Is art really good for you? The role of the arts in healthcare is an exceptionally important subject for both the field of art history and future healthcare practice. It’s almost instinctive to associate art with wellbeing and healing, and it’s easy to suppose that art’s impact on wellbeing is simply aesthetic.
Art does have a powerful impact on an environment and by extension on our experience of that environment. It can humanise a harsh, clinical hospital hallway or enliven a dull office, emphasising the human and social functions of sterile or functional environments.Humanising and beautifying an environment has the effect of reducing anxiety and depression while improving general happiness and productivity - even serving for some as an inspiration for meditation or quasi-religious psychic renewal.
Beautification does play an important role in art’s effect on wellbeing, but to believe that this impact is down only to improving the aesthetic of an environment is to undermine the full power of art. If a purely aesthetic change is needed, then a change in architecture, a funky lightbulb, a comfortable chair and a new layer of paint would suffice.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts Health and Wellbeing published an Arts Health and Wellbeing report in 2017 summarising the findings of a two years’ worth of research. The report demonstrates that visual art improves psychological and physical wellbeing in a number of ways.
Medical professionals are now prescribing art, in various forms, as a means of illness prevention. Arts on Prescription, a project backed by Arts Council England, , has shown that GB consultation rates drop by 37%and hospital admissions decrease by 27% when people actively attend galleries and museums. The report calls for a change in the culture of our healthcare, claiming that the UK has not yet realised the potential art has to aid medical practices.
Other findings follow suit. In 2006, the Department of Health Working Group on Arts and Health discovered that factors beyond wellbeing, such as length of stay in hospital and pain tolerance, were significantly reduced by the presence of landscape paintings in hospitals.
The parliamentary report notes that the UK lags ‘in significant respects behind other countries, such as Australia, Cuba and the Nordic countries.’ Signifying arts serviceability is cross-cultural and geographical differences do not affect this.
Here at Rise Art, we are proud of our Art For Care initiative, which has seen hundreds of art kits donated to children in hospital. We’re committed to having an active contribution to arts ever-growing place in hospitals and healthcare.
Our recommendation? Make art one of your five a day.
The festive season brings with it a significant wardrobe change. Woolly Christmas jumpers appear at the office party. Or, perhaps you prefer a wintery onesie or Santa-patterned socks? Looking back through art history, it’s clear that it has always been the season to make an effort. And these characters have out-dressed us all.
1. Adoration of the Magi by Rubens
There ain’t no party like a Rubens Christmas party. Richly embroidered dresses, flowing silk loin cloths, and jewelled capes make it hard to choose a best-dressed guest. That feather, though.
2. Hand-coloured Etching for Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol First Edition by John Leech
The Ghost of Christmas Present makes quite an appearance with this faux fur-lined green robe and crown of holly. Shame on you Scrooge, you need some new pyjamas.
3. The Three Magi, Byzantine Mosaic
Nothing screams sovereignty like Christmas sparkle on your leggings. Not only that, but these three Queens Kings have also coordinated in matching caps.
4. The Glorification of the Virgin by Geertgen tot Sint Jans
Not wanting to be outdone by his mother’s red cape and crown, a very tiny baby Jesus has stolen baubles from the tree and is about to appropriate them as earrings. It’s all about the accessories.
5. A Holiday at Mentone by Charles Condor
Going abroad for the holiday season? Make sure you pack your sunscreen, suit and top hat. Although, one beach guest has already overheated and passed out on the sand. Swimming trunks might be a smarter choice, after all.
6. The Procession of the Magi Benozzo Gozzoli
Whose family doesn’t force them on a winter’s walk at some point over Christmas? If you’re taking the horses too then make sure you’re matching, like this lot. Red and gold is a strong look.
7. Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry)
Even in Medieval times crazy Christmas socks were considered cute. Want to look fit for a feast? Select odd socks, and pull them right up.
Time to re-think that Christmas jumper?
Ruth Millington is an arts and culture blogger, freelance writer and art historian.
London-based artist Dawn Beckles reinvigorates the classic still life style by incorporating in her works vibrant colour, contemporary settings and exotic flora inspired by her native Barbados. Her maximalist interiors and characterful ceramics explore the relationship between people and the environments they construct around themselves. We catch up with Dawn to find out more about her process and the philosophy underlying her art.
What is it about the still life that appeals to you and how have you reinterpreted this classic style of painting?
For me, still life paintings are a reflection of childhood memories and travelling. The idea of a solid object that is selected to accentuate an interior or exterior based on its colour and aesthetic, is fascinating. Ceramics can often be an afterthought with little meaning or relevance - it’s my intention to bring them to the forefront. They can add colour, vibrance and life to an environment.
Can you tell us a bit about your process?
With all of my paintings I like to start with a neon base, from there I will build the room or setting using collated imagery. I use a room layout that I find appealing and I set about dressing it, layer by layer. Adding collage paintings, paintings, plants and furniture. For me it’s important for them to be inviting, warm and happy and to give the viewer an insight to something imagined.
Are the interiors you create based on real spaces or are they imagined?
All of the interiors that I create are imagined. I find maximalist interiors and clashing colours intriguing and every 6 months I put together a collection of these, with pieces of furniture, artwork, plants, flowers and patterns that I have come across. I then print these and create a mood board that works in conjunction with my colour wall and this is used as inspiration in my upcoming body of work.
How do your roots in Barbados influence your work?
The light is most definitely different in Barbados and therefore my approach to colour reflects that. I find the local plants and animals extremely inspiring and am actively including some of these in my newest pieces. For example “Flying Blossoms” depicts flying fish which is on the Barbados Coat of Arms.
What are your ambitions for the future?
If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that when you do what you are most afraid of it challenges the way you think and perceive your practice and for me it has opened the door to possibilities.
Often we can become stuck in boxes created either by others or ourselves and it’s important to realise that you and only you are in control. I am going to continue to work hard to produce and show my work, and see where that takes me.
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