Sep 1 2011: Abstractions from the Body: Colour Plates from The Pathology of Internal Diseases by William Boyd (Kimpton, London, 1941)

Taken from William Boyd’s medical textbook The Pathology of Internal Diseases (1941) these colour plates show a variety of symptoms and patterns in a sequence of hand painted illustrations of use to practitioners and trainees in identifying particular malfunctions of the body, or establishing causes of death. Yet for all the potential morbidity of the subject matter, there’s little denying that these are also powerfully effective abstractions in their own right, hinting at aesthetic connections to such mid-century American and European painters as Pollock, Hundertwasser and Wols, or pointing back to decorative marbled papers, the patterned borders of medieval manuscripts and the precisely tangled labyrinths of Viking and Celtic art – perhaps there’s something of the patterning to be found in Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s work, too. The subjects of these images are sources of rational fear, depictions of illness manifested at a cellular level, but their effect is strangely joyous, vital – tingling with a perverse sense of visual life.


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