Monday, 3 September 2012

Healing and Curing


Exhibition of artwork for 'Healing and Curing: Medieval to Modern', University of Glasgow,
27th - 28th August 2012
From physicians, surgeons and hospitals to shrines, pilgrimages and processions, this conference explored the varied ways in which people sought methods of healing and curing from the medieval period, circa 500, to the nineteenth century and the advent of ‘modern medicine’. By investigating continuities and disparities across a broad time period in a comparative European context, the event entertained an interdisciplinary approach to examine this important and exciting theme.














Abortion
2012
Pencil on paper

Many contraceptive techniques proved of little value, and the next step was to induce abortion. Rhazes suggests various physical methods including the insertion into the vagina of a tube of paper or soft wood. This method remained a favourite, though highly dangerous device, until the twentieth century and up to World War Two and even later chemist were often asked to supply longs strips of quassia bark for this purpose. Knitting needles were also extensively used by amateur abortionists, though the risks of perforation of the uterus and resultant septicaemia were great.



Fertility
2012
Pencil on paper

Superstitions to ensure fertility are not only linked with plants. In many parts of Eastern Europe, a woman who fails to conceive within a responsible time after marriage is beaten with a stick that has been used to separate copulating dogs. By this means the fertility of the animal is transferred to the human.






Mandrake for insomnia
2012
Pencil on paper

A plant long held to have magical and aphrodisiacal powers is the mandrake, whose divided root bears some resemblance to a human form. It is said to stimulate sexual activity and promote fertility. The mandrake has the distinction of having its powers mentioned in the Bible (Genesis: 30, 14-17), when the childless Rachel begs Leah to give her some of the plant. Rachel’s later delivery of a son, Joseph, is attributed to God rather than to the root, but the story does show the great antiquity of the mandrake legend. The most spectacular attribute of the plant, however, was its capacity to utter a piercing shriek when it is removed from the ground. Better authenticated was its use in syrup as a cure for insomnia and as a general anaesthetic, and at least in one modern manufacturer uses the active ingredient of mandrake as the basis of sleeping-tablets.

All artwork excerpts from ‘Magic, Myth and Medicine’ by John Camp (1973)





Healing and Curing (after XXXVI from Osteographia by William Cheselden , 1688–1752)

Conference image for Healing and Curing: Medieval to Modern, University of Glasgow
2012
Pencil on paper








 Artwork printed on canvas bags and mugs 


The conference proved an enlightening experience in its varying approaches to modern and medieval medicine; one of those events that leaves your brain saturated in new knowledge! My drawings were appreciated by all delegates (and beyond). And my sincere thanks go to Marie-Louise Leonard and Sarah Erskine for their initial enthusiasm towards my proposal of exhibiting artworks, which in turn, lead to their commission for Healing and Curing (after XXXVI from Osteographia by William Cheselden , 1688–1752). To my delight, all were greeted with conference information in canvas bags printed with this my image and novelty mugs displaying the 'contemporised' praying skeleton!