Hospital Mural Paintings

July 29, 2015

Last year I was asked by one of our acute ward managers to run our first Ward Mural Project. The sessions ran each Thursday morning with help from Ward staff, therapy staff and people that use our services. The project aimed to create a peaceful and relaxing environment through making a piece of art work that could be enjoyed by everyone on the ward. At the beginning of the project I met with the patients and asked them for ideas of what they would like to see in the mural, I used one of Edvard Munch’s landscapes ‘The Sun’ as inspiration and as a starting point, I drew the basic outline and several patients gave suggestions or helped to draw animals and plants into the landscape using oil pastels. I felt that this tranquil and hopeful image was very relevant to our project, as Norweigen artist Edvard Munch greatly suffered through his own episodes of mental illness.

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Edvard Munch, The Sun, 1911

It was agreed before beginning the project that the mural would have to be aesthetically pleasing and calming. As many patients are admitted to hospital with psychosis, any imagery that could have been deemed threatening or upsetting had to be considered and at times changed or edited through paint.

Psychosis is a mental health problem that causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This might involve hallucinations or delusions, the combination of which can often severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotion and behaviour.

The project taking place in the ward environment meant that mental health patients who were on section, or who were too unwell to attend more structured therapies, were able to take part as much or as little as possible and at their own pace. Sometimes the painting allowed them to find some inner calm, or to distract themselves from difficulties, even for just a few minutes. There was something amazing about watching people embrace or discover their creativity, especially when they did not paint or draw in their everyday lives before the project. Many were able to get lost in painting, their imagery contributing to the overall picture. Service users commented that it was liberating to paint directly onto the wall, as this is something that would usually feel like a taboo.

As the weeks and months went by the mural progressed and changed, things were added and taken away and details were added. Staff and patients in and out of the ward saw the imagery evolving and enjoyed the transformation; while using the computer, or while watching others actively taking part in the mural.

Weeks on the project differed in the numbers of participants and difficulties that service users were experiencing in their everyday experience of mental health issues. Many who took part were worried that they were not ‘good enough at art’, with encouragement however, they were able to find something that they could contribute and commented that they enjoyed the experience of painting and being part of the project.DSCN0745DSCN0747

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Mural 2

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The first mural was completed over 10 months between April and December 2014, since then we have started working on another mural in a shared therapy room. The new mural (in the image below) is progressing quickly as the space is easily accessible in art groups; I’m excited to see how the art grows and evolves.DSCN2004

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