Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Handsome Young Doctor

Thanks to Anenta for bringing this exhibition to my attention, it looks well worth a visit.

6 July – 26 August Exhibition – Rannvá Kunoy

Works by Faroese artist Rannvá Kunoy are on show for the first time in London. They form part of a group exhibition titled “Handsome Young Doctor – A show about Trust” and curated by Tom Morton. Rather than focusing on pills, scalpels and other objects from the universe of the doctor, the exhibition questions the idea of ‘Trust’ as a general concept. The London bases artist’s paintings draw on the tradition from high modernism and sci-fi illustration and depict ephemeral figures in a state of coming into being. The fragile state of these figures may question the overall idea about being confident and having faith in the uncertainty of life.

The exhibition is supported by the Representation of the Faroes in London, Arts Council England and Institut Francais. Wednesday-Sunday 12-6 pm

CUBITT Gallery & Studios 8 Angel Mews London N1 9HH Tel. 020 7278 8226 info@cubittartists.org.uk

Monday, July 23, 2007

Changing the Subject

I recently came across the work of poet Carole Satyamurti. This London-based writer does not shy away from difficult subjects. The seriousness of cancer is dealt with with a mixture of wit and courage in Changing the Subject. This collection of her work was published in 1990 and the title refers to a sequence of fourteen poems about a woman cancer patient's experience of discovery, diagnosis and treatment. In Out-Patients, she tells us, the doctor "reads my breasts like Braille, finding the lump I knew was there." And Diagnosis is sensitively handled, "He said/ cancer with a small c/ - the stuff of routine -/ yet his manner showed/ he knew it couldn't be ordinary for me." Satyamurti is a new discovery for me and I look forward to exploring her work further. You can find out more about her and her work here.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Poetic Medication

The nature of this bunch of people I am associated with has painted a grainy picture in society's mind. For they have labelled us nerds, adroit androids and cookie-cutter bookworms; we apparently define our existence by the number of pages of a medical text that we have read (and/or memorised) and of how many accomplishments we have achieved (and how much money we have earned) as we fast-track our journey to Consultancy from that first step into our careers.

Why is it so difficult to equate medical students with the Arts; the anti-Science? Perhaps culture, lack of creativity and the pressures of performing (amongst others) has led many of us to not pursue this as a hobby, but to handle it as an obstacle to what little time we have left for studying. Here in Australia it seems a little more natural to pick up a footy ball and have a match between mates, rather than conjuring paintbrush strokes or rhyming words to ease the stresses of medical school. Lately, blogging has become a formidable phenomenon, engulfing the interest of all genres - medical students included, posing as a platform for a sudden spillage of life stories that allow the common people glimpses into someone else's day-to-day activities. Perhaps this could be the gentle ripple that may someday overtake the stereotypical beliefs that most medical students are devoid of inbuilt empathy, dependent on rehashed formulas that worked well for an OSCE ethics station.

Alfian Sa'at has defied convention, stringent Asian conventions to be exact, in a different way. He has embarked on a career as a successful playwright in his home country Singapore. Storing his stethoscope away for good, he decided to leave the art of medicine to peruse the art of life. His plays have been staged to critical acclaim in countries as far displaced as Sweden. Despite his insistence that his life will not revolve around ward rounds and patient care, little semblances of his experiences as a medical student has somewhat shaped his identity as an artist, evidencing the simple fact that while one can leave Medicine, Medicine will not leave him.

Here is a poem he wrote in medical school. Extracted from his anthology A History of Amnesia, which was published when he was a fourth-year, it describes his feelings in an anatomy class. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Dissection Class by Alfian Sa'at

Peel the drenched cotton
From his stony face. Some
Wisps will stick to his
Stubble, like love-grass
There is nothing to fear.
Death is its own death mask.

Next, we move the scalpel
Across the chest, gradually
Down the arms, like a zipper.
This, to your untrained eye,
Can be considered beautiful,
Even if it is only skin deep.

Expose the path of the tendons.
Observe the nerves' many detours.
The arm is like yours, these fingers.
Consider this a new instrument:
A microscope working through mirrors.

The muscles ooze sighs under your touch.
The sliced arteries uncover blood clots
Like broken wax crayons.
And bone is bone: the final resistance
Knocking against blade or teeth.

Marvel at the lungs, pyramids of air.
Weigh the liver like a moonrock in your hands.
The hollowed ribcage in a swamp of formalin.
Yes, to hold an organ up like a trophy
Makes this less desecration, more archaeology.

But this is no fossil. No history, only
Biography. Yet even palmistry fails us now;
There is nothing written on
The papyrus of this skin. No echoes
Of past lives, or a sense of deja vu:

Memory entering the head like a knife.
A girl's hands slicing the heart in two.