There’s a name for what’s happening when someone sees the Virgin Mary in a steamy window or Jesus in a pool of pancake syrup. It’s pareidolia, the psychological tendency we have to perceive otherwise meaningless visual or auditory phenomena as significant, like seeing a face in a rock and pictures in clouds, or hearing secret messages in a recording played backwards. While for many a coffee stain or a paint dribble is just that, for Vesna Jovonovic these kinds of random splotches trigger images of surgical instruments and internal organs, which are brought fully into being through the artist’s series of “ink spill” drawings. Each begins as a splash of ink or paint and ends as an elaborately rendered, surrealist twist on medical illustration where the interplay of chance and intent determines the final outcome.
The Museum of Surgical Science has done an especially nice job of contextualizing Jovonovic’s artwork, placing it as they have across from an exhibition highlighting new advances in medical illustration by students at UIC’s Biomedical Visualization Program (both shows are part of the Museum’s ongoing “Anatomy in the Gallery” series). Advances in modern imaging technology enable today’s biomedical illustrators to provide ever-more detailed “blueprints” of the body’s infrastructure, yet for many of us what takes place beneath the skin remains a source of mystery and dread. Jovonovic’s drawings capture this ambivalence. Swaths of spilled red ink are “mirrored” by hand-drawn nests of intestinal tubing, while the curvature of human bones are suggested through crisp, x-ray like demarcations of positive and negative space. Whereas today’s medical artists strive for scientific accuracy above all else, Jovonovic’s drawings are wholly subjective, tinged with a sublime sense of corporeal horror that taps into David Cronenberg territory without ever losing sight of the body’s essential beauty and wonder. (Claudine Isé)
Through October 16 at the International Museum of Surgical Science, 1524 N. Lake Shore Drive