Pathos Ocularis—the Beautiful and the Curious, is a fascinating exhibition at the College of Optometrists in London which merges art with ophthalmology.
Almond shapes, long eyelashes and interesting irises—in particular those with several colours and patterns: these are what make beautiful eyes, according to artist and glassmaker Iluá Hauck da Silva. “However,” she says, “ultimately it is the intensity and sincerity of gaze which makes a pair of eyes beautiful: eyes that sparkle with enthusiasm and love, and that overflow with tears when emotion takes over. The ability to candidly and transparently express feelings is definitely the most fascinating and beautiful quality eyes have.”
The crux of Miss Hauck da Silva’s practice is to visually investigate the human condition, and she specialises in works of anatomical and pathological symbolism (see Figure 1). It is eyes, specifically, that she has dedicated her latest work to, following her artist-in-residence at the College of Optometrists in London, UK in 2019.
At the College’s museum—the British Optical Association Museum—she has created a fascinating modern-day cabinet of eye-related curiosities, complete with drawings, photographs, digital images and glass objects, all of which can be viewed by the public.
In producing Pathos Ocularis—the Beautiful and the Curious, the title of the exhibition, Miss Hauck da Silva took inspiration from the Museum’s collections, as well as from medical, scientific and historical research she conducted in the College library (which contains literature on the eye and optical science dating back to the 15th century). She combined her research findings and artistic expertise with facets of her own experience with eye disorders.
Glass eyeballs feature largely in the exhibition. In Eyeconography (Figure 2), an antique silver dish designed to look like a chalice holds a dozen or so exquisitely made but not so healthy-looking eyeballs—each a glossy white with irises in vivid blues, oranges and greens—and some with a double pupil or iris, to represent the double vision that the artist has herself experienced.