theresa nanigian
may become lost in the model, 2011


may become lost in the model (slice 78), 2011
pencil and charcoal on paper
122 x 122 cm
may become lost in the model (slice 8), 2011
pencil and charcoal on paper
122 x 122 cm
may become lost in the model (slice 48), 2011
pencil and charcoal on paper
122 x 168 cm


The triptych may become lost in the model is the culmination of an eighteen month collaboration between artist Theresa Nanigian and Dr. Gary Donohoe, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology & Neuropsychology, in the Department of Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin School of Medicine.

The work grew out of Nanigian’s interest in exploring some of the many questions relating to the mind: What is normal? Who decides? Why do we desire to fit in whilst yearn to be unique? Where does eccentricity end and madness begin? Why does our personality, our identity or what we call our “mind” feel so alienated from our physical brain? Does medical science – neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology and related fields – alleviate this alienation? Or does the very essence of its approach, the way it measures, analyzes, compares and communicates, serve to heighten this estrangement?

The research began as a straightforward analytical exercise making use of the artist herself as the convenient guinea pig. Nanigian sought to have herself quantified, evaluated, calibrated and normalized toward the end goal of creating as objective a portrait as possible of cognitive function and temperament. This rational, detached venture however, quickly became a journey of self-discovery. Long since forgotten childhood memories were summoned forth, suspicions of character flaws were matter-of-factly confirmed by computer generated questionnaire results, and unconscious rules for living were acknowledged. The artist found her emotional relationship with the work – from initial intellectual curiosity through to vulnerability, doubt and finally understanding – mirroring the actual cognitive and character traits her various assessments were designed to measure.

may become lost in the model seeks to marry scientific advances – be they how minute areas deep in the brain can be imaged and understood or how components of emotional intelligence such as empathy can be evaluated – with today’s visual art practice. As such, the work is a contemporary take on the annotated anatomy drawings of such greats as Henry Gray or Leonardo da Vinci some 500 years before him, marrying medical science’s striking imagery of the brain organ that these men could not even have dreamed of with the concrete findings of neuropsyche tests and differential psychology profiling. It is hoped that the outcome is an ambivalent one, possibly beautiful and inviting, whilst also strange and maybe even a bit disturbing.

© Theresa Nanigian.  FolioLink © Kodexio ™ 2023