AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jac Saorsa

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Read Jac’s paper via THIS LINK

What first interested you in medical visualization?

As an artist and a writer with a background in philosophy I have always been interested in what makes us human. I am also interested in renegotiating the role of fine art in the medical field – not so much in terms of medical illustration as such, but more in relation to the way that art can ‘articulate’ the existential, lived experience of illness and treatment.

 

Tell us a bit about your background and education.

I have an MPhil in Philosophy from Glasgow University and a PhD from Loughborough University. My thesis explored the philosophy of creative practice. I studied drawing and sculpture at the New York Academy of Art where the study of anatomy was an important aspect of the atelier teaching approach. I have lectured since then in universities in the US, in Costa Rica, Portugal and Cyprus, as well as in the UK, and I founded The Broadway Drawing School in Cardiff in 2013. Just now I am finishing up a PG Certificate in Anatomical Sciences, which I have been studying as an online course from Edinburgh University. I’ve found it an excellent course and it has really enhanced my knowledge and appreciation of human anatomy. In October I am set to begin a second PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at Cardiff University. I am excited to use this opportunity to create a piece of ‘hybrid literature’ that will draw together all of the threads of my practice as a whole.


As an artist what does your job entail?

My time is divided between my teaching fellow artists at The Broadway Drawing School and my personal practice as artist and writer working primarily in the medical field. At The Broadway we run a year-long Diploma in Figure Drawing and, in 2019, we are inaugurating the Diploma in Oil Painting. We also run various shorter courses and workshops in anatomy and life drawing. In teaching anatomy for artists I use several different techniques and I am very fortunate to have a team of great models who allow me paint anatomical details onto their bodies. This is very educational for the students and is also good fun!

My personal practice has involved my working in various medical settings in the UK (an example being the Cancer Ward 12 project) and in Africa. All the details of these projects can be found on my websites.


What tools or software do you use in your work?

I draw and I paint in oils. For writing I use the Scrivener software along with Endnote, as well as filling endless notebooks with my notes, sketches  and thoughts using an old fashioned pen!

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Tell us about the project “Cancer Ward 12: art, medical science, literature and life

Cancer Ward 12 is a project that draws on literature and on life (and death). It involved my ‘immersion’ into the day-to-day life on the Oncology Ward of Singleton Hospital in Swansea, which is a thirty bed, general oncology/haematology ward where patients with a variety of cancers and disease related symptoms are treated and cared for. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and symptom control, and ranges from radical management to palliative care. I was resident on the ward for several days and nights, and the work that resulted from this was exhibited at the Storytelling for Health Conference in Swansea, in June 2017.

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Did you learn any new skills during the project?

I am always learning. To work directly and intimately with people, especially in situations that are often difficult, is to travel a constant learning curve.

 

What was most rewarding about the project?

Working directly and intimately with people who, despite suffering in many different ways, still gave my their trust and granted me the privilege of expressing and articulating their experience.

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What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on a book entitled Like Any other Woman. It consolidates part of a project.  (https://drawingcancer.wordpress.com)  that has been ongoing since 2012 and which has attracted much attention both in Wales and internationally. The Drawing Women’s Cancer project has generated to date three major exhibitions – two of them reviewed in The Lancet – several conference papers, a book chapter and a Welcome Trust small grant. Specifically, Like Any Other Woman will constitute a text that is coherent collaboration between creative non-fiction, biographical material, personal narrative and some visual art in order to address the existential experience of a particular form of cancer. It is intended to demonstrate the positivity and courage of women who are suffering all forms of gynaecological cancer, but it will not shy away from the less positive and indeed debilitating effects and overall impact of the disease.

I am also preparing a body of artwork based on anatomy and my experience of cadaveric dissection.

Is there another project you would like the opportunity to undertake?

I am always open to ideas and opportunities that allow me to continue working as an artist, writer in the medical field, either directly with patients or within medical education.

Learn more about Jac here:

https://cancerward12.wordpress.com

https://jacsaorsa.wordpress.com

Twitter: @JacSaorsa

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/jacsaorsa

Email: jacsaorsa@hotmail.com

 

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