Why art matters 60 Years, 60 Voices ‘People in care spaces are not here for the art’ In 2018 Paintings in Hospitals partnered with the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust seeking an emerging curator to develop a new hospital touring exhibition. Briana Oliver, who completed her MA in Design History at the Royal College of Art in 2016, was selected to lead the pioneering project… The resulting exhibition, Linear Meditations, dives into the representations of water made by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham in her drawings, paintings and etchings between 1975-2002. Capturing water in a variety of forms, from glaciers to seascapes, the exhibition explores the power of water to both calm and captivate. Here, Briana recounts her experience of working on the project. “ Curating the exhibition Linear Meditations was such a rewarding experience. This project allowed me to shift a paradigm within my work, enabling me to find significance in serving a more diverse population and engaging a wider audience within health care and hospital settings. I found working within a health care setting to be both challenging and phenomenally motivating. When considering the accessibility of the artwork, the practicalities of hanging the art on walls of a functioning hospital, the fact that the majority of people coming into these spaces are not here for the art, it necessitated the use of creative curatorial and exhibition practices. Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Winter Movement (Desert), 1979. Part of the Linear Meditations exhibition. Upon my first trip to the collection of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust in Edinburgh, I was initially drawn to the pen and ink drawings. I was captivated by Wilhelmina’s ability to depict abstractions of water. From glaciers to seascapes, she was able to create imagery that has the power to both calm and captivate. As I continued to engage with the pieces during the conceptualisation and eventually the installation of the exhibition, I found that the most spectacular thing about these pieces was their ability to hold peoples’ attention, to draw people in, to momentarily allow people to get lost within the rhythmical compositions. In our modern world of never-ending to-do lists, handheld distractions, and in a societal and political atmosphere that can feel daunting, capturing people’s attention, if even for a moment, is no easy feat. Yet the pieces in this exhibition are able to do just that; engage people, engross them in the repetition of form and colour, and transport them into a world of linear meditations. Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Sea Sound Series No.8, 1980. Part of the Linear Meditations exhibition. It was this meditative quality for which initially inspired the idea of including mindfulness activities within the exhibition. I was grateful for the opportunity to explore the use of art for the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a tool that can be used to become aware of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. In this exhibition, we provided an opportunity to try mindfulness exercises to slow down, look at, and engage with Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s work. I am very grateful to the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust, Imperial Health Charity, and Paintings in Hospital for their support within this project. This project would have been impossible without the help and guidance of Delphine Allier, Amisha Karia, Selina Skipwith, Rob Airey, and Ross Irving. It is from this experience that I now have a keen eye, a more direct focus, and a desire to take my future career trajectory in a direction I hadn’t known was possible. ” Can you help us inspire better health for patients and carers across the country? Follow #60Voices on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram... Briana Oliver completed her MA in Design History at the Royal College of Art in 2016. She is now Project Officer at the Fashion Museum, Bath. Find out more about Briana on Twitter: @KBrianaOliver.