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Unmasked Voices: Clinicians Out of Hours

An exhibition by visual artist and RSM member Anupa Sahdev, currently on display in the RSM Library, showcases the often-unseen creative practices of clinicians, while concurrently exploring the creative influences and work of 19th century poet-physician John Keats.

Dr Sahdev, a frequent visitor to the RSM, wrote up her PhD thesis in health economics in the library some years ago. “I’ve always found the space inspiring,” she says. “It’s been a real pleasure to combine an artistic project with a medical background.”

The exhibition, located at various points in the library, includes four photographic portraits by Dr Sahdev of artist-clinicians currently working within the NHS, together with a video installation of their creative practice.

The participants include a musician, dancer and visual artist working as a psychiatrist; an Indian festival set designer and musician working as a plastic surgeon; a yoga specialist inspired by music and movement working as an internal medicine junior doctor; and a sitar and tabla player who has worked as an NHS surgeon for 32 years.

The video installation features all four participants engaging with their creative practice, weaving quotes with time-lapsed video clips, opening their unseen creative spaces.

“Creativity plays a central role in the lives of the participants, often providing a mode of connecting and healing the self, as well as others who encounter their creative input,” notes Dr Sahdev.

Describing her parallel collection of work illuminating the poetry and creative approaches of John Keats, found in the display cabinet outside the library Quiet Reading Room, she says: “I always find the duality between medicine and art – and science and art more generally – fascinating. It’s Keats’ emphasis on the imagination and the sensations and unknown states that I find most interesting about his poetic work.”

Guiding visitors on a historical journey, starting in 1810 as the 14-year-old Keats began his medical apprenticeship in Edmonton, North London, the collection incorporates artefacts from the RSM’s heritage collections, together with artworks, poetic extracts, letters and historical information anchored on Keats’ creative ideas, philosophies and influences.

Keats believed in the healing powers of poetry, writing in the epic poem The Fall of Hyperion, ‘A poet is a sage, a humanist, physician to all men’ (Keats, J. (2007) O Solitude! John Keats Selected Poems, pp.5, Penguin Classics, London). Speaking of her aims for the exhibition, Dr Sahdev says: “I feel there's a therapeutic side to Keats’ poetry which he perceives as a form of medicine itself. I hope the exhibition will inspire RSM members and encourage them to find and engage in their own creative practice.”

Also included in the exhibition is a creative area where visitors can enjoy mandala colouring. This ancient mindfulness tool meaning ‘circle’ in Sanskrit language aims to relax the participant and has historically been used across east Asia.‘Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious’ (Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections, 1962, Fontana Press Edition).

Exhibition hours

Monday - Thursday: 9:30am - 6:00pm

Friday: 9:30am - 5:30pm

Saturday - Sunday: Closed

The exhibition runs until Monday 12 May 2023

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