Mindfulness and meditation inspires Wilhelmina Barns-Graham exhibition

21 February 2019

Mindfulness and meditation inspires Wilhelmina Barns-Graham exhibition
Visual art has a key role to play in creating a positive and welcoming environment for visitors to our hospitals. Here, curator Briana Oliver explains the inspiration behind our latest exhibition at Charing Cross Hospital.

When you picture a hospital, what do you see? Plain white walls? Long empty corridors?

The places we visit when we are at our most vulnerable can often be cold and clinical environments; places that intensify feelings of anxiety, making us fear the worst. Bringing light and colour into healthcare settings can significantly improve the hospital experience for patients, as well as the friends and family members who come to visit them.

In a 2014 survey, as many as seven out of 10 visitors to the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust hospitals said their overall experience of care was improved by the presence of colourful artworks installed in hallways, wards and waiting areas.

While we manage a museum-accredited art collection - comprising over 2,000 individual artworks - we also partner with established and emerging artists, as well as arts organisations, to showcase their work in our exhibition spaces.

Recently, we worked with art curator Briana Oliver to display a series of carefully-chosen drawings by artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham for a new exhibition, Linear Meditations, on the ground floor at Charing Cross Hospital.

Intrigued to curate an exhibition for a diverse population within a healthcare setting, Briana says she was initially drawn to Barns-Graham’s pen and ink drawings.

“I was captivated by Wilhelmina’s ability to depict abstractions of water,” said Briana. “From glaciers to seascapes, she was able to create imagery that has the power to both calm and captivate.

“I found that the most spectacular thing about these pieces was their ability to hold people’s attention, to draw people in, to momentarily allow them to get lost within the rhythmical compositions.”

Briana took the meditative qualities of Barns-Graham’s drawings as the basis for the exhibition at Charing Cross. In fact, she developed the concept to incorporate mindfulness activities into the exhibition itself, which visitors can also incorporate into their everyday lives.

“Mindfulness is a tool that can be used to become aware of thoughts, feelings and sensations,” Briana explained.

“In this exhibition we provided an opportunity to try mindfulness exercises, to slow down, look at and engage with Barns-Graham’s work.” When displayed within the hospital environment, Briana says the artworks have helped to engage patients and visitors, and to offer respite from the distress of illness or the suffering of a loved one.

Briana added: “In our modern world of never-ending to-do lists and handheld distractions, and in a societal and political atmosphere that can feel daunting, capturing people’s attention - if even for a moment - is no easy feat.

“Yet the pieces in this exhibition are able to do just that: engage people, engross them in the repetition of form and colour, and transport them into a world of linear meditations.” Linear Meditations is on display at Charing Cross Hospital on the ground floor until the end of February. It will then be moved and reopened at St Mary’s and Hammersmith hospitals. Later in the year, the exhibition will tour the UK through the Paintings In Hospitals network.

To find out more about our hospital art collection, click here.

The exhibition would not have been possible without the support of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust and Paintings in Hospitals.