The Saving Faces Art project was established in 1999 by Professor Iain Hutchison, with funding from a small legacy from his late mother, Dr. Martha Redlich. Professor Hutchison is a consultant in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) at St. Bartholemew's and the Royal London Hospital. He is also Director of The Facial Surgery Research Foundation. Mark Gilbert was invited by the Saving Faces project as an artist-in-residence within Hutchison's surgical department.
Professor Hutchison wanted the project to illustrate the possibilities of modern facial surgery and to show that people with facial disability are able to enjoy happy, successful and fulfilled lives. He also believed that sitting for and seeing their portraits might have a cathartic effect on the patients, allowing them to come to terms more rapidly to their altered appearance.
Mark Gilbert took up the challenge of painting his patients before and after (and occasionally during) surgery. He observed the surgeries first hand, learning how the patients' faces changed during surgery. The relationships that formed between Mark and the subjects greatly informed the paintings. Mark hoped to succeed in conveying the intensity and power of the face damaged by trauma, or unveiled during the surgical process. He sought to capture the changing emotions and character of the patients as they experienced one of their most traumatic events in life.
The resultant exhibition completed a national tour of the UK, culminating at the National Portrait Gallery, London It also toured venues in Europe and North America. The paintings remain together as a collection and are not for sale. The collection is, however, available for exhibition and as a research resource. Inquiries can be directed to the official Saving Faces website.
All aspects of the study were approved by the Ethics Committee of the Royal London Hospital. All subjects have given their informed consent for the study and the subsequent exhibition of artwork.