You are here

Tamsin van Essen

Tamsin van Essen's Mementos feature in Hearts & Minds at LifeSpace.

Mementos  (2008)
Ceramic objects

Central to Alzheimer’s disease, is a small protein fragment amyloid-beta. Amyloid-beta is a social molecule, binding together into large assortment of fellow amyloid-beta molecules.  Some of these assemblies can wither away brain cells, whereas others are relatively benign. What triggers the formation of toxic grouping of amyloid-beta is one of the key questions in Alzheimer’s disease research, as well as how these toxic grouping kill brain cells.

An accidental contamination in the drinking water of rabbits, found that copper gave the rabbits Alzheimer’s like symptoms. This discovery, together with the knowledge that patients with Alzheimer’s disease have elevated levels of copper, prompted research at Queen Mary University of London to investigate whether copper has any impact on how amyloid beta comes together.

Through Art-Neuro, a project to bring together 16 artists and 16 neuroscientists, artist Tamsin van Essen worked with scientist Christian Matheou to consider the potential involvement of copper build-up in degenerating the structure of the brain, thereby affecting the faculties of
memory and recognition. They asked a group of people to choose objects they felt particularly attached to: mementos that had sentimental value and familiar objects they treasured in everyday life.

The artist began to reproduce some of these chosen objects in porcelain, while exploring the action of copper in eroding the structure of clay. Small sections of copper wire were added to the porcelain, assembled to mimic the toxic Amyloid-beta clumps found in Alzheimer's disease.
The copper melted and burnt during the firing process, breaking down the structure of the objects so they become successively harder to recognise.

Tamsin van Essen is a London based artist, working mainly in ceramics. Her work explores notions of beauty and perfection through examining scientific, medical and social historic themes. She has exhibited extensively throughout the world, including at Sotheby’s, 10 Downing Street, the
Saatchi Gallery, Pierre Bergé, Design Miami, the Nobel Museum and other prestigious international locations. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Fonds National d'Art Contemporain in Paris, the
Wellcome Collection and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum in London.