Vial Memory

“Vial Memory explicitly invokes scientific process and human consciousness. On one level functioning as a form of memento mori with their intimations of mortality, yet the vivid spectacularity of the images also imply a very live and vi(t)al memory. Harnessing photography’s trompe l’oeil, Grimes’s work rescues these histories from the dust of the museum’s cabinets, relaying their memories through light, gel and colour. The heart, itself structured into the rhetoric of medical Illustration, is here re-presented in a highly-charged theatre of blood-red hues. The familiar motif of the vanitas is reconfigured in a gleeful dance macabre.

The fragile boundaries between life, death and decay are suggested in these high-energy images - opening up portals into another world of past pathologies and lost medical processes. While the taxonomy of the museum and scientific order were intended as a bulwark against amorphous emotional excess, in a curious way, in spite of (or, perhaps, because of it) the excess of spectacle in this series of images arrest and unsettle the viewer - conjuring up both the past and the ever-presence of death and disease.

The collection of candy-coloured images invite and involve us in a reflection on the body in medical history, in different knowledge systems and on diverse artistic modes of response. Echoing the concerns of artists such as Bill Viola and Marc Quinn, Grimes engages with the museum’s rhetoric and culture of display so that his work becomes an act of critical curation - drawing to the surface spectacle the weight of the past in the present.”

Stephanie McBride,
The Laboratory of the Imagination: the photographic practice of Karl Grimes

30 Chromogenic prints & light boxes.
36x26in (92x66cm) & 72x48in (183x122cm)
Image dimensions variable for gallery spaces. Available mid-2005.
Mütter Fellowship Award 2005.