Since 2017, our first-year BA Culture, Criticism and Curation students have worked with Paintings in Hospitals on Art in Large Doses. Each year, the project has culminated in a student-curated, public exhibition at King’s College London NHS Health Centre. Now, three years on, the collaboration draws to a close with The Green Room – on view until 31 January 2021.
Founded in 1959, Paintings in Hospitals is a national art collection dedicated to inspiring better health and wellbeing for patients and carers. It holds over 4,000 artworks which are loaned to hospitals and social care organisations throughout the UK. Over the last three years, the collaborative project Art in Large Doses has explored ways in which art can support the physical and mental health of student patients, while also pushing the boundaries of what is expected of art in healthcare settings.
Prior to each annual exhibition, our BA Culture, Criticism and Curation students attended a series of lectures and workshops on arts and health before proposing an exhibition for the King’s College Health Centre. The exhibition proposals were then showcased during Creativity and Wellbeing Week before one was selected by patients and staff to be realised as an on-site exhibition. The first exhibition in 2017, Nature Calls, combined works from the Paintings in Hospitals collection in three tongue-in-cheek micro installations, while the second, Bathed in Blue, embraced the varied and often negative connotations of the colour blue. This year, The Green Room brings together a variety of paintings, photographs and moving image in a multi-faceted approach to positive wellbeing and mental health.
“Over a period of three years, Art in Large Doses has given us the opportunity to consider how we can address issues of mental health through curated projects. This collaboration allowed students to hone their professional curatorial skills as well as consider different audiences in a healthcare context. The project has resulted in around 150 students considering arts in relation to health and wellbeing, three outstanding exhibitions at the Health Centre and over 14,000 patients experiencing the work of young emerging artists alongside works from the Paintings in Hospitals collection.” Andy Marsh, Curator in Practice, BA Culture, Criticism and Curation
The Green Room focuses on the visual representation of nature and the ecological aspects of cityscapes. The student curators set out to draw parallels between reciprocal relationships in ecological systems and the role of communication in student environments. Speaking to us about the approach the group took, curator Saul Wickremasinghe commented: “Our entire group believed in the values of Art in Large Doses. We're all supporters of the growing role that art plays within healthcare settings. This stems from our belief that well-curated artwork has the power to lift the environment which it inhabits – it provides an extra element of support and stimulation to the individuals who use that space.”
The group began by looking at the wealth of scientific research about the positive effect nature has on mental health. “We wanted to create a space of contemplation positioned at the intersection of art and an increasingly recognised brand of natural science. By channelling our group’s personal experiences, we realised that living in London can distance you from these values. We wanted to communicate the importance of nature in each one of our lives, and express the desire, and need, many of us have to reconnect with it,” Wickremasinghe explains.
“Art has the power to change spaces and one of our curatorial aims was to enhance the environment of the Health Centre. We wanted green to function as the dominant colour for our collection and so we created a palette that reflected this. We made full use of the artwork offered to us via the Painting in Hospitals database – this was really exciting for us as emerging curators.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, our hospital and healthcare environments have come sharply into focus. Back in March, Thomas Walshaw, Communications and Development Manager for Painting and Hospitals, wrote: “It would be fair to say that COVID-19 has brought disruption to daily life – to all of us, everywhere…At a time when we are deliberately distancing ourselves from other people, we turn to the arts to entertain us, distract us and comfort us. But they do more than that. The arts connect us.”
In our current climate, Art in Large Doses is a testament to our innate need to create and enjoy the creations of others. Our collaboration draws to a close during a time where both art and healthcare are more vital than ever. During the last three years our students, in collaboration with Painting in Hospitals, have demonstrated the possibilities that art holds to support positive wellbeing in times of crisis.
The Green Room exhibiting artists: Simon Carter, Kate Friend, Carmen Garcia, R.A. Grigor, Mark Huit, Hsiao-Mei Lin and James Smith
Curated by: Khushi Bansal, Emma Barratt, Melanie Khorshidian and Saul Wickremasinghe.