The British Optical Association Museum’s latest exhibition, Pathos Ocularis - The Beautiful and the Curious, was inspired by artist Iluá Hauck da Silva’s own experience of dry eye, diplopia and photophobia.
Brazilian-born da Silva, the museum’s third artist-in-residence, is an artist and glassmaker who specialises in anatomical and pathological symbolism. Drawing inspiration from her personal experiences, the museum’s collections and from medical, scientific and historical research conducted in the College of Optometrists’ library, da Silva’s exhibition creates a modern-day ‘cabinet of curiosities’ dedicated to eyes.
Iluá Hauck da Silva
Her residency at the museum resulted when a collector friend commissioned an eye sculpture, she said. “I thought I'd go to the British Optical Association Museum, which I had been meaning to visit for quite some time, to look at eye models and get inspired. My friend and I booked an appointment with curator Neil Handley and during our visit… Neil asked to see my work and immediately asked me if I wanted to exhibit there, which I was delighted about!”
Conceptually, da Silva said her art focuses on the human condition with body parts and internal organs featuring heavily in her work. “Growing up in Brazil as the daughter of a doctor, I spent countless time in hospitals and practices… I have always had an interest in the depiction of medicine,” she said in the podcast, Through the eyes of an artist.
Developing work about ocular pathology felt particularly pertinent, said da Silva, as she developed sixth nerve palsy and acute diplopia in 2015, after contracting a severe ear infection which spread. Her residency and this exhibition offered da Silva an opportunity to creatively explore eye dryness and photophobia, conditions she still suffers as a result of her illness. “Creating art that raises awareness of (these conditions), as well as how to prevent and soothe their symptoms, is not only relevant, but important to the general public.”
da Silva's recreation of a gritty surface, representing what it's like to experience
an uncomfortable or painful eye condition
Although the exhibition is a story of recovery, da Silva wanted to include the word ‘pathos’ in the title as in many cultures it “evokes suffering and pain, thus prompting empathy and compassion in the viewer for the sufferer,” she said.
In the artist's self portrait as Saint Lucy, patron of sight, the eyes on a plate have been
replaced with the medication that cured da Silva from acute diplopia
The British Optical Association Museum at the College of Optometrists in London was founded in 1901. It is the oldest optical museum in the world with a collection of more than twenty-eight thousand items. The Pathos Ocularis exhibition has been extended due to Covid-19 and will be available to visit by appointment for a minimum of six weeks once current restrictions have been lifted in the UK.