(Jeff_L) #1


Medical professionals regularly produce drawn
images as a means of recording and explaining. In
particular, surgeons produce drawings as a means of
noting information on patients’ records. Drawings
are also regularly used to teach complex anatomical
structures and surgical procedures. Drawings can
also be seen on the patient’s body prior to an opera-
tion. After working sometime in operating theatres
at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London (Bart’s), the
haptic nature of the action and process of drawing
and surgery appeared to be a fundamental concern
to both surgeon and artist.^1
Collaborative work with surgeons and other
medical practitioners using drawing included col-
lecting and making images before, during and after
operations. Images retained for research, included
sketches made by surgeons for patients, medical
students and of tissue samples for laboratory use.
Drawings made to record the processes of particu-
lar operations, of anatomical structures and encod-
ing haptic interventions, were made by drawing
practitioner Jenny Wright.
Originally drawing research was undertaken at
Bart’s hospital, during complex maxillofacial pro-
cedures undertaken by consultant maxillofacial
surgeon, Mr Neil Shah. Later work was made at
Moorfields eye hospital under the supervision of
Miss Narciss Okhravi and Mr Ananth Viswanathan
consultant ophthalmic surgeons.
The initial premise was to discover the con-
temporary use of drawing in the field of medicine.
It quickly became obvious that drawing was a
common tool in the surgeon’s repertoire of record

keeping and teaching. In the words of Karen Ellis
Barzman (1991) drawing was a normal, convenient
“graphic conduit—a passage between one body of
knowledge to another”.
Initial research found many different examples
of drawing practice made by surgeons inside and
outside theatre. A collection of these drawings con-
tinues to be made for research purposes. Some of
these drawings are a codified system used to record
and illustrate anatomy and physical structures. Oth-
ers reflect some of the physical aspects of surgical
procedures and on analysis revealed some of the
gestural and performative nature of both surgery
and drawing.
Surgeons used drawing as a convenient way to
record and disseminate information. The variety of
methods and uses of drawings has continued to sur-
prise medical staff, who almost always denied using
drawing in their work at all. These images were
supplemented by gesture; this communicated part
of the movement, and to a certain extent something
of the haptic nature of the particular surgical pro-
cess. The drawings are evidence of a detailed study
of anatomy and surgical procedures; they are physi-
cal records of movement and time.
Mr Ananth Viswanathan’s drawing showing the
anatomy of part of an eye examined the disease
process caused by raised inter ocular pressure. The
simple operative process (trabeculectomy)^2 was
rehearsed with a few marks on the paper surface,
but gestural movements were performed above the
surface indicating instrument position and motion
prior to the actual performance of the operation.

Evolving Dialogues between

Surgeon and Drawing Practitioner

Jenny Wright
Wimbledon College, University of the Arts, London

Neil Shah
St. Bartholemew’s Hospital, London

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