I was in many minds about this exhibition. An art exhibition about illness and death is always going to get you thinking about these topics. That’s the idea surely. The Year of Magical Wanking has left me thinking for years after seeing it. Selfish introspection bit warning: When you’ve been diagnosed with MS in about a half a second you think about your illness, death, impending death, helplessness and knowing what you always suspected deep inside you: that you will not live forever. So let’s go down to the ballgame (or art exhibition) and reexamine all of this. *And we breathe in as we start walking around.* I gather that those that are ill and are post-illness are going along to this too and maybe it’s cathartic for some of them.
The Damien Hirst stuff to me is boring, I like his sliced up animals in formaldehyde and some of his other works but he’s far too commercial and mill school for my liking these days. There are some in-jokes for his posters of medicines, for those that work in pharmaceuticals or the medical profession.
The two most powerful pieces to me are the paintings of Cecily Brennan and the photography of Jo Spence.
Cecily Brennan’s paintings here of the skin of children: psoriasis on a baby’s hands and chest, eczema etc. pains you that such fragile beings are hurting from this. It certainly makes you feel powerless and protective. Other paintings of post-op skin grafts and stapling are still quite impactful.
Jo Spence’s photographic self-portraits of herself and her breasts and the changes pre and post-operation while she deals with breast cancer get to you. Her looking out, cold clinical, factual, something unseen trying to change her life. Giving something a name gives you power over it and Jo writes “Property of Jo Spence” on her breast. Her pieces in this exhibition bring you from the start all the way through to the end of this. I’ll be going back again just to see her photographs.
There are works too from Martin Cree, Laura Potter, Mary Rose O’Neill, Paul Seawright and Thomas Struth. Local Cork artists The Project Twins also have a few more modern pieces that have a bit of fun with the ideas of pills and medicine. Worth seeing too.
When you compare the topics and content of an art exhibition or any kind of content to your own life, you’re knitting them around your own thoughts about your life This exhibition and Jo Spence for certain will be remembered by me for much longer perhaps more than some watercolours of fields in some art museums.
On the topic of touchy feely stuff, I’ll be on a men-only panel (How this Week in Politics!) at Banter about men and their feelings. I’ll be talking about “coming out” with my MS and the positive and negative results of putting it all out there. Living and Loss runs until March 10th 2013.