Wounded Healer

A one-year residency at the Royal Sussex Hospital funded by The Leverhulme Trust

“A sledgehammer to crack a nut. It’s all about killing as many cells as you possibly can in a very non specific way.”

As the residency began, I realised I was increasingly exploring a paradox: the image of science as the realm of absolute and uncontroversial knowledge and its reality full of incertitude, even with the development of modern imagery. Could this brain tumour be a stroke, could this image of a cancer affecting the spinal cord actually be caused by an infection?

The visual impact was at times gruesome, the clinics were emotionally overwhelming on a regular basis; death and deformity became my nightmarish companions. Sometimes the image of the super hero would come to mind; a superman that would never wear the flashy outfit and soar to the sky among the gasps of admiration of a crowd of admirers but rather an anonymous hero… one who contemplates his possible ambiguity with the power he wields or the power invested in him by patients.

Surprisingly language took precedence; doctors’ quotations which emerged from increasingly unguarded interviews created a tension with the abstract emotions on the canvas. The digital drawings sprung to life. The idea of an installation evoking the alliance of science with the complexity of human nature and the spiritual side of healing emerged as a way to encompass the whole residency.

Patrick Altes