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Use of Artwork


For the Ferndene CAMHS Unit, the artist created bold artwork in public areas with uplifting imagery and text. The reception desk echoes the Formica wall cladding, which was inspired by local wildlife in the Prudhoe area, and the theme was developed alongside service-users and poet, Paul Summers.


PREFERENCE FOR REPRESENTATIONAL WORKS It would seem that the preference for artworks that are representational and based on nature can be even more significant in mental healthcare facilities. Dr Upali Nanda (of HKS Architects) reported that when a large realistic nature-based print was hung in the ward lounge for elderly psychiatric patients, the number of injections administered for aggressive behaviour and agitation reduced. A small study in a Swedish psychiatric facility by Roger Ulrich found that service-users actually attacked artworks that contained abstract subject matter and styles.


IMPORTANCE OF VISUAL STIMULI It would be wrong to blanket all abstract art as inappropriate, as some may indeed be calming and effective, (and equally some representational nature-based artwork might, on occasion, be unsettling and challenging). In a study of 166 open heart surgery patients, again led by Dr. Roger Ulrich, immediate post- operative anxiety was found to be lower for patients exposed to nature pictures than those exposed to abstract pictures or no picture at all. However, after four days, patients who were exposed to any picture (either abstract or nature) were able to complete a visual perceptual functioning test more quickly than those exposed to no picture, indicating the importance of visual stimuli in general. The presence of distracting stimuli is thus


very significant, but arts in healthcare researcher, Dr Judy Rollins, highlights that when a service-user’s internal emotional stimulation increases, he or she will seek a less stimulating external environment to balance the overall experience, and therefore might prefer more representational work, which is less arousing, intense, or challenging, to achieve greater sensory control of the environment. As abstract and conceptual artworks usually require greater cerebral activity to interpret their content, artworks which are more representational, and have natural imagery as the main focus, are usually the most effective, often because people are more comfortable with familiar, unambiguous subjects that can be readily interpreted. As with all other design


24 THE NETWORK January 2016


Textured feature wallpaper panels in the service-user areas of the Ferndene Unit in Prudhoe ‘act as way-markers’, and ‘make use of a muted colour palette with positive natural imagery and a sense of fun’.


elements in healthcare buildings, the health outcomes for the service-users should be the main focus, and the best art will play a significant role in their treatment pathway.


TAILORING ART TO SPECIFIC GROUPS When designing artwork, it is usual to undertake extensive service-user and clinical input, to ensure that the artwork is appropriate, and to give people a sense of ownership. Some groups require special consideration due to their age or condition. Among others these include children and adolescents, and mental health service-users (including those with autism and with dementia).


‘With the benefit of current research, we know much more about how individuals respond to different types of artwork and environments’


ART FOR YOUNG PEOPLE Clichés abound when selecting artwork for children and adolescents (for example the notion that all children want to see brightly coloured Disney characters). However, when Dr Jane Coad (now Professor in Children and Family Nursing at Coventry University) gave user groups a platform to discuss their preferences, a different picture emerges – representational themes of nature, water, the beach, and sea, were the favourites. The Paediatric Emergency Department at Peterborough City Hospital successfully utilises a theme of the Amazon Rainforest throughout the department, with hand-drawn images of rainforest flora and fauna within bold shapes. Dr Coad found that while very young children seem to enjoy bright colours, most young people picked out a mid- and paler range of colours, with blue-green colours the most popular. Adolescent artwork theme preferences often centre around powerful but simple design, with realistic imagery, bold shapes, and words. Again, colours are more muted – this time blues and purples. A study at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children by Caroline Haines and Geraldine Johnston found that older children often feel that the cartoon-style artworks that regularly feature in hospital spaces appear too young and inappropriate. The important lesson here is that we should not rely on adult preconceptions of children’s preferences for artwork, but instead listen to the users themselves.


At Kirkwood Hospice, Dan Savage’s hand-drawn artwork based on the flora of the Kirklees District is used behind staff bases and above bedheads to clearly identify areas for wayfinding.


ART FOR THOSE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES Research by Dr Upali Nanda shows that mental healthcare facilities benefit from easily recognised nature-themed artworks, finding that they contribute to reducing violent and aggressive behaviour. Art in mental healthcare


All photos courtesy of Dan Savage.


All photos courtesy of Dan Savage.


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