Young Scots artist reflects battle with illness in degree show

A young Scottish artist has drawn on the experience of coping with a rare heart condition to inspire her degree show.

Clark's photography features contorted reflections of the human body to help raise awareness of her heart condition. Picture: Contributed

Jacquetta Clark underwent two rounds of life-saving open heart surgery at the age of four after a hole in her heart was discovered.

The 22-year-old hopes her intimate photography will help raise awareness of dextrocardia, which causes the heart to form on the right-hand side of the body rather than the left.

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She also hopes her work, which will be part of one of Scotland’s biggest graduation shows when it opens at Dundee University on Friday, will break down “the barrier of discomfort over looking at photographs of the naked body.”

Young artist Jacquetta Clark. Picture: Contributed

The Glasgow-born artist has tried to replicate the “mirror image” effect of the congenital defect, which leads to the arteries and chambers developing in reverse. Her show has been named after the condition, which affects less than one per cent of the population.

Ms Clark, a fine art student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, has worked as a photographer for various student clubs and societies in the last few years, and has also worked with fashion designer Hayley Scanlan.

However much of the work she has produced during the course has been about exploring the human body in “abstracted, unusual forms.”

She said: “Most of my work at art school has been about the human body, its vulnerability and ill health. My own experiences have definitely made me see the human form in a different light. Ever since I started the course I felt like it was something that I had experienced that I really wanted to work through with art. It wasn’t something I had really confronted when I was at school. But I felt I had the chance to explore how I really felt emotionally about it all.

Jacquetta Clark has drawn on the experience of coping with a rare heart condition as inspire for her degree show. Picture: Contributed

“It took four years to find out what was wrong with me. I wasn’t growing at the same rate as other children. I was brought up as a vegetarian and the doctors kept saying that was why I wasn’t developing normally. I didn’t look very well but nobody checked to see where my heart was.

“I’ve been able to live a fairly normal life, but I still get annual check-ups and there are things I have to do and avoid for health reasons.”

Ms Clark recruited a number of her fellow students to act as life models to create “contorted reflections” of the human body, shunning digital manipulation in favour of using real mirrors to create the photographic installations, which will be unveiled on Friday.

She added: “It was really just me and a model in the photographic studio, along with different types of mirrors. The work was created by chance, as I didn’t quite know what the reflection was going to be like.

Young artist Jacquetta Clark. Picture: Contributed

“The friends of mine who volunteered to be models found it surprisingly comfortable, I think. I just kept it very relaxed. Part of the work is that you’re not supposed to feel uncomfortable looking at a naked body, so I tried to continue that through my photography of their bodies.”

Jacquetta Clark has drawn on the experience of coping with a rare heart condition as inspire for her degree show. Picture: Contributed