Lam Qua – Medical Paintings

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(Image taken from; http://kora.matrix.msu.edu/files/28/158/1C-9E-20-67-lamqua-a0a0e0-a.jpg)

Through my research I have discovered a series of paintings by the eastern artist Lam Qua (1801 – 1860), who was one of the first artists from the east to paint in a specifically western style. Although he was well known for his portraits, he was better known for his paintings of people afflicted with large tumours over their bodies. There is something very interesting about his choice to paint these subjects, it speaks volumes about the morbid curiosity we all share as humans. We stare into the face of danger, or the face of those afflicted with deformities, as a means of better understanding these issues, and how we are lucky not to be afflicted with them ourselves.

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(Image taken from; https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/70/0d/3d/700d3d464f19c7aaab74283bee5058f5.jpg)

There is a very distinctive way the tumours are painted, as they stretch the skin outwards and over their malformed shape. The skin is taught and shiny, reflecting the light off of it’s swollen and almost ‘bubbled’ form. The piece above shows a tumour that has an opening within the middle of it, the dark crevasse showcases the inside of the body, rupturing the divide between the inside of our bodies and the outside world. The issues of such an opening between these two spaces are immediate; disease, parasites and bacteria can reach inside the body more easily through this lesion, and therefore cause further decay of the body. This is possibly my favourite of his tumour paintings, the way the light reflects of the lumpy form surrounding the dark crack within the middle of the tumour, the aforementioned lesion, and how it’s dark black shade accurately describes the danger and disease inherent in such a deformity, and the sombre look on the subject’s face. Such a deformity would be an intense burden, affecting all aspects of life, and it would not go unnoticed; embarrassment and worry has shaped this figure’s life, but he looks onward and bears all, a testament to his bravery.

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(Image taken from; http://vintageprintable.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/Portrait-Medical-Pathology-Boy-with-large-growth-on-arm.jpg)

Here, another image of a male with a large deformity. There would be something incredibly strange about the development of a tumour; it does not appear overnight, but instead grows slowly over a long period of time. Much like the development of a child within a mother’s womb, the tumour would grow slowly over time, until it protrudes from the regular shape of the body, morphing the shape of the human body drastically. If there was a male that would gain a deformity like this, on the arm, then they would theoretically be unable to work, and unable to provide for themselves or their family. Their life would therefore be at stake. All because of a defect within the body, one that is nothing more than the body trying to protect itself from toxins within the body, and attempting to flush them out.

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(Image taken from; http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_542kQcEytQs/SLsoQjoBDcI/AAAAAAAAEjM/SjwU3RG-lNk/s320/pp007.jpg)

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(Image taken from; http://yalemedicine.yale.edu/publications/Images/pub298w417_58972capsule_tumor_lg.jpg)

Tumours come in all shapes and sizes, some are small, and some are large, some are smooth to the touch, whilst others are a mess of bulging, pulsating lumps. The first picture above showcases a darker tumour, and one that has afflicted the face of a woman. I really like the way colour scheme of this tumour, the browns working against the colour of the face to display it more prominently. Whether this is what was seen by the artist, or what was actually there, it does more to expose an already very obvious deformity upon the face of this woman. The second image may be my favourite of the images of the tumours, the way that the tumour has formed; a cacophony of shapes and shades of flesh discolouration. There is something very powerful about the way that tumours deform the body, if they break through in an area that has recognisable features; say, the face, of as depicted in this painting, the chest area, then the features become heavily distorted. This distortion of form is what really draws me to the imagery of the tumours, they are unrecognisable lumps of flesh and matter, much like concepts I have been exploring in the past (the birds I made recently being an experiment into the differing states of matter, as well as my dead stars). However, with the second painting, I can imagine the deformity is actually quite hard to the touch, almost like bone or some form of scab. Instead of the wet squishiness of flesh, it is hard, and dry, like the bark of a tree when it becomes damaged and begins to form scar tissue. This is an idea I may pursue, as I feel like drawing is aiding the development of my artistic skills, but I am more rooted in sculpture; an object that one can experience…some form of tumour? or some form of growth?

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