In our Idiosyncratic A to Z of the Human Condition exhibition we invited you to contribute to the gallery in different ways, from submitting Instagram photos to marking your height on the wall. For the letter “A” we asked you to tell us about your Acts of Faith which were subsequently illustrated and put on display. Robert Bidder, the illustrator, tells us the about the submissions and how he approached drawing them.
Henry Wellcome was interested in many approaches to healing, including scientific and faith-based healing techniques. One of the many groups of things he collected around faith were votive paintings (also known as retablos or ex-votos) from various Christian traditions around the world.
A votive painting is essentially one that gives thanks for a recovery from a near-fatal accident or illness. During an illness a person may pray to a Saint, Christ or God to help them get better and in return they will commission a votive painting. The paintings are then put in churches; sometimes a few of them end up in the collections of famous pharmaceutical magnates.
For the exhibition An Idosyncratic A-Z of the Human Condition, curator Daniel Olson wanted to gather some examples of our visitors’ near death experiences and asked me to paint some of their stories in a votive style.
I was astounded by how many responses we had and how different they were in tone. They ranged from very moving, confessional stories about a dark time in a person’s life, to hilarious slapstick calamities. There was a high number of road accidents, underwater-based accidents, accidents on mountains and quite a few cases of being attacked by animals and other humans.