06/2009 Diagnostic Imaging Europe

Diagnostic Imaging Europe June/July 2009

Scans past their clinical usefulness find new life

Belgian radiologist retires to new life's work turning images into art

Retirement is proving to be anything but quiet for Dr. Christian Lauer, former head of radiology at the O.L.V van Lourdes hospital in Waregem, Belgium. Lauer is making a name for himself as an artist with a collection of pictures derived from medical imaging data.
Lauer came up with the idea for X-ART after becoming fascinated by the level of anatomical detail produced by CT examinations. He noticed that the patients had little interest in the black and white structures depicted on their own images and that once the scans had been reported and reviewed, they were rarely looking at again. This prompted him to go back to the medical images that would typically be archived in a PACS and use the data to create pictures with a long-lasting, wide appeal.
The result is a collection of bold, colourful images that merely hint at their radiological origins. Lauer typically offers a clue to the starting point of each work in its title but will not provide a detailed description of the raw data. He is happy for his audiences to adopt the mantle of a radiologist and the guess how the prints started out. The precies details of transformation, however, remain a closely guarded secret.
After some experimental years Lauer has concentrated full-time on his X-ART since 2007. His first exhibition of 30 pictures at the cultural center of Waregem in October 2008 proved a great succes. Two further exhibitions were held in Brussels and Ghent earlier this year. Plans are now under way for X-ART displays in Spain and Austria.
"This is really becoming a seconde life for me," Lauer said. "It is fantastic because I am taking my past in radiology into the future."

All clinical images used by Lauer are anonymized, though technical information on scan parameters is sometimes left on the works of art. The images are manipulated and colorized on an iMac to create the striking designs. Once complete, the picture are dry printed onto large sheets of archival paper and then fixed onto aluminium plates 3mm thick. The X-ART prints, which vary in size from 120x100 cm to 100x70 cm, are typically priced between 500 Euro and 1500 Euro. Production costs take a sizable chunk of any profit, according to Lauer. For example, each aluminium plate alone costs around 200 Euro.
Initial sales have been to private individuals, though Lauer is hopeful that in the future, hospitals and clinics may use his "medical relevant" art to decorate their walls. He is determined not to turn the artistic venture into a mass production process,though.Only seven prints will be produced for each artwork. "If I sell seven, then it is finished. I am not printing and printing," he said. " The commercial aspect for me is really secondary."
To date, Lauer used only CT studies to create his colourful works of art, drawing on images he gathered while working at the O.L.V van Lourdes hospital. He plans to try creating artwork with MRI data later this year or next.
More information can be found on his website at: www.art-in-radiology.be