Patients shape their hospital experience through art

Patients are being invited to stamp their own identity on their space in hospital using a series of sculptures inspired by books and reading.

Artist Jeremy Hutchison was appointed by arts & health specialists Willis Newson, to make a permanent series of artworks to help create a supportive cancer care environment within the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre (BHOC). The artworks were funded by the hospital’s charity, Above & Beyond.

As well as providing something aesthetically pleasing to look at, the bright yellow functional sculptures also offer a place to store personal possessions. They have been designed to invite the patient to curate their own still life and to enjoy their own things. They can be used to hold books, hang up a hat, display family photos, or in any way the patient chooses. The composition of these things becomes a kind of portrait of the patient.

Jane Willis, Director of Willis Newson said:

“The environment of the hospital is very important for patients and for staff. People in hospital often experience a ‘loss of self’; they are deprived of the things that are familiar to them, whether it’s their favourite food, a comfortable sofa or a painting on the wall. The hospital environment has an impact on patient wellbeing, and we aim to use art to improve patients’ quality of life.”

Sarah Dodds, Head of Nursing/Assistant Chief Nurse and Chair of the BHOC Arts Group said:

“Some people like to personalise a room with their own possessions, and that helps them to feel more relaxed and more at home. The sculptures allow patients to use creativity to enrich their environment, and this is particularly important as some people stay with us for several weeks receiving their treatment.”

One of the aims of the project was to engage patients and staff. Whilst working at the hospital, Jeremy Hutchinson realised that reading was an escape for many people. During a series of one-to-one workshops, he invited patients and family members in waiting rooms to choose a book and to select a phrase. These phrases were used to create simple collages, combining witty jokes with serious reflections, and the everyday with the life-defining.

Artist Jeremy Hutchison said:

“I spent a couple of weeks at the hospital, talking to people and listening. From what I could tell, they read a lot of books.”

“I decided to push the book trolley around the hospital. Through corridors, waiting areas, wards, kitchens, lifts. As I went, people stopped me. They picked out books, began flicking through the pages. So I asked them to find something that resonated with them. A few lines. A phrase. Maybe just a word.”

The material selected has been published in a new limited edition book which is available in the hospital for people to read or take away.

Poet Rick Holland worked with Jeremy Hutchinson to create a new poem, which was read at an event for patients and staff, and is also included in the book.