The art of anaesthetics

SOME YEARS ago, the artist Karen Conway received a present of an anaesthetic textbook by Minnitt and Gillies from 1948, and she found in it a source of inspiration.

“I began to draw some of the images from it,” the artist says. “From an aesthetic point of view the machinery intrigued me – objects such as the Oxford Vaporizer, Schimmelbusch Mask and the Clover Inhaler.”

So began a process which has led to Conway’s new exhibition, An+Aisthésis, which is currently running in the University Hospital Galway as part of Galway International Arts Festival.

The idea that equipment and liquid compounds that are used to ‘knock out’ patients - the word anaesthesia originally meant ‘without feeling’ - seems odd for art which is meant to about producing and encouraging emotion. However for Conway, art and medicine are complimentary bedfellows.

“Art has always referenced medicine, it is not a new idea - there are many connections between art and medicine,” she said. “The dissections in the university of Padua in 1594 became the prototype for the school art liferoom. From the anatomical studies by JF Gautier d’Agoty and the engravings of Paolo Mascagni through to the more contemporary work of Annie Catrell, the links are constantly evolving.”

The exhibition runs until Sunday. See www.giaf.ie/events/karenconway

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