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Use of Artwork


Calming artworks in glass, featuring floral elements, provide a much-needed focus and distraction in the waiting area of a Bereavement Suite in York. Dan Savage’s designs extended into signage and logos for information booklets.


environments can humanise spaces, helping to make them calming, positive, and welcoming. Subject matter that could be considered threatening, challenging, or ambiguous, should be avoided – for example shadowy figures, fearful or angry faces, imagery and words that could be considered negative, or imagery that is unfamiliar or lacks realism. Positive distractions are important to lessen negative introspective thoughts. The shared user areas at the Ferndene Young People’s Unit (CAMHS) in Prudhoe feature an upbeat theme based on local wildlife, developed with service-users and a poet. Colours should be carefully chosen, with clinicians frequently guarding against the use of black or red due to their connotations. On a practical level, as with other elements in a mental health design scheme, artworks need to abide by strict guidelines, ensuring that any installed items are anti-ligature, have no self-harm potential, and are tamper-proof (in addition to the standard infection prevention and control guidelines that all artworks in hospitals should adhere to).


ART FOR THOSE WITH AUTISM In 2014 the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art conducted a project in collaboration with Paintings in Hospitals looking at artwork preferences for people with autism. It resulted in a set of findings which included a desire for artworks that are realistic and detailed; communicate unambiguous positive narratives; use balanced and symmetrical


The Amazon Rainforest theme for the Paediatric Emergency Department in Peterborough includes hand-drawn images of rainforest flora and fauna, set within bold shapes, to provide a positive distraction along the walls of the main treatment areas.


‘It would seem that the preference for artworks that are representational and based on nature can be even more significant in mental healthcare facilities’


compositions, and show a sense of order and repetition. It also concluded that, in general, it might be worth avoiding abstract themes (although some with hypo-sensitivity may enjoy these pieces); semi-realistic artworks which are distorted or fragmented, and depictions of people gazing directly out of the picture. Some people with autism tend to perceive colours with greater intensity, so muted colours are preferred. Although there is some common ground, creating an artwork scheme that appeals to both hypo-sensitive and hyper- sensitive autistic individuals can represent a challenge, because of the different levels of stimulation required, and careful thought should be given to location, lighting, use of colour, and the amount of ‘visual noise’.


ART FOR THOSE WITH DEMENTIA Stirling University’s Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) has been instrumental in developing evidence-based guidelines to help in the design of dementia facilities. As well as some specific references to artworks, many of the interior design guidelines are also transferable to art. The use of artworks as location identifiers or wayfinding features, particularly along communal featureless


corridors, is a valuable part of a dementia scheme, because it helps service-users to more easily navigate the space. At the Roker and Mowbray Dementia Centre in Sunderland, a long corridor was transformed with a hand- drawn, life-size local seaside scene. Staff report that service-users enjoy taking a stroll down the corridor, and often talk about going to the seaside when they were younger. Introducing a sense of fun into interesting and relaxing scenes makes users feel at ease. Memory stimulants, such as a local corner shop, can aid social interaction, acting as conversation prompts with clinical staff; therefore it can be helpful to place artwork where people can stop and rest and reminisce.


GOOD COLOUR CONTRASTS


The perimeter fence is also a bespoke artwork at the Ferndene CAMHS Unit, using the same visual themes as the rest of the site. Dan Savage worked with specialist fabricators to manufacture the gates, which ‘echo the undulating hills of the surrounding countryside’.


Good colour contrasts, and/or clear outlines, are helpful for older people, who are better able to discriminate strong colours with a good degree of brightness at the warm end of the spectrum. Artworks that feature familiar, recognisable, and traditional subjects, and nature, are favoured, as service-users feel more comfortable with this type of imagery at a time when many aspects of their life might seem confusing. Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust’s recently opened Dementia Assessment Centre at Lynfield Mount Hospital features calm murals of local scenes in the sitting areas, which relatives enjoy chatting to their loved ones about. Photo-real artworks, however, should be avoided – due to their potential to deceive the service-user – artwork should look like artwork, for example by utilising hand-drawn styles. Other aspects to avoid include abstract imagery, complex and speckled patterns, and reflective services, which can disorientate and confuse a dementia sufferer. It would be very difficult to develop a prescriptive set of artwork guidelines that will perfectly meet the needs of everyone. However, with the benefit of current research, we know much more about how individuals respond to


THE NETWORK January 2016 25


All photos courtesy of Dan Savage.


All photos courtesy of Dan Savage.


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