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Monday, March 15, 1999 Published at 11:38 GMT


The art of anatomy

The Interactive Skeleton from Primal Pictures was rebuilt from CAT scan data

Lungs made of fragile branches of glass and an orange-peel skull are two of the ways in which the human body has bridged the cultural divide between artists and scientists.

[ image: The Peeler by Tom Phillips: a plaster and orange peel skull]
The Peeler by Tom Phillips: a plaster and orange peel skull
Both have made exhibits for a new art show in London called The New Anatomists. The theme is the seemingly endless complexity of the body's inner workings. The show is also open for viewing on the Internet.

"Thermal imaging and computer reconstruction are now being used to create a comprehensive atlas of the human body and yet, despite this, the inside of the body still holds mysteries," says Wellcome Trust exhibitions manager Denna Jones.

"The New Anatomists represent a new wave of investigators whose work searches for the elusive meaning within," she says.

Bernard Moxham, Professor of Anatomy at Cardiff University, is a contributor to the exhibition. He comments on its Website that the study of anatomy has moved from a murky, grave-robbing past, through a period of exploration to modern times, when new medical imaging technology means that death is no longer the first step in an investigation.

[ image: Bernard Moxham: a vertical section through the back of a head]
Bernard Moxham: a vertical section through the back of a head
"Study is not restricted to post mortem material but can also be derived from tissues that are living and functional," he says. "But despite the new technologies for studying living cells and tissues, it would be wrong to give the impression that there is nothing new to be discovered in the gross, visible anatomy of the human body.

"Ours is not a 'dead' subject with complete knowledge being assured - an all too commonly held opinion even in the medical world. There are still regions of the human body, for example the back and the brain, where our knowledge of the gross anatomy is incomplete or gives rise to controversies."

In particular, Professor Moxham warns against the loss of separate anatomy courses for medical students and the "privilege of dissecting a human cadaver."

[ image: Morgan by Leora Farber:
Morgan by Leora Farber: "The body is a metaphor for the duality between interior and exterior"
Richard Cork, art critic for The Times newspaper, believes exhibition contributors have taken a responsible approach to their subject.

"No matter how far they penetrate the depths of the human body, their explorations are conducted with a rigour far removed from squeamishness or a suspect desire to sensationalise the discoveries they make," he says on the exhibition Website.

The New Anatomists is at the Wellcome Trust's Two10 Gallery, 210 Euston Road, London until 16 July 1999. Open Monday to Friday, 9.00am-6.00pm, admission is free.

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