Researchers have found that all organisms have very similar genetic codes and that they can be expressed by 64 different elements. My artistic response was to create a chess board (which always have 64 squares) for ceramic micro-organisms to battle for survival. Each chess piece represents perfect three-dimensional forms, such as the tetrahedron and hexahedron.  The clean, geometric lines of the pieces are offset by the decadent, dripping squares of the chess board.



Who saved the village of Eyam – was it Mompesson or Stanley?

If you were to read a contemporary account of Eyam villagers putting themselves into quarantine to protect others from the plague it might well be suggested that their clergyman Mompesson had lead them to this act of enormous self-sacrifice. As the village rector, Mompesson was the obvious candidate to lead the villagers, but was his role exaggerated at the expense of another local religious figure?

Related image        Mompesson

Thomas Stanley, originally rector of Eyam between 1664 to 1660 was a Puritan, had fallen out of favour with more traditional Anglicans including the Reverend Mompesson. However, as the number of plague victims grew, the two men put aside their differences, uniting to put their bold plan of isolation into action, and in doing so, saved countless lives.

Image result for silhouette vicar image old fashioned      Thomas Stanley – no image exists

Here my  sculpture of the Black Death sits outside Eyam Parish church where their plans would most likely have been communicated to the terrified local people.





A court of King Cholera

Leech’s carton in Punch (1852) shows the association of cholera with poverty. A child stands on his head on top of a rubbish heap in the left-hand corner. An old woman scavenges from the heap, another child shows off his own find, and washing flutters in the breeze overhead.


P.P.5270 volume 23, 139

Cholera was one of the most fatal diseases in the 19th century. Nausea and dizziness led to violent vomiting and diarrhoea, “with stools turning to a grey liquid until nothing emerged but water and fragments of intestinal membrane… extreme muscular cramps followed, with an insatiable desire for water”. It is estimated that 16,000 people died during the 1831-1832 epidemic.

Only working-class people appeared to suffer from cholera. Stories began to circulate that doctors were spreading the disease as an excuse for getting their hands on corpses to dissect.


Cartoon from the Wellcome Library, London.



Black death - rat with a smoking gun

From time to time we read that archaeologists have unearthed the skeletons of people who suffered from terrible diseases or, in more modern times, people who have died untimely deaths, but what of those who tried to save us from all this?

How do we remember those significant people who changed humanities’ experience of disease?  Maybe we put a bunch of flowers on their graveside or by their favourite place?

MEMORIALISING DISEASE remembers these who fought against infection for us all. Viruses and bacteria are recreated as bunches of viral blooms laid in their memory.  A single ceramic virus has also been photographed against the backdrop of significant locations or with somebody who played a significant role in this battle.

Thanks to the immunologist Matthew Helbert who helped me know my viruses from my bacteria and to Helen Elias for her inspiration.

One of the first people in the UK known to have died from the AIDS virus

HIV Terry Higgins Trust poster

The famous charity was originally called the Terry Higgins Trust after one of the first people in the UK known to have died from the AIDS virus, which was only identified the previous year.  The lovely people at Terrence Higgins Trust, Gray’s Inn Road, London let me take a photograph of my HIV virus against their well known sign.

Terrence Higgins 3.jpg


Volunteer worker at the Terrence Higgins Trust reception desk with my ceramic virus next to the THT collection box.


The Trust aims to end the transmission of HIV in the UK; to support and empower people living with HIV; to eradicate stigma and discrimination around HIV; and to promote good sexual health.  Terrence Higgins Trust is generally considered the UK’s leading HIV and AIDS charity,  and the largest in Europe. It is also the lead organisation for Public Health England’s HIV prevention partnership HIV Prevention England.


Posted in HIV

Memorialising HIV in the 1980’s and my own memorial sculpture

In the mid 1980’s, there was intense media focus on this new disease with no known cure. People were afraid that you could ‘catch AIDS’ from Communion wine. Afraid that you could catch HIV from sharing communal baths. At this time, an estimated 7,500 people had been diagnosed with HIV in Britain.


This is the picture that is widely considered to have changed the face of AIDS. It showed AIDS victims as humans and people with families. The biggest opponents of doing anything about AIDS, anything at all, were those trumpeting family values. This picture showed that HIV has everything to do with family values.

My own sculptural response to HIV and AIDS is a bunch of ceramic HIV virus flowers, deadly but strangely beautiful and spewing from a male pee pot.   The male receptacle is used as a symbol to indicate that in the early stages of the history of the disease more men than women had HIV and our abiding image of HIV campaigners in the 1980’s is of articulate, media savvy gay men, but these days, because of complex reasons there are equal numbers of women and men who have the disease.





Posted in HIV

“Shut down our clinics and we’ll shut down your church”

One of the first steps in making the private grief public is the ritual of memorials. I have loved the way memorials take the absence of a human being and make them somehow physical with the use of sound. I have attended a number of memorials in the last five years and at the last one I attended I found myself suddenly experiencing something akin to rage. 



David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night


Posted in HIV