Illuminating the Self

Hatton Gallery and Vane, Newcastle
18 January – 9 May 2020

Out of the Blue, installation, Susan Aldworth 2020. Shown at Hatton Gallery, Newcastle as part of the exhibition Illuminating the Self. Film by Alan Fentiman.

Illuminating the Self is an exhibition across Hatton Gallery and Vane in Newcastle, of new work by artists Susan Aldworth and Andrew Carnie in response to groundbreaking research led by Newcastle University into developing a new treatment for epilepsy. Aldworth’s principal work Out of the Blue consists of 106 antique garments embroidered with the words of people living with epilepsy, suspended from the ceiling of Newcastle’s Hatton Gallery in a single block of one hundred, lit by natural and ultraviolet light. The garments move on pulleys programmed by computers to correspond to the algorithms of electrical activity in an epileptic brain. A simultaneous exhibition at Vane presents a large scale installation of Aldworth’s cyanotypes – a historic photographic technique, which uses UV light to develop the prints. These artistically mirror the blue light used by the scientists. These prints were exhibited alongside monochrome multi-image portraits of three people with epilepsy – The Portrait Anatomised suite. Her Artist’s book Out of the Blue completes the installation.

Why Victorian underwear? Because they are beautiful objects, because like epilepsy, these garments were worn concealed beneath the surface and in their vintage their very fabric would contain hidden histories. Because they will shine under UV light. Lined up in rows in the installation, these white clothes also reference the institutionalisation of many people with epilepsy in Victorian England.