Sometimes you may hear cosmetic dentists talking about the artistry of their work or how they consider themselves artists, and you may think that dentistry and art are worlds apart. Now, though, a painting by a former dentist is up for Britain’s most lucrative painting award–the John Moores Painting Prize, and it shows how dentists aren’t really that different from artists.
Mandy Payne began training as a dentist in 1982, and she had a successful, thriving practice providing dental services for the NHS until 2012 when she retired from dentistry to pursue art full time. Her nominated work is titled “Brutal,” a depiction of what she describes as the best example of brutalist architecture in Britain, the Park Hill flats in Sheffield. She says she is drawn to the complex because of the recurring layers of experience and memory that are embodied in the structure, how the refurbished, boarded-up or still inhabited parts of the structure create a “palimpsest” of human experience. She painted the work using spray paint on concrete, what she describes as “materials that are integral to the estate itself.”
The best-known painting competition in the UK, the prize is named after Sir John Moores, a businessman, and philanthropist, who founded the prize in 1957. Sir Moores is most famous (other than for the prize) as the founder of the Littlewoods chain of retail stores and football (soccer) betting pools that went defunct in 2005. Born in 1896, he died in 1993.
When we look at Payne’s “Brutal,” it’s easy to see many of the values that underlie cosmetic dentistry. Beyond the fascination with decay and restoration, the brutalist subject matter shares values of strength and functionality that underlie cosmetic dentistry as well as the architectural style. Also important is working with materials other than the conventional canvas and brush–dentists practice their art through other media. Finally, the intense use of symmetry and proportion reflects the values of cosmetic dentistry.