Thanks to your donations on my  Just Giving page I am now traveling to Three different cities to work with women who have responded to my call for those who have experienced or are experiencing breast cancer to talk with me. The project is part of the development of the Drawing Women’s Cancer project

There are 23 days left to donate. Your generosity enables me to push Drawing Women’s cancer forward. Thank you!

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In support of the development of my Drawing Women’s Cancer project toward working with women who have gone or are going through the experience of breast cancer I have taken what is for me an unprecendented and indeed quite scary step! I have created a Just Giving page which can be found here.

https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/drawingwomenscancer

You can find more details if you click on the link, and on the DWC website, but a snippet from the Just Giving page may help…

for the majority of the work I have been self-funded, and the work has taken place within the Wales area. Now I would like to expand the project to include breast cancer and take the work beyond Wales. I am totally committed to the Drawing Women’s Cancer project and from the responses and feedback I have received since the very beginning I am convinced of the necessity to continue developing the work.

Already though after only a few hours I have received some donations so I am humbly appreciative of the support out there for my work.

I am in Glasgow once again. I am working on a book that I am writing in collaboration with one of the strongest women I have ever met. She is one of the women I worked with during the early days of Drawing Women’s Cancer and I will post more about our project together on that project site as we progress.

In the meantime, while in Glasgow, my sense of family becomes very real and almost tangible to me. It is a place we call home, me, my man, and our two children – now grown into beautiful and inspiring adults. Glasgow is a city that we call home,  not through heritage but by adoption, and I still can see and feel my children with me as I walk familiar pavements. My daughter now dives in crystal waters where there is still space for her to to find what she has long been looking for. It could be on one side of the world or the other but for now she favours the  sun in Latin America, while in the ‘mutual’ middle of our worlds, in Glasgow, I can spend a little time with her brother, my son, Finn Le Marinel, still here in the rain. He is a fine musician. He peers, as I do, deep into the soul, but what he sees is expressed through what others must hear, rather than see. Nevertheless he borrows my work for the covers of his albums, but I suspect that he would not wish to use the image here. It is an older piece made around 2103, maybe 2012; memory is defeated by the unimportant. What is important is that it is a piece which, in Finn’s absence, I ‘borrowed’ from him…and altered. I may have shown it before here – it was certainly shown in Illness begins with ‘I’ – but today it takes on new significance.

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Contrasts is the title of this post and there are contrasts indeed in the work I am engaged in at the moment! I am busy with different aspects of five separate projects and I am feeling very positive about how things are going with all of them. A huge amount of my time recently has been taken up with completing the second body of work for the  Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula exhibition in New York, but it is all now complete and arrangements for the show are in full swing. Just click on the  website for more details.

I am looking forward very much of course to the NY show, and also to hopefully raising some money to fund further work on the Obstetric Fistula project. I have two other exhibitions however to work towards this year and the image here  is a ‘teaser’ for one that will be launched in September in Cardiff. It will be a show in collaboration with a very gifted fine art photographer, Luis Fernando Noriega, who lives and works in Antigua, Guatemala. My oil paintings and drawings of the Mayan inhabitants of the city that I made during and after my visit there late last year, will respond to and reflect on Luis’s powerfully emotive photographs of the crumbling architecture.  https://www.facebook.com/LuisFernandoNoriegaPhotography

Entitled CONTRASTS: two interpretations of Antigua, Guatemala, the intention behind the exhibition is to present both Luis’s local view and that of a visitor to Antigua, which together, simultaneously explore several forms of parallel interrelation: that between art and photography, that between the human inhabitants of the Antigua and its historical, cultural and architectural heritage, and, perhaps most importantly, that which defines  the cultural disparity between Mayan tradition and contemporary society.  In addition to the conventional exhibition launch event we are planning to organise an evening talk where the audience can engage with the issues that the show will raise, but more details on that nearer the time.

 

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It has been a difficult few months. Illness and surgery have taken their toll and colours have darkened around me. Things are moving on however both in health and in practice and portraiture has been a significant part of the latter recently (see previous post). This self portrait has been through many incarnations over the months, dependent on – and at the same time being precipitative of – my state of mind. This latest version suffers in itself for the constant reworking and hides much beneath the thickness on the paint… pentimento – ghosts of myself lie uneasy underneath what I think is a finished state but, reflecting life – and death, I may yet rework the painting until it is finished only through its destruction.

 

My new project focusing on art and oncology has begun. You can find details here: https://doctorpatientdoctor.wordpress.com/

As always your comments and feedback on the work is much appreciated.

