3D engraved image of brain on display at gallery

The detailed self-portrait of Angela Palmer's brain. Picture: contributed
The detailed self-portrait of Angela Palmer's brain. Picture: contributed
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AN artist is showing the brains behind her work with a unique self-portrait detailing the inside of her skull.

Angela Palmer’s Brain of the Artist – which goes on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery this week – is a 3D engraved image of her vital organ.

Angela Palmer views a previous work. Picture: Neil Hanna

Angela Palmer views a previous work. Picture: Neil Hanna

Medical imagery was used to map the brain before Ms Palmer painstakingly engraved the individual cross-sections on 16 panels of glass. The resulting anatomical architecture creates “the most objective form of self-portraiture”.

She said: “The first scan I underwent at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford was absolutely terrifying – I was convinced the doctors would tell me I was riddled with some hideous disease.

“It is fairly claustrophobic lying inside the very narrow tunnel and, although it was for an art project, I still felt afraid. I was hugely relieved when I got the all-clear.

“Now it is finished, it’s an extraordinary experience, staring at your brain floating in a glass chamber before you.

“Unlike traditional portraiture, an image of one’s brain does not depict anything recognisably ‘you’ and yet it could not be more intensely personal.”

Former journalist Angela, who started her career at the Evening News before working as a news editor on The Observer, gave up writing to pursue a career in art more than 20 years ago.

Her work, which includes a project to reveal the contours of a child’s body wrapped within a 2000-year-old Egyptian mummy, has since received international acclaim.

The idea for her latest piece came from a museum exhibition on chemist Dorothy Hodgkin, who used the 3D technique to draw a molecule.

Each glass sheet “maps” a section of the brain, using information from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Brought together, the layers create a 3D image which looks as though it is floating in a glass chamber – and is only visible from certain angles.

Originally from Aberdeen, Ms Palmer said she was 
honoured to have her work on display at the Capital gallery.

She added: “I hope through this work visitors will contemplate their own brain – the organ which makes us who we are.

“It is an enormous honour to be exhibited in the gallery and all the more daunting in the Great Hall beneath the frieze depicting the most illustrious Scots in the world.”

Gallery director Christopher Baker said: “This remarkable sculpture is a most welcome addition to the collection. A delicate and ethereal work, it develops in a novel and arresting way the nature of self-portraiture.”