The Diagnosis of Dr. Morse
2008, 136 x 145 cms
Probably the first reproduction of high art I ever saw was in a National Geographic at home. It was in a sequence of plates illustrating an article on the Italian Renaissance, and the particular image which entranced me was Andrea Mantegna's, Agony in the Garden', 1455. About ten years ago I recalled the power of that Mantegna. His petrified figures were one thing. But it was the rocks that had worked their way into me. Here I was in Alice Springs, a teeming population of ancient gneiss, quartz riddled, surrounding the town: little tongue-poking bundles of them stacked upon one another in most Mantegna-like configuration. So much for the rocky landscape. When it came to positioning Noelly Johnson, we opted for something more resembling El Greco's 1595, Agony .
I'd wanted, for years to say something about the state of Aboriginal health. I had friends in the Health industry, several of them doctors delivering services to indigenous clients. Some of them were perplexed by the seeming disregard their clients had for their well being, and or were regular attendees of their clinics. 'Pus and blood doctors', recounted one. 'That's all we are good for', he bemoaned, citing the lack of effective follow up, the linguistic shortcomings that hampered ministration, and the seemingly radically different premises as to what constituted well-being.
I've mentioned elsewhere the appearance of the town hospital as seemingly occupied solely by Aboriginals. And it occurred to me, more than once, that a Goya-type reportage from the front garden of the hospital would say as much. But it would not be subtle.