X-ray Art

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.

8 Responses to “X-ray Art”

  1. burgessart October 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Hi Tony…….your work is both facinating and full of creative potential. Xrays give such unique insights into previously unkown areas of human knowledge and understanding and it is wonderful seeing you turn it into an artform. I was always amazed by Man Ray’s work which explored many areas of photography including xrays.
    Had they been around in Da Vinci’s time I’m sure he would have been involved.
    Best wishes, Robert

    • Xraypics October 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      Thankyou Robert, I really appreciate your comment. And… thankyou for the lead on Ray Man who I will explore. I often wonder what would have been produced had the old artists had access to the electronic media of today. See David Hockney and they way he has embraced the I-pad? Amazing! Cheers, Tony

      • Kaleigh May 17, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

        I am often blogging and i really appreciate your content. The article has really peaked my interest. I am going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new inonmratiof.

  2. burgessart October 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    Man Ray has much to offer. David Hockney is one of my favorite artists Tony………..his art is rich and multi-dimentional. Always ready to embrace new ideas and technologies and examine old ones.
    Best again, Robert

    • Xraypics October 7, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

      Many thanks! I’ve been exploring Man Ray – an interesting artist in many ways. He does these strange “Rayograms” which are very beautiful in a surrealistic sense. Not produced by X-rays but fascinating nevertheless. Incidentally I turned up another artist I’d not come across before and inserted him into my “History”. I have been watching Hockney for years, was interested to hear he returned to Britain where his art took a completely new turn. Cheers, Tony

      • burgessart October 8, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

        Tony dig deeper on Man Ray…saw big shows of his many and varied works in Paris and New York…….do think you will find some connection with Man Ray and Xray

  3. Leanne December 16, 2015 at 3:03 am #

    Dear Tony, I was stress about work today. Looking at you art pieces has been therapeutic in realigning my values: patients before politics. The wobbles of our little humans plans pales into significance when compared to the destruction of our human bodies by diseases.

    • Xraypics December 16, 2015 at 8:25 am #

      Thankyou Leanne – that is exactly what my art is all about. So glad you enjoyed looking at the pieces.

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