Seminar Eight

Scottish Health Humanities Seminar and Masterclass Series - event no. 8

Dr Jac Saorsa, independent visual artist and writer

Wednesday 26 February 2014


Drawing on Subjectivity

3.00-4.30pm, The Creative Space, First Floor, G Block (Western Infirmary, Dumbarton Road, Glasgow, G11 6NT - see map here)

Based on  ‘Deep Drawing’, an extended drawing exercise that I have developed over the years, this practical ‘workshop’ involves using charcoal to make marks that define your individual response to your subjective emotions and feelings. Using the charcoal in this way requires no previous experience or skill and it is possible – within a continual ‘rubbing down’ process – to build up a multi-layered drawing, invariably beautiful in its own right, that becomes a unique visual testimony of your individual subjectivity. As a basis for the exercise we will use quotes from literature. Since my current research and creative practice is immersed in the visualisation of the experience of cancer and its treatment, specific texts will refer to the experience of illness and will include:

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn The Cancer Ward
Marilyn French A Season in Hell
Richard Selzer Letters to a Young Doctor
Arthur Kleinman The Illness Narratives

You will be encouraged to make physical marks with the charcoal according to your subjective response to what you hear, thereby building up a ‘deep drawing’ of your own.
Students and early career researchers welcome. Registration is required; please contact Luca Guariento at

Public seminar
SEEN VOICES: a reciprocal relation between visual art practice and the experience of illness

5.45-6.45pm, The Creative Space (see above)

As a visual artist with a background in philosophy and a passion for exploring the complexities of existential subjectivity, I offer a challenge to Langer’s view that ‘art is the objectification of feeling’.Based on my understanding of an inescapable conflict between robustness and frailty in terms of our physical and emotional engagement with the perceived reality of our world, my practice focuses on an exploration, through drawing and painting, of the impact of illness and bio-medical intervention. I aim to demonstrate how visual art practice, as an act of bearing witness to the suffering of others, can articulate and address the complexities of illness in ways that traverse disciplinary and even political boundaries, and can therefore open up a discursive space within our understanding of the experience of illness wherein the disjuncture between objectivity and subjectivity is blurred and uncertain. In this space practice itself becomes the ‘voice’ of suffering, and further, it is precisely within a productive uncertainty that the ongoing development of the role of art in the field of Medical Humanities is manifest. (This seminar is open to everyone, no registration required.)