As Paintings in Hospitals launches OASIS, a collaborative pilot project created to ease social isolation and loneliness at home by connecting participants with art, creative activities, and communities of like-minded people, the initiative’s founder Joanna Brendon tells us how she came up with the idea and why the project is so important…

I’m an all-too-frequent visitor to hospital due to a complex bundle of health challenges. 

Initially, it was Charing Cross where I discovered some lovely exhibitions from Paintings in Hospitals as well as individual works in corridors throughout the hospital. The one by Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham still resonates with me. Coming home, I realised how fortunate I am to be surrounded by art - paintings, ceramics, textiles. There is my own art too, the creating of which is hugely important to my wellbeing.

This led me to thinking that, although patients and staff benefit from the art, it is people isolated at home who really suffer from the lack of an aesthetic environment, whether to soothe or stimulate, even at a subliminal level.

Albert Irvin, Angel, 2003. Part of the Paintings in Hospitals collection.

Albert Irvin, Angel, 2003. Part of the Paintings in Hospitals collection.

This isolation pre-existed the pandemic but the virus shone a spotlight on it and exacerbated the problem for vulnerable people. People with chronic, and sometimes terminal, illnesses who don’t often visit hospital as there is nothing there to improve their clinical experience or outcome.

With a background in arts administration (notably the first director of St John’s Smith Square), sponsorship and marketing have always had a role in project planning, and I can never resist a good acronym. OASIS, for Original Art for the Socially Isolated, works well.

I’m in my mid-seventies, and still regard myself as very much alive, but I am realistic about my conditions, so it was very important that whatever I set up was sustainable. I knew of Paintings in Hospitals from my early days working at the New Art Centre (then in Sloane Street). Established over 60 years ago, Paintings in Hospitals has an exemplary reputation for sound management and imaginative development and seemed to be the ideal organisation to take OASIS forward.

I believe that this pilot project is crucial to not only ensure the logistics of such an impactful scheme but also to ensure that OASIS will be patient and user-led from the very beginning.

Find out more about the OASIS project bringing art to the socially and physically isolated on the OASIS announcement page...

Joanna Brendon MBE is a practising artist and holds regular Open Studios. In the summer, this is part of Artists at Home which she co-ordinated from 2000-2010. Joanna's main body of work is landscape-based, but she has also produced a series of conceptual prints exploring the theme of vision, as a means of confronting her own visual impairment, prior to a life-changing operation. Three pieces from this series are in the permanent print collection of the V&A and a series of 10 prints are now on permanent display at Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Prior to her commitment as a full-time artist, Joanna was the first director of the concert hall St John's Smith Square. As well as concerts, she has presented poetry readings and exhibitions and has been deeply involved in fundraising for the arts and other charitable causes. With the artist Jocelyn Clarke, she has run workshops for visually impaired visitors to the Wallace Collection and she has been involved with NRAS (National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society) since developing an aggressive form of the disease herself with a serious complication of kidney disease.