Gunther Lill is a German mixed media artist whose works spans everything from glass art to computer programming. His latest series, Art4Heart, offers an unexpected perspective on medicine and health. Drawing on his own near-death experience, Lill’s textured paintings incorporate real medical equipment to highlight the role of technology in medicine, as well as in our own wellbeing.
In this interview with Art the Science, Lill shares insights into his creative process, the connection between art and health, and the inspiration behind Art4Heart.
What are medical “stents” and what inspired you to use them in your artwork?
Stents are used in human medicine, as well as in veterinary medicine, to dilate, strengthen, and stabilize damaged or narrowed blood vessels. They allow the blood to flow properly again, for example, after a heart attack or after a stroke, so that all parts of the body are supplied with care… Today, cardiac medical science has very precise insights and diverse methods of how each patient can be helped individually after a heart attack or stroke.
For me personally, the theme “Art4Heart” began in 2010. In connection with a heart attack, I was treated very professionally in a large clinic. Several stents were implanted. My health was excellently improved. In a related near-death situation, I experienced [what was], in my opinion, the most intense experience that you can [have] as a human being. This was absolutely impressive and enriching for me.
“I experienced [what was], in my opinion, the most intense experience that you can [have] as a human being. This was absolutely impressive and enriching for me.”Gunther Lill
In the recovery phase, I realized that it would be a very interesting project to link the scientific and medical aspects of the subject with art…to make people aware of the great importance of materials science and medical science. In simple terms, many people do not even know what stents look like, what a graceful invention they are, and how terrific their effects can be when it comes to saving lives and health.
Tell me about your artistic process. How did you create the works in Art4Heart?
I found it an interesting challenge to show other people, [through] the means of art, what stents are and what they look like. Since the end of 2017, I [have been] working on this—as far as I know—unique art project. I was successful in convincing several management boards of famous manufacturers [to] provide me with medical stents for my artificial work. With this help I developed my assemblage series, Art4Heart.
In doing so, I followed [three guiding principles]: “Intuition, Emotionality, and Demand/Aspiration”. However, it [was] also very important to me that the project [was] not too complicated for interested viewers. It is enough if viewers think about what they see in front of them and what significance it has for their health and for their life.
Did creating the works in Art4Heart change the way you think about your own health in any way? If so, how?
Previously, health was something for me that was just there. However, the illness and the subsequent artistic work remind me again and again that health is not self-evident… You have to respect [it] and you have to be disciplined and responsible with yourself. And I have learned that time and gratitude are among the most important things we have. Since I [realized] this, I [started living] “ten lives at a time”. By that I mean: I live [a life that is] much less stressed and hasty, but very intense, aware, and enriched. And I’m able to see more clearly what’s really important.
“The illness and the subsequent artistic work remind me again and again that health is not self-evident… You have to respect [it] and you have to be disciplined and responsible with yourself.”Gunther Lill
What role, if any, do you think art can play in medicine?
I believe that art is extremely valuable to both people and society. The first is the health and medical aspect. Being active in the performing arts or visual arts can create a sense of joy and lasting health benefits. From the point of view of holistic medicine, not only mental but also physical health can benefit from this. Artistic activity can be a fun way to express yourself and your emotions without having to use words. Art activities can also help [people] deal with problems and better cope with mental stress….Focusing on one’s own creativity can direct thoughts in a positive, fruitful direction, and reduce stress, anxiety or depression. This valuable effect of the arts is generally recognized.
“Art opens up more opportunities for people to interact and socialize…It can create a sense of community and strengthen social bonds.”Gunther Lill
In addition, there are also important social aspects. Art opens up more opportunities for people to interact and socialize. Art enables people to express emotions. It can create a sense of community and strengthen social bonds. Art can encourage and empower people to be more responsible. Especially [among] the elderly, participatory programs can alleviate loneliness and isolation. Art can help ill or old people to retain their curiosity, their personal independence, and ability to perform.
For me personally, art is an important [aspect of] health, a great creative expression, and a source of strength, endurance, and quality of life.
To find out more, visit Gunther Lill’s website.