While most children were playing with spinning tops and action figures, Robyn Marshall was studying medical textbooks. She “fell in love with Davinci’s work early on”, and was inspired by him to pursue art. 

“He revolutionized medical illustrations,” says Marshall. “He broke the rules for the sake of his art and research, to help society’s doctors by providing them with detailed images of the human body so they could better understand it and practice medicine. I think it’s this same basic principal that drives my art; I want to make people better understand our insides, not just literally but also figuratively.”

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Although Marshall’s interest in anatomy started when she was young, it never faltered. She has been channeling it into her artwork for years by creating technical, large-scale drawings of bones. One piece is particularly striking; the underside of an enormous skull faces the audience with the foramen magnum centred like an enormous, black eye. The unusual angle paired with the realistic portrayal is slightly unsettling, but undoubtedly intriguing. Marshall confirms that her audience often reports feeling unnerved while studying her work. She explains, “I think it forces them to remember what’s underneath us all and it makes them uncomfortable, whether they acknowledge it or not.”

If Marshall’s work is an effort to make one question human mortality, it seems to be effective. Other pieces depict bare clavicles, femurs, mandibles, teeth, hearts and more. Seeing isolated parts of the body is certainly odd, especially when you realize that they’re inside of you.

Yet, the artist isn’t put off by making others squirm. In fact, she “likes getting down to what’s real with people.” 

“I’m not good at small talk or surface stuff. I like being honest and in-your-face,” she says. “And I’ve never been good at being subtle, hence the large 4 foot human skull drawing.”

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In the future, her works are only going to get bigger. On top of being a committed mother, Marshall plans to continue developing her craft. Her last collection, which was “a series of large scale medical illustrations all in graphite powder”, took eighteen months to complete. This time around, she wants to make them on a grander scale. The anatomical theme, however, will remain.

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Robyn is showing at ROAM Gallery in City Square Shopping Centre until Tuesday, January 19th. Visit the gallery until 5:00PM to see some of her work or contact Jennifer Daerendinger at jen@roamgallery.com (604-970-4785) for more information.