Our Communications Assistant Nina Klaff talks to us about how art has the power to unite us all, whether we love it or hate it...

How long have you been at Paintings in Hospitals? What is your role in your own words?

I started in August this year, so I believe that makes me the newest member of the team! I keep everyone updated with what we’re up to, working closely with our Communications & Development Manager Thomas Walshaw. I write the blogs we publish on our website, edit the reels you see on Instagram, and I’m usually behind whatever we post on our other social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. I keep my finger on the pulse to make sure I know about everything that’s going on and help Thomas out with whatever he needs.

How would you describe what Paintings in Hospitals does?

The charity demonstrates the ways in which art can help people. It works at a fascinating intersection between art and science, mental and physical health. These are often considered separate, which is something I wholeheartedly disagree with. Paintings in Hospitals brings them together and unites people in doing so. We engage with art all the time, sometimes without even being conscious of it. We listen to music, watch television, write journals, bake cakes and paint pictures. Mental health is often thought of in quite sterile terms, but we need to acknowledge how important art is to our comfort. Paintings in Hospitals makes this a priority. It takes art out of where you’d expect to find it and puts it in care spaces. Our team also takes excellent care of a collection of over 2,000 artworks and raises awareness about the benefits of art for health through the engagement activities we provide. We work with some phenomenal artists too!

In your opinion, what is the charity’s most important principle?

Paintings in Hospitals makes art accessible. It operates on the understanding that creativity is a fundamental aspect of what it is to be human. In doing so, it unites patients and care staff, medical professionals and artists, and makes art accessible to those who don’t think it’s for them. These are really important principles that I stand by.

Why do you work at Paintings in Hospitals? What do you like most about it?

I wanted to work with the charity because I believe so passionately in the power of art. As a creative, my work has often touched on health and our relationship to the body. I suppose I’ve always felt indebted to science and healthcare because I was born by IVF. Without the NHS I simply wouldn’t be here. That knowledge is always in the back of my mind. Over the course of the pandemic, as we witnessed a global health crisis, it no longer felt like enough to just make work from the peripheries. Especially after my grandmother died in a care home last August, I knew I wanted to work more closely with care providers to make these environments better for patients and staff alike. I was delighted when I got the job! As everyone has said: my favourite thing about working here is the team. I love that I am constantly inspired to think about the benefits art can have on our wellbeing in new and innovative ways, and that I get to discover all the work we have in our collection.

What is it you think the charity can ultimately achieve as we work together?

I hope the charity can continue to grow: help more people, serve more areas, and get art into more sites. I think we will continue to raise awareness for the importance of accessible healthcare for all and hopefully expand who we work with to include even more diverse communities.

What is your favourite piece in the collection?

I’d have to say my favourite piece is Colour Out of Space by Jake and Dinos Chapman. I have a complex relationship with the Chapman Brothers’ work: some of it I like, and some of it I really hate, for reasons I won’t go into here! The truth is their work has an impact on me either way. That’s an important aspect of art for me. This was one of the first works I spotted in our collection. Because of the pandemic, I’ve only been to the office once in person, and I instantly recognised this piece. I know a lot of people who would be loath to count a glittery smiley face as art. It’s subversive and simple. That’s what I like about it!

Jake and Dinos Chapman, Colour Out of Space, 2020. Part of the Paintings in Hospitals Collection