Dr Benny Panakkal – Oman’s most popular interventional cardiologist at Badr Al Samaa Hospital – has pulled a rabbit out of his sleeve this time round with ‘Art from the heart’. Having created a collection of meaningful paintings amid his busy schedule during the current pandemic, Dr Benny believes, the great masters of art always struck a special connection between art and human anatomy. “When I do a procedure I imagine it as an artistic work,” he says.
Guiding catheters through arteries, up groins and arms, to locate and clear cardiac blocks for over two decades, Dr Benny Panakkal, interventional cardiologist and medical director of Badr Al Samaa Group of Hospitals, is quite dexterous with every task on hand. But the silver lining of his profession doesn’t stem from the satisfaction derived from every successful procedure carried out by him, rather from the fact that he views every procedure as an artistic work and delivers it with utmost finesse.
“Actually, my artistic endeavours date back many years before I became a medical professional and cardiologist. In fact, my childhood dream was to become an artist. But fate and destiny decided otherwise. I was not inspired by other doctors but by many artists,” says Dr Benny, whose collection of paintings (Art from the heart) done during lockdown days are on display at City Seasons hotel at Al Khuwayr, in an exclusive interview to Muscat Daily.
“Those who inspired me varied between different time periods. For example, when in college, my paintings were more of abstract surrealist nature inspired by those like Salvador Dali. Then, there was a time when the old impressionist style inspired me. Even now, I like to paint natural scenes in this style. I had an opportunity to visit the mansion of Claud Monet – the great impressionist master at Giverny, in France. Then these days some how my paintings are more of a realistic style,” he explained.
Art and anatomy
Asked how his hobby had a bearing on his profession, Dr Benny said, “Being an interventional cardiologist gives plenty of opportunities to be creative and artistic. An occluded artery during an acute heart attack, which almost looked like a withered tree, after the procedure, suddenly comes back into full bloom and the individual comes back to life, after the uncertainty between life and death,” he said, adding that it gives the operator almost the same satisfaction like when he completes a painting.
He asserted, in the olden days, masters like Leonardo Da Vinci also had a great knowledge of human anatomy. They used to conduct dissection of dead bodies to understand human anatomy. In that way art always had a relationship with anatomy.
“In my practice as an interventional cardiologist, when I do a procedure I imagine it as an artistic work. Restoration of lost anatomy is the art here! The eye for details, the precision and hand skills are common factors for an artist and an interventional cardiologist,” Dr Benny said.
About the display of ‘Art from the heart’, he said it comprises different types of paintings. One section has watercolour paintings that are of two types – cityscapes around the world and natural scenes, including those from Oman.
Another set of paintings are oil on canvas. These include a few on still life, abstract paintings, and some paintings related particularly to COVID-19 and it’s uncertainties and hope amidst despair. There are some acrylic paintings, as well, which comprise natural scenes. Altogether, 40 paintings are on display till the end of the month.
About striking a balance between work and his hobby during the lockdowns in Muscat, Dr Benny said, “As a cardiologist, that too specialised on coronary intervention and acute cardiac care, during the initial period of lockdown I was available only on call. There were no regular outpatient clinics or scheduled procedures, only cardiac emergencies to attend.
“Basically, it was ‘work from home’ with visits to the hospital as and when required. This gave certain amount of free time as well as a sudden break from the routine and it needed a different channel to spend my energy. I took the creative route and resumed an old passion. Later, even after the resumption of normal work, on weekends I continued to paint.”
“My parents during were a great support during my childhood. Now, my wife and children continue to support me and my hobby. As I am home only on weekends, on Fridays, when I spend my time with painting, obviously it becomes very demanding. But somehow, I am able to balance everything,” he said.
About his way with colours, Dr Benny said he had no particular obsession with any colour, neither any favourite shades, but he generally uses primary colours in his paintings. “The other shades are all mixed and made from these primary colours. So this gives more balance to the paintings,” he said.