Variants explores the complex Early Origins of Health and Disease. This science explains how factors like our parent’s diet and stress levels can change the way our bodies grow in our mothers’ wombs. Mothers are often given a set of rules to follow during pregnancy. This makes them feel solely responsible for their baby’s health. In truth, there are many factors involved. These include genetics, the environment, and societal factors. These factors can also affect future generations and whole communities.
Early Origins Science presents us with many sets of opposing ideas. These include the known versus the unknown, the things in and out of our control, and the hoped for ideal versus the reality of life. Variants asks viewers to think about these ideas.
To do this, the paintings use differences in shape and texture. First, the triptych uses both natural blob-like forms and geometric circles. The natural shapes look like real biological forms such as cells and organs. Within each one, there is a perfect white circle. These circles represent the ideal that all parents hope for: a healthy baby. The paintings also contrast loose watercolour strokes with detailed paintings of microscope images. The unpredictable nature of wet-into-wet watercolour techniques represents ambiguity. The crisp microscope images highlight the advances scientists have made in Early Origins research. Lastly, shades of red paint remind the viewer of blood and life. They also remind the viewer of the intense emotions linked to pregnancy and parenthood.
The order of the paintings guides the viewer through the process of a hypothetical baby becoming a real person. In the first painting, each shape represents a new possibility. Together, they display all of the factors that can affect how the baby develops. The second painting combines some of these shapes into new forms. Like a Venn diagram, as each shape overlaps, it creates a new shape in its centre. The third painting is of a single shape. It is a result of all of the combinations. This unique individual and their life experiences become one of many factors that influences the health of future generations. And with this individual, another cycle starts at the first painting.
It is both beautiful and scary knowing that from so many possibilities, we end up with one unique person.
Research into the Early Origins of Health and Disease helps us come to terms with this.