Hidden amongst the granite spires of Aberdeen’s city centre bold colours can now be seen. Murals adorning the buildings of the green and previously dark and forgotten doors have been transformed from two years of NUART Street Art Festivals. This scheme has carved out a hub of art and creativity in the Oil Capital of Scotland whilst the city’s’ Art Gallery has been closed for renovation. However, with the recent grand opening of the gallery this provided a unique opportunity for the students of Aberdeen University Medical School to learn and develop ideas as part of their Medical Humanities Course in Fine Art.
The Medical Humanities course is a component of 3rd year teaching which aims to inspire alternative perspectives of medicine and provide a foundation of skills and interests outside that of the academic and clinical diet. The Medical School, along with the whole of NHS Grampian takes a holistic and patient focused approach to teaching and provision of medical services. Thus, the humanities course encourages students to have a more rounded perspective through the opportunity to study a range of different courses. Six weeks can be spent learning a new language, teaching school children, studying history or economics or in our case; pursue our dreams as budding artists.
The Fine Art course has given us the opportunity to explore the intimate history of how art and medicine have influenced each other. Aberdeen University holds copies of one of the world’s first printed anatomical medical textbooks, written nearly 500 years ago by Andreas Vesalius. This book, although ancient still contains artistic representations of anatomy and physiology comparable to the contemporary textbooks pored over by current medical students. An afternoon spent learning about its history and admiring the diagrams gave us a unique perspective to compare when we visited the contemporary murals and street art which now brighten the Granite City.
NUART Street Art Festival has drawn artists from all over the world, inviting them to add their mark and creative inspiration to the city. Images of Aberdeen’s favourite seagulls, rainbow coloured unicorns composed of recycled rubbish and more intimate pieces celebrating inspirational local women now decorate the grey stones. The scale, painting styles and focuses have pushed us to reconsider how we perceive art and how it can used to teach people, tell stories or bring communities together.
A visit to Aberdeen’s City Art Gallery taught us more stories about the city in which we study from Scottish artists, old and contemporary. Contrasting to the street art murals, these more traditional fine pieces presented around local themes such as people and nature, continued the stories told by NUART. Art it seems has always been a proud component of NHS Grampian as well, with the walls of Foresterhill Health Campus decorated to provide a more relaxing environment in which to heal. A visit to the charitably funded Suttie Art Space challenged us to explore how art is perceived by different members of the community and its implications.
As a medical student who previously studied art at high school, the medical humanities course has allowed me to explore and develop my art but at the same time get to the know the city and learn more about its history and people. Everyone on the course has different backgrounds, styles and has taken different approaches to the course. Our final exhibition, which opened to the public in November in the Suttie Centre Atrium displayed a mixing pot of ideas and concepts, sharing our own stories and in our own little way adding to the already rich culture of art in the city of Aberdeen.