I painted this a few months back.  I began with water in the middle of the page and dropped ink for the fun of watching it spread and then dry, pulled to the edge of the shape.  I dragged a brush through it and built in the colour and lines, taking my rhythms from the sounds of Philip Glass’ dance pieces “In the Upper Room”.

In our bodies, in the tissues, are cells sampling and consuming  the detritus of life.  On meeting a microbial threat or cellular damage, they undergo a radical change, migrating and activating so that on reaching their destination they spread out thousands of tiny dendritic tendrils to contact the many soldiers of the immune system.  They have taken up, processed and now present fragments of the threatening material along with signals to say … get angry.

We can harness these dendritic cells to fight cancer.


11 responses to “Metaphor

  1. …this is really cool. I love the painting and the idea (and the way you created it). I have a few friends and a favorite aunt battling cancer right now. I think they would like to see this too.

  2. Thanks for your comments. This painting sits above my table in the room I use as a studio. I had no clear plan in mind when I started it – you can also see it as an abstract painting or some kind of angry tree, a wounded Ent perhaps. Whatever it is, it had from the start a sense of organic nature, of reaching out and of movement. However, right now I am writing a book chapter on dendritic cell cancer vaccines. This affects my own interpretation of this piece.

    These vaccines are not miracle cures, I am sorry to say, but it has been demonstrated that they can induce immunity against cancer and, at least for a little time, control disease for some people. I can really sympathise with anyone who is impatient but right now, they should only be used as part of proper clinical trials – they are not yet a standard treatment to my knowledge.

    Taking blood cells and manipulating them into cancer vaccines outside the body before re-injecting them does enable you to understand what you are doing: immunity is so complex that vaccination is otherwise often a bit of a black box. This means that around the world we can pull apart the issues and put them back together to design something that might work better as a cancer dendritic cell vaccine and as other vaccines that, after injection, will exploit dendritic cells resident in the body.

    I am a little overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the work that is going on this way. I’ve missed my drawing class this week, in fact done no drawing at all, to make way for this chapter. I hope to finish next week.

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