About the project

About the project

This blog documents the first phase of a collaborative visual arts project between artist Emma Hunter, Dr Philip Kilner of the Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Unit at Royal Brompton hospital (part of Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust) and rb&hArts – the Trust’s charitable arts programme.

The project will focus on water-flow properties inherent in the structures and dynamics of the human heart and blood system.

This first phase, funded by the Wellcome Trust and devoted to research and development, will include workshops with medical students and with patients of the Trust, as well as the exchange of images and words you will see developing below. The outcome will be a series of works of art which poetically re-imagine the inner landscape of the human body. We hope it will invite audiences to make visual connections between our inner and outer landscapes; the micro and macro, and to consider the biomedical and ecological implications of these connections.

We aim to produce a catalogue to accompany a tour of this work in 2014, before it is hung permanently at Royal Brompton Hospital in London.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Experiments in Cyanotype Printing

Cyanotype is a camera-less photography process. Paper is coated in a UV sensitive chemical, then a negative (in this case a drawing made on tracing paper) is placed over the paper and it is exposed to UV light.

The drawings which make up the negatives are a result of tracing some of the forms found in the suminagashi prints and making references to the drawings of the heart muscle fibres mentioned earlier in the blog.

Experiments in Suminigashi

Experiments in Suminagashi, the ancient art of Japanese Marbling to try and create a print of a Karman Street vortex, a phenomenon of water flow as an object is pulled through still water.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Bloodflow in three dimensions


"It is almost as if the flow of blood has carved out the shape of the heart in evolutionary time. The chambers of the heart are shaped in such a way that the blood swirls around in the direction that the heart requires. Even the vast loop of blood made as it flows around the heart means that as the main pumping chamber recoils this helps the upper chamber refill with the next batch of blood. And part of this astonishing beauty of the heart had been glimpsed by Leonardo da Vinci."

This quotation is taken from a clip from a BBC television programme Heart vs Mind: What Makes Us Human? First broadcast 10th July 2012
To see the clip Bloodflow in three dimensions on BBC iPlayer (in which Dr Philip Kilner is featured) click

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Tao and water as metaphor

Tao, illustration by author

"The Tao which Taoism knows, and with which art is concerned, is a seamless web of unbroken movement and change, filled with undulations, waves, patterns of ripples and temporary 'standing waves' like a river. Every observer is himself an integral function of this web. It never stops, turns back on itself, and none of its patterns of which we take conceptual snapshots are real in the sense of being permanent even for the briefest moment of time we can imagine. Like streaming clouds the objects and facts of our world are to the taoist simply shapes and phases which last long enough in one general form for us to consider them as units. In a strong wind clouds change their shapes fast. In the slowest of the winds of Tao the mountains and rocks of the earth change their shapes very slowly - but continuously and certainly. Men simply find it hard to observe the fact."

From Tao: The Chinese Philosophy of Time and Change by Philip Rawson and Laszlo Legeza. © 1973 Thames & Hudson Ltd., London. Reprinted by kind permission of Thames & Hudson.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Flow Visualisation

detail from studies of flowing water by Leonardo da Vinci
 Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2012
Still from Philip Kilner's BloodStreams of the Heart Video
which can be seen here

Water by Kathleen Raine

There is a stream that flowed before the first beginning
Of bounding form that circumscribes
Protophyte and protozoon
The passive permeable sea obeys,
Reflects, rises and falls as forces of moon and wind
Draw this way or that in weight of waves;
But the mutable water holds no trace
Of crest or ripple of whirlpool; the wave breaks,
Scatters in a thousand instantaneous drops
That fall in sphere and ovoid, the film-spun bubbles
Upheld in momentary equilibrium of strainand stress
In the ever-changing network woven between stars.

When, in the flux, the first bounding membrane
Forms, like the memory-trace of a preceding state,
When the linked organic chain
Holds against current and tide its microcosm,
Of man’s first disobedience, what first cause
Impresses without inherent being
Entities, selves, globules, vase-shapes, vortices,
Amoeboid, ovoid, pulsing or ciliate,
That check the flow of waters like forms of thought,
Pause, poised in the unremembering current
By what will be fathered in the primal matrix?
The delicate tissue of life retains, bears
The stigmata, the trace, the signature, endures
The tension of the formative moment, withstands
The passive downward deathward streaming
Leaps the falls, a salmon ascending, a tree growing.

But still the stream that flows down to stillness
Seeks the end-all of all waters,
Welcomes all solving, dissolving, undoing,
Returns, looses itself, looses self and bounds,
Body, identity, memory, sinks to forgetfulness,
The state of unknowing, unbeing,
The flux that precedes all life, that we reassume, dying,
Ceases to trouble the flowing of things with the fleeting
Dream and hope and despair of this transient perilous selving.

‘Water’ by Kathleen Raine is reproduced from The Collected Poems of Kathleen Raine (2000) by permission of the Literary Estate of Kathleen Raine. Copyright 2000


Spiralling heart muscle fibres
Drenckhahn, Benninghoff Anatomie, 16th Edition 2004 ©Elsevier GmbH, Urban & Fischer, Munich.

It was seeing the centre drawing reproduced in Theodore Schwenk's Sensitive Chaos that led to the conception of this project. The spiralling forms at the apex of the heart (centre) are remeniscent of flow forms found in rivers and streams. From this one image the idea for the stream project was born.