Here is a talk that I gave today, my penultimate day, in Dundee. I am looking forward to developing the work I did here back in the studio, and also to returning to CAHID next year hopefully to pick up where I left off!

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die.

John Donne 1633 (2 years posthumously), Holy Sonnet 10: Death, be not proud

I wanted to begin this talk with Donne’s Holy Sonnet number 10 as I feel it speaks to everything that I have been doing here over the past two weeks. This is my second visit to CAHID and once again the openness and the warmth with which you all have welcomed me into your world has made my time here very special. Besides the chance to be back in Scotland – a country that nutures my soul! – the opportunity to work within all the facilities of CAHID has been a gift of immeasurable value, so thank you; and thank you too for coming today.

So last week some of you heard more of an introduction to my work in general so today I want to briefly focus on the specific work I have been doing here which has primarily been about making a series of drawings and written notes that reflect on the nature of my emotional response to the cadavers I’ve been working with in the dissection room and in the mortuary, especially in consideration of their ‘personhood’ in relation to my own. I’ve put some of the drawings I have made up onto this powerpoint and the originals are all here should you wish to look at them.

My time here therefore has been full of reflection, a creative and productive time during which I have been able to step away, both metaphorically and literally, from life and indulge my profound fascination with the contexts in which we understand death. Donne is complex in his allusions and as in all art forms a lot must depend on how each of us as individuals interpret his words, but for me, the gist of what he is saying is that although physical death may constitute an end, the nature of death itself is not so consummate. As Dylan Thomas, after Paul in the Romans said, ‘And death shall have no dominion’.

I am not religious, and though I like to use words I cannot consider myself much of a poet. I do however have unlimited respect for both. I talk sometimes about the soul but I refer I think more to a sense of ‘being’, an idea of personhood that is indeed drawn from all of my training and philosophical inclination, but most importantly I think from my simply being a human being. It is ‘being’ so that drives me.

As an artist I do not seek perfection with all the vanity that brings with it but I am drawn rather to the integrity of the imperfect, the anomaly, the marginalised, the disassociated and the disregarded. But I have travelled many and often interestingly diverse roads to get here. For my formative Fine Art training I purposefully chose a classical approach to anatomical drawing, and with my fellow students in the ateliers of the New York Academy I struggled with everything I thought I knew in order to render the skeleton and musculature of the objectified human form to perfection. We defined the look in the eye, the ‘humanity’ of the living, breathing model in almost as cold and detached a manner as we drew from the plaster casts that stared, equally cold and unblinking, from perfectly carved corneas, and I learned how to deliberately set aside all sentiment and all my philosophy in the belief that in order to eventually render true subjectivity, the true ‘content’ of the subject with all its imperfections and uncertainties, I needed to understand the object, the ‘form’, in its perfect state.

Nature gave way then, albeit temporarily to artifice, but it was through this betrayal of everything I have come to hold dear that I came then to understand the simple honesty that underlies a true relation between objectivity and subjectivity. I was struggling to achieve the perfection of form and content only so that I would be able to manipulate it and seek the essence of human subjectivity in terms of its discontent; that is, suffering in all its paradigms. Perfection has no real value then, even if it were a possibility rather than just an ideal. Perfection leaves no room for manoeuver, no room for the inevitable errors that must be an innate aspect of individuality and, as such, you could say that perfection leaves no room beyond itself for anything else but levels of suffering. Thus in the work I do now, almost exclusively within the world of medicine where life and death are dealt with on a daily basis, and I look for meaning in the ways that levels of suffering are both borne and are responded to.

While working here this past two weeks I have been able to continue my education in human anatomy first hand, and indeed find some answers, but, perhaps more importantly, I have also had the opportunity to indulge in my favourite combination of creative exploration and philosophical enquiry. Always for me, however many answers I stumble upon, there are always more questions. Questioning is at the very heart of what I do.

I questioned how I would respond to watching an embalming, or yet a brain removal. I was fascinated to discover that I was fascinated! During the embalming process my painters brain went into overdrive…the sheer beauty of the colours I saw changing over the form as it swelled with the intake of fluid was almost overwhelming. I made a couple of quick sketches but in some cases it is better just to experience the moment and commit the imagery to burning memory. The seeming violence of the act of introducing the tubes into the sagittal vein and into the femoral artery was lessened somehow by the respect and the professionalism with which Sam and Clare, the technicians, performed it. Even during such invasion, the stripped, shaven and lifeless body retained the dignity of the person who had lived it and left it only a few hours before. Watching the slow, sometimes gentle, sometimes more effusive purging of original bodily fluid from the lips, from the eyes and from the cut deftly made in the cranium made me consider and question my understanding of the nature of being even more profoundly.

