Susan Aldworth's compact exhibition can be found displayed in an ante-room to the Science, Technology and Business room at the National Portrait Gallery. The siting is very apt as Aldworth's work explores the idea of the portrait through medical precepts. The exhibition consists of three portraits that are part of a commission for Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital, supported by the Epilepsy Society. The portrait sitters are all epilepsy patients, and their portraits include images taken from brain scans combined with photographic aspects of them as individuals – the artist has then used a printing process to seal all the images together.

They are large, life-size images, but that does not take away from their inherent intimacy. Certainly, allowing an artist into the arena of a private condition one lives with is a brave step on behalf of the sitters which has been treated with sensitivity by the artist.

Max is the first portrait encountered: as with the others, the image has been created from nine separate parts as the printing press limited the overall size. This polypytch effect inevitably evokes a notion of religious imagery, especially as Max's hands are shown folded over and his feet bare at the base of the image. However, that idea is also subverted as the viewer gains a sense of the individual dissected, laid out in parts – Max's head in the centre, surrounded by electrical charges and watched over by his disembodied eyes. 

The portrait of Elizabeth once again references the whole body: a photograph of the lower part of Elizabeth's face sits under an image of a skeletal rib cage in the central part which joins to the surrounding images of body parts, hands, feet, eyes, through electrical charges. The artist's use of monochrome adds to the sense of medical intervention: it really works to portray the invasiveness that epilepsy patients must live with as they are investigated through mechanical medical techniques.

I wanted to review this exhibition as I was interested to see how a portrait could be anatomised – what was the artist trying to engage with here? The results are really interesting on many levels: portraiture itself, investigating that forever elusive idea of how to portray the true self and whether the form ever really gives us that or simply an interpretation. Susan Aldworth seems to plunge much further, taking the viewer into the intimate makings of the individual dissected, reassembled, and seen through electrical charges, but brought back within recognisable signs that evoke the sufferings of these particular sitters.

This is an excellent addition to the Science, Technology and Business room. In this main room, individuals who have made contributions to these areas are recognised and depicted within their own characteristics; in the ante-room, Aldworth examines how the artist can go further through incorporating medical techniques to really dissect the portrait, bravely revealing deeper intimacies with sensitivity.

Susan Aldworth: The Portrait Anatomised, at National Portrait GalleryRita Fennell's review of Susan Aldworth: The Portrait Anatomised at the National Portrait Gallery.4