At the hospital
Oil on canvas, June 2020
72cm x 56cm x 1.5cm
What a year it’s been! I’ve been too busy to paint recently. Besides the increased co-vid related kids at home and bike sales activity, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the hospital. Not for me, but with my sister (she’s home now and much, much better. Thanks to nurses and doctors at the Canberra Hospital and wonderful carers from Hartley Lifecare – it wasn’t always easy).
My parents would spend the morning with Nicky and I would go in for a couple of hours in the arvo. For 2 months. It was a bit hard on everyone (especially my mum and dad) but much, much harder for Nicky who was in pain, scared, fragile and disoriented.
To the painting, a little obviously titled, “At the hospital”. Hospitals are not the most aesthetically pleasing places, but hospitals are aesthetically interesting. Ultimately utilitarian spaces – a higglty-pigoty , hotch-potch amalgam of buildings, walkways, signage and carparks which have evolved overtime and generations to meet community needs (when alignment with funding allows). I’ve noticed most hospitals are like this, bustling with activity and bursting at the seams. St Vinnies in Sydney is like that and my dad says the hospital in London where he trained as a lab technician in the 60’s was the same.
During the course of Nicky’s stay this time, I worked out a routine where I would arrive mid afternoon and park at Garran oval and use my walk to the ward to calm my busy brain and reset my focus on Nicky and her needs in anticipation of who knows what? Sometimes she would be lucid and awake, sometimes not, sometimes frustrated and angry. My emotions would fluctuate accordingly. Boredom, pity, anger, fear, pleasure, panic, guilt, compassion. I think I have a lot of residue issues from growing up with a sibling with disabilities and surrounding emotions about not being as attentive as I should have been in the years following, but best at this stage in life just to get on with it and meet all feeling with compassion for self and others.
On one of these walks away from the hospital, I was struck by the words painted on the road, “look” and “2020”. What were they trying to tell me? Obviously “look out for cars”. I’ve noticed that staff and visitors alike tend to scurry along with their heads down against the cold, in quite contemplation of the day ahead, or the work day past, or of what’s on TV tonight…but even with 20/20 vision we couldn’t anticipate seeing the 2020 we’ve seen so far. Look out for that person walking towards you and step aside to let them pass keeping the required distance. Look up and smell the roses. Look here and pull your socks up because you’re the lucky one, at least you are going home. There is so many things that “look” implied and reminded me of for the period of Nicky’s incarceration.
But on this day, what struck me was the light at the end of the wind tunnel of the road and buildings, I was moving towards the light and while things were tricky inside (metaphorically and actually inside the hospital), outside it was beautiful and that light was getting closer by the minute and this brought to me a sense of optimism that I couldn’t resist.