Patient’s Point of View
Robert’s images of the cancer patient are startling and unique. They depict an elaborate medical process, from doctor’s office to hospital, from treatment centers to rooms on a ward, all from the patient’s point of view. This is not the view of a pitying outsider, but of someone who lives in the midst of a life-changing ordeal. Robert mixes subjectivity with precise observations and a sober rendition of telling details. His image Doctors shows a row of figures looming ominously over a bedside in their clinical attire, as if priests officiating at a solemn rite. Chemotherapy shows a patient staring anxiously at a waiting needle. The mere anticipation of the injection often provoked nausea in the ailing artist. Mother and Son shows Robert’s faithful mother Isabel at the foot of the bed, a constant presence giving comfort and strength at difficult times. In Curtain, Robert captured the tension of living in a hospital with limited privacy. In Radiation and CT Scan, he shows the machines and technology that dwarf the patient. In Excavation, Sparrow and Vision, he evokes a patient’s daydreams, turning outside noises into scenes of nightmare and escape. In many pictures, the wedge-like torso of the patient’s body leads the viewer abruptly into the picture plane, while at the same time giving a sense of dislocation. The artist sees himself as if detached from his own body. This combination of realism with a dream-like or ghost-like dimension is the very essence of Magical Realism: equal parts diary, journalism, imagination and art.