For centuries, philosophers, artists and writers have used the heart as a source of inspiration, frequently ascribed as the most important organ in the human body, it is the one most loaded with symbolism.
The anatomy and function of the human heart is fascinating and extraordinary. About 350 grams of muscle in the middle of your chest rhythmically pumping 7500 litres of blood through a network of arteries and veins, beating an average of around 100000 times during your life, it is the hardest working muscular organ. While resting your heart is beating at around 60 to 100 times a miunte.
The heart is often regarded as the centre of a human being, it holds an important role in understanding the human body since antiquity. From Egyptian societies, who maintained that the heart was ’the locus of our thoughts, feelings, and will and therefore the animating force within all human beings’, Pythagoreans who claimed the heart to be the most important of the three parts of the soul as the ‘source of courage, bravery, and audacity, to Aristotle who wrote of the heart as the source of innate heat which being is governed by, ‘locus of the life principle’, ‘seat of intelligence, motion, and sensation — a hot, dry organ.’, while other surrounding organs were there to cool the heart.
In contemporary culture, the heart is often discussed in relation to the brain, which represents the centre of consciousness and the origin of the reason and thought, as its opposite. The popular narrative of the battle between the brain and the heart, cognitive and intuitive, has been a central point of various literary and visual works, as well as popular culture and its language. It has been ascribed numerous symbolic meanings and uses in expressions and phrases that are associated with the core of being, the soul, one’s nature and emotions.
We have selected four iconic works that form a starting point of the exhibition:
Brian O’Doherty, Portrait of Marcel Duchamp
Alice Maher, Collar
Andrew Folan, Flying Heart
Cecily Brennan, Bandaged Heart,
and invited further 20 artists to respond to the subject. An essay by Catherine Marshall beautifully accompanies the exhibition, emphasising the sentiment and situating this exhibition and the current moment in a broader social and historical context.
We would like to express our gratitude to Brian O’Doherty, Alice Maher, Andrew Folan and Cecily Brennan for their participation and all their help in acquiring the works for the exhibition. The Human Heart show would not be possible without them.
We are grateful to be able to show Bandaged Heart, courtesy of David Collins and Jackie Mills. Big thanks to them and Taylor Galleries for their help. We thank the owner of the Flying Heart by Andrew Folan for the kind lend of the work and to Stoney Road press for Portrait of Marcel Duchamp by Brian O’Doherty. Also, thanks to Pallas Studios for lending us their plinth.
We thank Catherine Marshall, former head of collections at IMMA for working with us on this exhibition, her work, time and consideration given to artworks from this exhibition in writing the wonderful text below.
View the exhibition here.