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Can looking at art make for better doctors?

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(Article published on The Conversation)

In 1984, artist Jon Cattapan’s sister Adriana died in a car accident. His painting, titled Sister, and some accompanying drawings, were a response to this tragedy. Sister depicts a grey-shrouded body lying on a bright red structure. Behind it are five figures in two separate groups. One represents living relatives and friends; the other, the spiritual world.

Sister’s distorted figures reflect Cattapan’s interest in primitivism and animism. Its colours and twisted forms project his anguish, and express the heightened intensity of the state of grieving. Cattapan has written about the disorientation experienced in grieving and also how the “topsy-turvy” space in all the Sister images represents his sister’s schizophrenia.

One day, a few months ago, a group of third year medical students spent a long time looking at these works, which were on display at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at Melbourne University.

They were encouraged by the Museum’s Academic Programs Curator to describe aspects of the painting as objectively as possible – its style, colours, content. Then they began to share their personal interpretations of the narrative.

Jon Cattapan, Sister, 1984 (oil on canvas). The University of Melbourne Art Collection, Gift of Jon Cattapan 2008.

Was the prone figure in the foreground dead or dying? What elements were more powerful? The Christian iconography and emotion on the figures’ faces? Their gestures? The insistent vibrancy of the colours? Or the apparently chaotic mix of formal elements? How did their interpretation change when the examination shifted to the Sister Drawings, hung alongside the painting, which are like snapshots of aspects of the story?

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Intermission, my solo exhibition in Hobart

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It’s my PN anniversary, eight years (if I don’t subtract the 4.5 years it took me to find out it was in fact PN)!

Obviously time brings on reflection which in turn invites the ‘melancholies’ (yes, I did just make up a word). But I have significant reason to bury the ‘melancholies’ this year with the celebration of my solo show at Penny Contemporary in Hobart.

During a recent four months on the East Coast of Tasmania, I was able to focus on my fine art and decided to document my ‘self’ during this very reflective time. Theo and I took time out to ask ourselves, ‘What next?’ having lost my battle for part-time compensation and realising that sustaining, even a part time sitting job, is difficult for me. It was a most valuable time for both of us.

I’m going to leave the review for Intermission to two brilliant women; Australian artist Barbie Kjar (who will open my show and who’s words appear on the invitation), and my niece Kat Moritz, who’s words appear below.

Consider this post your invitation. View all the works here. See you in Hobart!

Solace 457 x 508 mm. Dec 14. Oil on linen.

Written by Kat Moritz

Artist Soula Mantalvanos’ most recent exhibition, “Intermission” signals a bold departure from previous works into more mature, more personal and much more intimate territory. Aptly named, the exhibition is a series of self portraits, which – as a whole – stand as a bold exploration on the artist’s behalf, of her identity as an individual during this intermission of life that she has found herself in.

Painted in the solitude and anonymity of Tasmania’s still very much unspoilt east coast, well over 500 kms from the artist’s inner city home of Collingwood, the works represent an equally pared back and exposed Soula. Leaving behind over seven years of chronic pain and the familiarity of city life, Soula’s portraits are as much of an experiment on her behalf as they are very tangible markers of a new direction in her work.

“I wanted to ask [all those hard] questions and answer them without influence – put them on paper and exhibit the experience. Perhaps I’m testing my confidence? Perhaps I’m wanting to prove to myself that I’m an artist once again?”

Soula’s portraits may have been born out of a pause in her life but, paradoxically, as a body of work, they speak of journey; of transformation; of maturation. Soula makes no effort to conceal brushstrokes or to avert the gazes of her Soulas that stand before us. Instead she commands them to look us straight in the eye, sometimes with poise, at other times with hope, however, always with sincerity. There is no hiding in the wings for this artist or these works; they most definitely warrant to be positioned centre stage; humbly; quietly, however, centre stage nonetheless.

Exhibition Details

Download the invitation
Intermission Invite pdf Intermission
Self portraits by Soula Mantalvanos
Opening Saturday 7 March, 2015 at 4:30pm by Australian Artist Barbie Kjar

Exhibition continues
MARCH 6 – 25, 2015

LOCATION
187 Liverpool Street Hobart Tasmania
EMAIL & PHONE
info@pennycontemporary.com.au 03 6231 5655 pennycontemporary.com.au

Supported by
Aesop, Chronic Pain Australia, Coal Valley Vineyard and Pain Australia

Soula Mantavanos…Inside her home and her passion to help others!

