My Art and my statement
I have looked at, minutely examined, and diagnosed X-rays almost my whole professional life, I have also been drawn to them in an artistic sort of way – perhaps that’s why I took up the specialty of radiology in the first place. I have a pictorial memory and can remember almost every picture I have seen in an art gallery through the years – and that’s a lot. I can go into a gallery and tell you if a picture is missing or if it has been moved – even 20 years later!
So it seemed logical to try and incorporate X-rays into my own art work.
Like a post traumatic stress disorder, the terrible situations doctors, nurses, paramedics, are exposed to eventually inevitably impact on them. This situation impacts on their personal lives to a greater or lesser extent. It is important that medical people learn to stand back from their cases – to distance themselves from their patients and the conditions with which they present.
My work with X-rays, the medical conditions portrayed and my art, provides a breathing space in which to counteract the long slow process of injury to my psyche engendered by conditions encountered, and patients diagnosed and treated over nearly 40 years as a radiologist.
This activity takes reality of the X-ray image and places it within an abstraction. It is a scaffold, a construction within which imagination can take flight, where realities may both be confronted and dealt with, distresses neutralised. Art therefore becomes a personal therapy.
Ultimately however art is not only a personal experience but also a universal one, it allows feelings to be shared. The challenge for me is to make this experience both personal and collective, it should capture an emotion shared, express a multitude of human sorrows and inspire simple joy.
There is not a lot of poetry about Radiology, however I have found one poem that is very relevant. It is published in the Journal of the RSNA and can be found with a discussion at http://pubs.rsna.org/doi/full/10.1148/radiol.2402051339
This article explores a poem about radiology written by a man with a deep understanding of the chest radiograph: the Welsh poet and physician Dannie Abse.
The poem is entitled, simply, “X-ray”
Some prowl sea-beds, some hurtle to a star
And mother, some obsessed turn over every stone
Or open graves to let that starlight in.
There are men who would open anything.
Harvey, the circulation of the blood,
And Freud, the circulation of our dreams,
Preied honourably and honoured are
Like all explorers. Men who’d open men.
And those others, mother, with diseases
Like great streets named after them: Addison,
Parkinson, Hodgkin—physicians who’d arrive
Fast and first on any sour deathbed scene.
I am their slowcoach colleague—half afraid,
Incurious. As a boy it was so: you know how
My small hand never teased to pieces
An alarm clock or flensed a perished mouse.
And this larger hand’s the same. It stretches now
Out from a white sleeve to hold up, mother,
Your X-ray to the glowing screen. My eyes look
but don’t want to, I still don’t want to know.