BIOGRAPHY: A BRIEF HISTORY
Rachael Allen was born in Derby in 1984, currently living and working in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
On graduating in 2008, Allen established her expertise in miniature model making and drawing, and frequently exhibited her work in solo and group shows nationally and internationally, achieving artwork sales, commissions, residences and freelance appointments. Her interest in the physical human body and mortal experience inspired her to incorporate participatory arts and creative community outreach into her visual arts practice, working with all ages and abilities, but especially with individuals with sensory, physical and mental disabilities.
In 2011, the artist’s search for empirical knowledge and understanding of the human body led her to University medical schools, assuming her role as Artist in Residence at Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham anatomy laboratories. Her practice-led research involved observing and reflecting on the context of anatomy education through drawing, journaling and interactions. She went on to launch Project ANATOME, a multidisciplinary project space exploring the opening "up" (ANA) and "a cutting" (TOME) of anatomical and medical pedagogy, to create a dialogue between artistic representation, the sensory approach to anatomy and clinical studies, and the undergraduate experience of medical education. The artist developed methods of integrating visual arts into anatomy and medical pedagogy, both independently and in collaboration with medical educators. This ongoing project has been widely disseminated through national and international exhibitions, conferences and publications. Significant achievements include conferences: A Narrative Future for Health Care (International network for Narrative Medicine, King’s Guy’s Hospital, London), Drawing in the University (University of Oporto, Portugal, 2013) The Prognostics lecture series (Exhibition Laboratory, University of the Arts Helsinki, 2015), and Death, Art and Anatomy (University of Winchester, 2016), and publications Creative Arts in Humane Medicine (Cheryl L. McLean, 2013), The Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine (Spring 2013) and InSight 2: Engaging the Health Humanities (University of Alberta, 2013)
Since 2012, Allen’s practice has made an important contribution to the field of medical humanities by situating itself in one of its defining movements; the use of visual arts in medical pedagogy, medical practice and health care. By 2014, her research as AIR in anatomy had inspired the artist to work with areas of human health outside of education, including general practice, pathology, bioethics, illness phenomenology and death, offering new ways and means of conceiving humane medicine. Accomplished collaborative projects included: Lessons in Anatomy: Dissecting medicine and health through visual and literary arts collaboration (with GP/writer Eleanor Holmes, 2013-14), The Pathology of BODY WORLDS Vital (working with Newcastle pathologists, funded by The Royal College of Pathologists, 2014) and Imaging and Imagining Chronic Pain (working with Neuroimaging researcher, funded by Department of Methodology, LSE, 2014).
During this time, and to present day, Allen actively contributes to the growing field of science communication and public engagement by combining her knowledge of anatomy and human health, creative practices and experience in community and participatory arts. She has been funded by Newcastle Science City, British Science Festival and the International Centre For Life to deliver workshops and projects to the public, engaging them with the human body and health. Notably, she has worked extensively with Life on collaborative and independent exhibitions, workshops and projects over the years, including: Leonardo Da Vinci: Man and Machine (funded by Newcastle Science City, 2012), Maker Faire UK (2012), The Pathology of BODY WORLDS Vital (funded by RCP, 2014) and Artatomy: An exhibition of anatomy inspired artworks created by medical and biomedical science students (funded by NICAP, 2015).
In 2014, the artist was invited to contribute to the new landmark publication Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities that would explore the next wave in medical humanities research. Her chapter would consolidate all her practice-led research and experiences as an artist working collaboratively within the fields of medical education and human health, and propose calls for change. The publication was released in 2016, and her chapter The body beyond the Anatomy Lab: (Re)addressing arts methodologies for the critical medical humanities insists the visual arts be pioneering in the field by offering new ways of thinking about the human body along cultural, social, emotional and intellectual lines through aesthetical, ethical and political frameworks, with particular attention on the dead body.
In 2015, during the chapter’s conception, Allen turned her attention toward researching anatomical material to explore the dead (and dying) body, and implications of embodiment, health, illness and pain in the living body, whilst further developing her relationship with drawing methodologies. At the same time, she achieved her life-long goal to become a palliative, End of Life carer; an occupational decision that was both strategic and significant. She began fulfilling her ambition to care for terminally ill and dying individuals, whilst embedding her artistic interest in the physical, physiological, emotional and spiritual experiences of death, dying and bereavement.
Beginning 2016, Allen’s practice is investing less in the field of anatomy and medical education, and more in the subject of death, dying, bereavement, ritual and caregiving, with drawing and the corporeal body as core investigations.