Structural Symmetries

Artist Name(s) Chris Wilson
Artwork title Structural Symmetries
Context/Background A commemorative engaging permanent artwork for the concourse of St James’s Hospital to mark the discovery of the BRCA 2 gene. The artwork commemorates the work of an Irish genetic specialist, a Dublin family and the team in the UK that discovered BRCA 2. The artwork was privately funded by a donor.

Structural Symmetries is a permanent visual artwork by artist Chris Wilson. The Trinity St. James’s Cancer Institute sought funding and space for this artwork to commemorate the Irish involvement in discovering the BRCA 2 gene. The launch of the artwork marks the twenty-fifth year of the discovery of the life-saving gene.

A Dublin-based family were central to this discovery and were involved in the process and development of the artwork.The artwork is embedded with layers of information from genetic sequencing to the double helix DNA strands and the formation of BRCA 2 gene yet it is a very joyful and accessible piece. It is lit from the inside so has a great presence in the hospital in the evening time also.

Structural Symmetries curator, Rina Whyte, reflected on the development of the artwork:

‘This project was such a privilege to be a part of; right from the outset and the first meeting with the St. James’s team I could see the layers of complexity but also interest that were available to the artist and also the various ‘publics’ that the artwork would reach. This artwork needed to resonate with a general public, the consultants, scientists, geneticists, cancer patients, staff and visitors to the hospital. It needed to have many layers of interest and understanding whilst also celebrating a huge achievement in genetics.

The artist’s brief we created was for a permanent artwork that would commemorate the discovery of the BRCA2 gene with input from the Dublin family that were central to this discovery. This family had been patients of Professor Peter Daly of St. James’s Hospital which led to their collaboration with Prof Stratton in the UK. They were the key that opened the door to the discovery of the BRCA2 gene. In the wider context of the artwork, it was crucial to have their involvement in the process of creating the piece.

Chris Wilson, the artist, worked closely with myself but also with the genetics team and a member of the family in the development of the work. St. James’s were firmly on board for the creative journey and many meetings were had in the development of the work. Chris took on board every small but important detail both at the start of the project but also as the project developed. This artwork was given breath to grow through the process and this is testimony to its success in St. James’s Hospital.’

Professor Sir Michael Stratton launched the Structural Symmetries artwork at St. James’s Hospital and remarked that the discovery of BRCA2 ‘has helped to prevent cancer deaths worldwide and has changed the lives of many for the better.’

Commission Type Private Commission
Commissioner Name St. James’s Hospital, Dublin
Commissioning process Two-stage open competition.
Public Presentation dates November 7, 2019 - January 1, 1970
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts and health
Funded By Private
Budget Range 35000 - 70000 euro
Project commission end date 01/11/2019
Location St. James’s Hospital Concourse
County Dublin
Town Dublin
Street Address James's Street, Dublin 8.
Content contributor(s) Rina Whyte
Relationship to project Curator and project manager.
Public engagement

The engagement process involved the family that were central to the project and discovery of the BRCA 2 Gene.

Associated professionals / Specialists involved
  • Curator: Rina Whyte
  • Architect: Eoin Condron
  • Facilities: Donal McKiernan
  • Genetic Specialist: Professor Peter Daly
  • Genetic Researcher: Professor Ross McManus
  • Coordinator: Hilary Craig.



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