In conclusion I would like to share some brief thoughts that I felt worth recording during my time drawing here. They are thoughts and reflections that give voice to my emotional responses to what I was seeing and hearing and experiencing.

Good morning

How shall I call you?

Shall I call you sir?

Are you afraid of what I will do?

I wield only a pencil

No blades, no sharps

Yet I can damage you

I can erase you as you have late been erased

And…

You are the special one

You are bagged and saved only for research

Only practiced hands probe

The depths of you

But what now

Subject to an artist’s gaze

Did you suffer ?

 And…

The silence is heavy on me

Not the silence of death

No, that silence has already passed into what was

This is the silence of no life

And finally…

I see in him my father’s death

In the sparseness of his limb

In the stillness of his spirit

In the slackness of his jaw

And in the deep quietude that befell him

I didn’t see my father die

I was not there as the cancer raged through him

But here, now, I see in him my father’s death

And all is well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am in Dundee! As a visiting artist for two weeks at CAHID, the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at Dundee University I am indulging my fascination for all things anatomical. I am here primarily to give a presentation and run a drawing workshop for the MA Medical Art and Forensic Art students, and this year we will be joined by members of IMI the Institute of Medical Illustators, but I will also be spending time making my own drawings in the Theil Cadaver Facility. Dundee is the only facility in the UK where cadavers are embalmed in this way and therefore I am very happy to have this unique opportunity. In the words of the CAHID website:

Sadly, although very understandably, Scottish law forbids me to publish here any of my drawings that have been done directly from donated bodies so I cannot post any images just yet. Instead I am posting a drawing that I made some time ago as part of a project I was working on at the University of Texas Medical Branch anatomy department in Galveston. The image is of an ‘exploded skull’ which was a very old specimen and created in an extraordinary way using dry beans which where packed into the skull and then the whole thing soaked. As the beans took up the water and swelled to double their size the 22 separate bones of the skull were forced to disarticulate. The concept of the exploded skull was given us by Leonardo da Vinci in his anatomical drawings but its usefulness  was maximised in the mid-1800s French anatomist Claude Beauchene. Beauchene developed a method of mounting the separate bones on a stand designed to exhibit them at once individually and in context.

 

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exploded skull drawing made in UTMB Galveston Anatomy Department

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an original Beauchene skull

The drawings I am making here in Dundee are of a similar nature to those I worked on in Galveston and I will be using them back in the studio in Cardiff, along with the work I was doing in the Hunterian museum at Glasgow University early last year (see previous posts) to develop work for a future exhibition entitled ‘The Quick, the Dead and the Anatomised’.

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Time:

Its been a while. In between then and now I have traveled back to Tanzania for the Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula project and also to Antigua, Guatemala. Tanzania was as moving as the previous trip – if not more – and very productive. More details about it I will not go into here as it is all on the dedicated site (just click on the link). The three weeks I spent at the end of last year in Antigua were not so much about work, they were more about recuperation (see below). It was equally moving however and I became fascinated by the bloody history of the Mayan culture, the intensity and pain of which is still very present in contemporary society. I am hoping in the near future to put up a couple of the sketches and notes I made there.

So,  I am beginning 2016 having crossed Sontag’s boundary between the King of the Well and the Kingdom of the Sick. I traveled into the domain wherein I have been only a detached visitor since I began working as an artist in medicine some years ago. I experienced first hand the sense of disorientation and of the abject. I have however returned  the much relieved possessor of only half a thyroid having had the other half removed along with the tumour that had grown on it. Suspected malignancy was thankfully ruled out and I am left now with a scar that is slowly healing, an oft-croaky voice but besides that more healthy than I have been for a long time! The experienced has left me even more determined to continue the work I am doing…I have only scratched the surface of what I believe I can do…I just need to continue.

Portraiture:

My work has taken a definite turn towards portraiture, which I like to understand more as a conceptual framework for my work rather than a dictate of genre. Africa has generated much work,  which will be exhibited in New York in May this year (details to follow), and I have just launched a new project working back in the field of cancer here in Wales: doctor : patient : doctor Both these projects involve portraiture and for the latter I have been working on some paintings of people close to me as practice. This post carries an example. ‘The builder’ is executed in oil on canvas and is around life size.

 

Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula

Here are a few pictures from the Cardiff launch of the Drawing Out Obstetric Fistula project. It was a lovely night both inside and outside the venue with the evening sunshine bringing in a good crowd! Thanks to everyone who came and supported us and thanks also to those who have already purchased some of the works. All are on sale and proceeds will go towards continuing to develop the project.

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