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ShowAndTellHeader
Show and Tell online interviewed me about art and my advocacy for chronic pain and injured workers… thanks guys!

Let us introduce you to Soula Mantavanos…an inspiring artist with a passion for helping others deal with chronic pain. Today we are trying to help her spread the word as far as we can reach to help all those in need…but also, she is an incredible artist with an incredible home…so we thought you might not only like to hear from her but see where she spends most of her time. These pics were photographed by the wonderful Sean Fennessy and produced by Lucy Feagins of The Design Files.

Soula has been forced do deal with crippling pain since her fitball burst and caused her to fall on a concrete floor. She is now dealing with chronic pelvic pain which is more specifically known as Pudendal Neuralgia (PN).  Soula is now advocating and working tirelessly to help others through her website.

We sat down with Soula to hear all about it, check out the links she has provided and share where you can! Ohhhh and enjoy her gorgeous home!!

Tell us about your history and how you ended up in the position of being an amazing woman advocating for chronic pain?

 

“I was working in our graphic design studio, Origin of Image (ooi.com.au) in March 2007. I was always health conscious so aside from my yoga ritual 4 mornings a week and walking everywhere, I would often sit on a fitball. It was great until the antiburst fitball burst and I fell to the concrete floor. It really was the split second that changed my life. I was 37.
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The book: Art & Chronic Pain – A Self Portrait

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SelfPortraitBookDustJacketYes, I’ve found another medium to express my pain and you can own your own copy of it!

I didn’t see the point of creating a long description of my living with pain, sharing my tips, turning journal entries into a pain story. Afterall, first and foremost, before the person in pain, I am an artist… so my book had to contain many pictures and few words, just 32 pages in fact, but I believe it’s a complete story. It doesn’t hold the solution for PN but it’ll allow you to explain it to someone else, leave it on the coffee table, and it will be light enough to carry around.

Art Chronic Pain Soula Mantalvanos-01

Above all I created it to express my experience so far and so that it is a bit of a companion to another PN family member. The idea was for the reader to feel empathy in a world where no one seems to understand, and to ease the pain as you look through it.

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Interpretive Dance about living with IC & Pelvic Pain

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 Interpretive Dance about living with IC & Pelvic Pain

An incredibly effective form of communication for Internal Cystitis (IC) and Pelvic Chronic Pain.

Certainly captures everything I’ve felt and everything I hope; release those chains! And how true that they are depicted with such weight. Absolutely loved this. Donna Massa-Chappee congratulations. Thank you for expressing this so clearly, for your understanding and for taking the time to help others.

Watch the YouTube movie: Interpretive Dance about living with IC & Pelvic Pain

Artist’s statement:

An interpretive dance using the combination of modern dance and classical ballet to express the trials and tribulations of living with Interstitial Cystitis (IC) and Pelvic Pain Disorders. It is about a women who has been diagnosed with IC and experiences an incredible dream. In her dream she relives every emotional detail of fighting through chronic pain: frustration, isolation and embarrassment. During the dance there are symbolic props used to identify with the symptomatic problems she endures when dealing with these disorders. In the middle of the dream the woman surrenders to acceptance, letting go of its grip, and moves on to the final stages of the healing process resulting in joy, happiness and freedom. In the finale of this piece, during the awakening stage of her dream, the woman expresses an uplifting revelation of bliss, for there is no more anguish and pain or the chains that once bound her… Continue Reading

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Definitions of pain

What is Pudendal Neuralgia (PN)?
Most simply put PN is Carpal Tunnel in the pelvis/buttocks. Compression of the Pudendal Nerve occurs after trauma to the pelvis and is aggravated with pressure. The pain is often described as a toothache like pain, with spasms, sensations of tingling, numbness, or burning. It can be very debilitating.

What is Neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain is the result of an injury or malfunction in the peripheral or central nervous system. The pain is often triggered by an injury, but this injury may or may not involve actual damage to the nervous system. More…

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