Breaking boundaries and fusing scientific brilliance with creative artistry is at the heart of this year’s HMRI Art series.
Professor Brett Nixon, the recipient of the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HRMI) 2022 Award for Research Excellence, and the incredibly talented Newcastle-based artist, Mitch Revs joining forces.
Since its launch in 2005, the HMRI Art Series has become an annual tradition, thanks to the support of Chris and Shirley Piggott and the generosity of local artists from the Hunter region.
Every year, the HMRI’s Award for Research Excellence winner receives the opportunity to collaborate with a local artist, combining their research with artistic expression.
The resultant artworks are then auctioned at HMRI’s Annual Ball, with proceeds for further research.
Mitch Revs was commissioned to create this year’s piece, inspired by the life’s work of Professor Nixon, which delves into the extraordinary, and often heartbreaking, realm of infertility.
The unveiling of the artwork entitled ‘Seedling’ took place in front of more than 350 guests (in person and online) at HMRI’s Annual Medical Research Week Community Seminar on Wednesday 7 June.
Mitch was unable to be there in person, but through the marvels of modern technology was zoomed in to talk about his piece.
“I was introduced to Brett at the start of the year and got a bit of an insight into the research that he does daily, and I was lucky enough to have the chance to see some of the work they do firsthand in the lab,” Mitch said.
“This was an incredible experience and something that I’ll never forget. But I remember coming home and going straight into my studio; and while the lab visit helped give me an understanding of how things look under a microscope, I was struggling to figure out how to transform that onto a canvas.
“I had to ensure there was a feeling attached to the artwork. My biggest fear was not reflecting Brett’s work in this piece.
“I reached out to one of my good friends, Andrew Sambell, who dabbles in poetry from time to time and gave him the backstory of the project I’d been given.
“Without me even getting the chance to ask if he could write something for me, he said, Mate, give me 20 minutes.
“Within that time, he texted me a poem that brought me to tears. I know how it feels to be holding on and hoping for it to be your time to bring life into the world. And I can tell you, this was magic and it’s what the artwork needed.”
In addition to the unveiling of ‘Seedling’, this year’s Community Seminar featured presentations from all three of HMRI’s 2022 Award winners; Associate Professor Michelle Kennedy (recipient of the HMRI 2022 Award for Early-Career Research), Professor Pradeep Tanwar (recipient of the HMRI 2022 Award for Mid-Career Research) and of course, Professor Brett Nixon (HMRI 2022 Award for Research Excellence).
HMRI Director, Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin said the art series is an important part of HMRI’s commitment to communicating the value of medical research to the community.
“The HMRI Art Series provides an opportunity to highlight the work of outstanding researchers along with the power of art to communicate complex ideas in a visually appealing way while supporting local artists,” Frances said.
“I was blown away when I first saw Mitch’s work unveiled and following his reading of the poem and those strong words, it brought tears to the eyes of about everybody in the room.
“It’s a very special piece of work. As someone who has also been a recipient of this incredible honour, I’m sure Brett is feeling quite humbled by the experience.”
Brett explained that his goal is to enhance the ability to diagnose infertility and develop effective therapeutic strategies that will alleviate the burden of infertility. With their combined expertise, Mitch has created an impressive piece that bridges the gap between science and art.
“To have been a recipient of the HMRI Researcher of the Year has been the highlight of my career,” Brett said.
“It’s a genuine honour to be considered worthy of this prestigious award and I am deeply grateful to HMRI and our community of wonderful donors for their generosity in supporting myself and my team in achieving our research goals.
“I am also deeply indebted to Mitch Revs for his incredible artwork portraying the significance of our research. It is an exceptional piece of art that he has created and one that is full of symbolism capturing the emotional journey that couples with infertility face. Hearing the back story to the work brought tears to my eyes as I am sure it did to most in the audience.
“I’m in awe of how Mitch has been able to transform my life’s work into such a stunning artwork and the unveiling will be a moment that lives with me always and will serve as a source of inspiration as I continue my research journey.”
The HMRI Art Series continues to provide a unique opportunity for artists in our community and to raise awareness about the vital importance of medical research.
‘Seedling’ will be auctioned at the Hunter Medical Research Institute Ball on Saturday, June 17.