Medication as a protective shield

I began collecting the used packets on the second anniversary of my transplant, as a reminder of how fragile our grasp on life is. Without my medication I cannot survive, and so it acts as a ‘protective shield’ …

Extracts from Brian Keeley’s website (2016).

Commentary

The Artist Brian Keeley required a heart transplant following a catastrophic cardiac event in 2013. Brian’s work graphically illustrates that the transplant is not a cure, but a new chapter with ongoing treatment in the form of the medication load a transplant patient receives and their changed outlook on self and life.

Brian speaking about his work and experience of receiving a heart transplant;

The self portrait ‘Renaissance’ (pictured above) shows my body from the inside, as opposed to the recognisable likenesses we see when artists generally portray the ‘outside’ surface. Since my transplant, I have had a variety of MRI and other medical scans, and I find the whole idea, and images themselves, totally awe-inspiring. Although the experts use these images for clinical use, I find them very beautiful, thought-provoking, and emotionally moving. I have been learning more about the way that the technology of today allows us to actually see my new heart beating within me. I share this heart with its previous owner, and this inspires me to create artwork which explores this very profound and personal relationship.

This piece also records one year of my new post-transplant life, represented by all of the empty packets from medication I have used. I began collecting the used packets on the second anniversary of my transplant, as a reminder of how fragile our grasp on life is. Without my medication I cannot survive, and so it acts as a ‘protective shield’ against organ rejection.

The way I have depicted the life-size image of my body references Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Da Vinci was an artist with a fascination for the medical and anatomical functions of the human body – at a time when the very idea of heart transplantation – and of creating images from inside the body – would have been unthinkable.

Brian spent months in ITU and hospital and the NHS staff that helped keep him alive were the subject of a series of portraits he painted during his initial recovery. This work formed an exhibition ‘ The Shared Heart’ in 2015.

Brian’s art has been exhibited on several occasions in Aberdeen including in the University of Aberdeen ‘Body Matters’ exhibition, as part of ‘Being and Becoming’ exhibition in the School of Education, and in a solo show at Robert Gordon University’s School of Life Sciences.

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Contributed by

Dr Leeanne Bodkin and Brian Keeley

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