I recently travelled to Brighton to see this exhibition, a collaborative project led by Sussex NHS Community Trust http://onca.org.uk/currentexhibition/

A Cancer Landscape presents works by the artist Michele Angelo Petrone, who died as a result of Hodgkin’s disease in 2007, as well as those by others personally affected by cancer that had been created during a series of workshops at ONCA in 2014. Images from the Wellcome Medical Photographic Library are also on display.

Petrone’s paintings are “images of the emotions and feelings experienced during the cancer journey”. The companion book, The Emotional Cancer Journey, includes the images on display as well as accompanying reflections and quotes from the artist. Petrone’s lymphoma diagnosis was made in 1994. Many years of intensive treatment and relapses ensued until his death 13 years later. The book, completed in 2003 when a relapse had just been confirmed, is an expression of Petrone’s experience of living with cancer:

“I have to tell you all about my journey of illness.”

“Illness and death may be familiar to you, But what is it really like when its your own illness? What is it really like when your life feels as if it’s being taken from you?”

The journey to where?

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“I don’t know where my life will take me”

Two intersecting elements dominate Petrone’s journey: the medical component and Petrone’s emotional response to his illness. His distinctive art movingly encapsulates this intertwining, for example the piece titled The pain of it all, which does indeed visually say it all:

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Sorrow, loss, love, life’s fragility are amongst the themes covered by Petrone. The alienation that accompanies serious illness, when those affected are isolated from diagnosis in the kingdom of the ill, is dealt with in Life goes on:

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“Having treatment, my life is fossilised. Everyone else’s life progresses, goes forward. I just watch as life goes on for everybody except me.”

The other works on display, also inspired by the experience of cancer, are equally moving and haunting.

Much lingers to consider and to reflect on in the aftermath of visiting this exhibition.

CQ

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