10 sculptures of George Brunt - project background

A series of sculptures of a young man with Down's syndrome. Research at the New Centre for Down's syndrome at Stamford University, California has established a gene that may be responsible for learning and memory difficulties within individuals with this condition. In light of this research the proposed series of three sculptures seeks to make a pictorial realistic record and indicate the mental alertness of a young man with the condition, prior to significant future medical intervention to the present genetic situation.

The artist and George

As a result of this work the artist intends the following objectives:

  1. To promote knowledge of the emerging scientific understanding of the genetic structure of the condition, and engender debate regarding the potential consequences of this new research including the possible subsequent lower level of foetal termination, and whether there exists the potential through the development of gene therapy to address the physical aspects of the condition;
  2. To complete the artist's current body of work for documentation, dissemination and debate;
  3. To promote awareness of the Down's syndrome Association and Down's syndrome Research Foundation to potential parents and carers subsequent to pre-natal diagnosis of the Down's syndrome within the foetus.

Background to this project

The artist's philosophical enquiry as illustrated by his sculpture work has been noted by the art critic Edward Lucie-Smith, as expressing elements of Structuralism. This term was applied by Claude Levi-Strauss to the investigation of context and social relationships. Within this field the artist's enquiry has moved itself away from the illustration of general themes of human biology, genetics and cultural comment towards the expression of particular subject matter such as changing cultural views concerning medical practice and new understanding of the human condition both biological and philosophical. The former was illustrated by the artist's recent work: Birthday. This work was produced as a result of his research into the promotion by some midwives of newly adopted natural childbirth procedures and positions both within the hospital and home environment. The latter, being a philosophical enquiry, is illustrated by the artist's current project proposal: 10 sculptures of George Brunt, acknowledging society's greater understanding and ability to assist the less able members of its group. To the artist, the Down's syndrome condition offers an equally important subject to portray, compared to his previous figure work which consists of subjects of general ability and appearance. In recognition of this and in addition to the philosophical enquiry, the artist is drawn to the portrayal illustrating the contrast of both ability and appearance of an individual with Down's syndrome to his previous figure work.

10 sculptures of George Brunt, the final number of works in the series, depicting procreation, pregnancy, childbirth and offspring. The latter is depicted as having been born with Down's syndrome, and serves to represent any newborn with abnormalities of any description. The viewer here, having observed and understood the progression of the various subject matter within the series of sculptures, is presented with the question of how they personally might react and subsequently address the outcome, if their intended newborn were understood to have Down's syndrome, their understanding of families who integrate children with abnormalities into family life and society, and how society assists the less able members of its community.

Research at the New Centre for Down's syndrome at Stamford University, California, United States of America has identified a gene that may be responsible for learning and memory difficulties within individuals having Down's syndrome. With the correct medication and dose it is thought that learning and memory restoration can be achieved. However, the appearance of the condition would remain, although we are free to imagine that the physical aspects, being the susceptibility of individuals with Down's syndrome to various medical conditions, may be addressed in the future. It is far less likely that the physical appearance itself could be addressed, even if this were desired, at the same stage. Both might be achieved through future development of gene therapy, which may enable genes on chromosome 21, responsible for the condition, to be 'switched off'. The series of sculptures within 10 sculptures of George Brunt is intended, prior to any medical changes made to the condition, to indicate the subject's level of mental reasoning, to illustrate the physical aspects and the present appearance through the posture and composition of the figure sculpture: the former, the artist appreciates is as varied within individuals with Down's syndrome as those without. The sculptures will convey through its composition, a positive appearance of the condition, being that the subject, despite his condition, conveys a self-confidence and an assured degree of mental alertness. This condition, the artist believes, contributes to human understanding, and the assistance given to individuals with the condition, denotes ours as a civilized society.

The objectives of the activity are:

The project is funded by Arts Council England and the Elmley Foundation

Arts Council
The Elmley Foundation