the immortal words of Hippocrates “life
is short; art is long”, the Royal Australian College of
General Practitioners (RACGP) has been presenting
an exclusive series of workshops for GPs.
Before entering a computer lab to learn about a
specific aspect of evidence based medicine, GPs enjoy Lillian Tan from the RACGP linking art of medicine to the
a glass of wine and listen to an artist talking about told us about the talks: science of medicine?
their work. We wanted to introduce the
Artists participating: Jon Denaro, Andrew Stumpfel, concept of medicine-inspired art to
Sandra Black, Peter Kendall, Julie Parsons, Kat Cook the GPs subtly so they can begin to
and Jasper Black. see beauty in the work they do.We
You have developed an interesting also wanted them to view medicine
line-up of artist talks for the from another perspective i.e. that
RACGP - what was your motivation of the artists.
[Lillian Tan] The main aim of the How has artsource helped you in
Art Series is to up skill GPs in this program?
the application of evidence based artsource has been a tremendous
medicine by subliminally linking the help to us - they help put together
art of medicine to the science of the artists for each of the sessions
medicine. However, we would also by helping us source the most
10 like to highlight that for centuries, appropriate artists and also
artists have drawn inspiration from establishing contact with them.
Dr Andrew Wesseldine presented in tandem medicine. We invited WA-based
with Andrew Stumpfel: artists to present on how they What has been the response from
draw inspiration from medicine for the GPs?
“I was most impressed by Andrew and his take on their projects. Each session has a All the attending GPs think that
the theme of “Brain storm”. I was surprised that clinical theme and we wanted to the Art Series is a very innovative
we, as artist and physician, share so many similar find artists who have an interest program and they are really gaining
challenges each day and was fascinated by his in those particular areas. e.g. Jon a good insight into the planning and
approach to complex problems especially in the Denaro for ‘Smoke and Fire’. That workings of the artists.
group setting. I was able to gain an insight into how particular session was looking at
he sees the world as well, and this was particularly smoking cessation and Jon seemed Would you do it again?
interesting for me in that thinking “outside the an appropriate choice as he is Yes! We would definitely run this
square” is what we try to do more of and what we interested in cilia/trachea. again but with different themes.
are generally not trained well as doctors to do. What do you mean by subliminally
I found Andrew’s talk both uplifting and stimulating,
and we hope to incorporate his ideas and visions
into some of the fund-raising and educational
projects that we run in the RPH Stroke Unit. I The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is the largest general practitioner
certainly thought the concept of the evening was organisation in Australia, with over 14,000 members. The RACGP is the national leader
worthwhile and the most novel I have ever been in setting and maintaining the standards for quality practice, education and research in
involved in.” Australian general practice.