This website is the condensed realisation of a year of conversations between Dr. Richard Davey and Andy Parsons. It has been designed to be a digital environment rather than a conventional exhibition catalogue.
The texts that accompany each of the main sections, Touch, Heat, Paint, Drawing and Studio are by Dr. Richard Davey.
Below is a text by the artist outlining how the residency unfolded, and at the bottom of this page, Dr Paul Hartel, Clinical Lead Consultant Histopathologist at Sligo University Hospital writes about his response to the project.
‘In 2020 I completed a year long Artist in Residency for The Model, Home of The Niland Collection at Sligo University Hospital. As part of this residency I worked on the Renal Ward with patients encouraging them to explore their creativity with experiments in painting and drawing. Alongside this I developed a body of drawings, paintings and sculptures.The Renal Ward was chosen as patients there have to attend regularly and for long periods. Alongside the physical challenges the patients have to contend with boredom and extending an invitation to try an connect with creative activities seemed a logical approach. Working in this environment does however come with some challenges. In preparation for the project I undertook hand hygiene training and thought about art activities and how they relate to infection control. I had some experience of the need to protect people with suppressed immunity from my own experience of looking after my son some years ago. Little did I know when I was beginning to think about these practices that they would come to have such a worldwide significance.
When first inviting patients to try their hand at painting I gave everyone their own little watercolour pan, complete with its own extendable brush. After I had made sure everyone on the ward who wanted to take part was working happily I found some time to start making my now work with the same materials. Working with these small watercolour pans I have been trying to record the life of the Renal ward, often using images based on suggestions from the patients. The idea of recording specific objects, scenes and actives based on the patients insights is one of the strands I am keen to develop as the project progresses. It is important that the works capture something of the complexity of the environment and the challenges faced by patients on the ward.
The first few weeks of the residency were spent building a rapport and finding ways round the restrictions of the environment.
The patients have been exploring areas such as mark making and colour mixing and enjoying developing new skills. I have been going out to take photographs to use as starting points for these paintings – using subjects such as clouds and the sea. The results have been beautiful, with each person responding to the materials in their own personal way.
With the closure of the Hospital to visitors and non essential staff I had to adapt my approach and started to explore the idea of using my drawings as starting points for sculptures in plaster, and for giant paintings.
The Model provided me with a studio, which I used to experiment and explore ideas in.
The sculptures are based on a drawings made in situ in the hospital and their rough appearance is a deliberate attempt to evoke the spontaneous mark making of rapid drawing and sketching in watercolour. The figures are composites of many fleeting observations rather than specific people.
The works reference and draw inspiration from the remarkable sequence of paintings and drawings made by Barbara Hepworth in the 1940s, of medical staff working in the then newly formed NHS.
These works celebrated the professionalism and teamwork of health workers, and captured their sense of shared purpose and compassion. I am striving to make work that evokes the same sense of social solidarity and optimism.
In Autumn 2020 during one of the lockdowns I devised a postal project whereby patients were sent a pack of postcards including a watercolour made near my home in Strandhill. When restrictions fully lift – hopefully later in 2021 – I will return to the hospital to resume working with patients in person’
Dr Paul Hartel, Clinical Lead Consultant Histopathologist, Sligo University Hospital writes:
Following recent significant trends in healthcare settings, Sligo University Hospital has increasingly valued the positive impact of fine arts in the hospital context. Hospital staff are invited to display their own art works in the foyer, and have seen the construction of a new family room containing several paintings in the hospital’s palliative care unit.
As consultant physician at Sligo University Hospital, I have had the pleasure of acting as liaison between Sligo University Hospital and The Model in their recent Creative Art project with gifted and inspirational artist Andy Parsons. Prior to the covid pandemic, patients and hospital staff have participated and thoroughly enjoyed art workshops with Andy, which have been a very positive and healing endeavour. I recently had the privilege of visiting Andy at his Model studio and was enamoured with his moving paintings and sculptures that highlight a patient-centred approach and empathy with their experiences. We look forward to a solo exhibition of his work at The Model and further workshops and online engagement.
Ancient philosophers such as Aristoteles saw a natural link between art and life. Painting, drama, dance, and music were obvious parts of everyday activity and were regarded as healing for the body and mind. Art and artistic expression are timeless, and have been in existence throughout humankind’s history. Major health care institutions across the globe have recognized the power of the arts to provide messages promoting healing and a sense of community. The European Charter on Environment and Health declares that good health and well-being require a harmonious environment in which aesthetic, social and psychological factors are important.
Research investigating the link between art and well-being has shown that arts can promote the overall health and positive outcomes of patients. One of the first such reports examined the medical records of 46 patients who underwent gallbladder surgery between 1972 and 1981 at a large university hospital. Half the patients had recovered in a room with a view of deciduous trees full of leaves. The other half had recovered in a room with a view of a brick wall. Controlling for confounding factors such as age, sex, tobacco use, weight, and general level of health, the analysis showed that patients with a view of trees recovered more quickly, used less pain medication, and suffered fewer complications from surgery. Positive effects of art in the hospital setting have also been supported in more recent studies. Art and art engagement has been shown to improve mood in general, reduce stress levels and has had positive learning effects in medical student and nursing education.
With increasing consciousness of healthcare costs and the quality of patient-centred care in hospital environments, these types of research results get the attention of physicians, administrators, and art educators and art consultants. Much support for arts programming in health care settings comes from personal accounts of patients, visitors, and staff who have experienced the benefits of being in visually enriched surroundings. Current and widespread belief is that good-quality, patient-focused arts programming provides significant therapeutic benefits to patients, their families, and hospital staff.
Working with artist Andy Parsons has been an enlightening and refreshing experience for Sligo University Hospital, and in spite of the recent frustratingly difficult times of lockdowns, I’m happy to say that Sligo University Hospital remains committed to this creative and healing project. Keen interest endures in its further development and its potential is timely, urgent and meaningful. This wonderful venture, truly, has a life of its own and will continue to help heal and inspire!
Dr. Paul Hartel MD, FCAP, FASCP, FFPath, FRCPI
Clinical Lead Consultant Histopathologist, Sligo University Hospital
Honorary Senior Lecturer in Pathology, National University of Ireland, Galway, School of Medicine
Clinical Associate Professor, West Virginia University School of Medicine
Commissioned by The Model, home of The Niland Collection
Research & Development supported by Creative Ireland, Sligo, 2019
Residency funded by the Arts Council, 2020