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By Sharne Wolff
For Australian children in the 60s ‘Thalidomide’ was an evil word used by adults in whispers behind closed doors. Only a few years earlier it was received enthusiastically as a ‘wonder drug’ promising expectant mothers a pregnancy free of pain and morning sickness. In two new exhibitions of her oil paintings in Sydney, artist Simone Mangos helps the audience confront its fears about the human effects of failed experiments and questions some our most basic moral virtues.
Mangos is Australian but is currently based in Berlin and was able to begin her research with the German drug company who first developed Thalidomide. Before beginning to paint she also spoke to victims about the trauma of growing up in a hostile world. The paintings are the artist’s reinterpretations of photographs taken of the victims, mostly by the medical profession who, intentionally or otherwise, were complicit in dehumanising their subjects. Mangos’s oils bring a sense of empathy and beauty to people otherwise categorised as society’s monsters and freaks.
This is not an easily digestible subject or a happy show to view. Mangos uses scale, colour and a sense of history to highlight many of the other issues also associated with this tragic experiment – including scientific responsibility and economic greed.
Damaged: Thalidomide Victims in Medical Documents
Now until 5 August at the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney.
13 July to 11 August 2012
Dominik Mersch Gallery
Pic: courtesy the artist and Dominik Mersch Gallery.
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