Wynford Ellis Owen, Centre Head & CEO, paints us a vivid and moving picture of how the Paintings in Hospitals collection supported the recovery of service users at the Living Room Cardiff...

One painting in particular, an abstract by June Forster entitled Winter Landscape has proved invaluable in the therapeutic work that I do. I refer to it almost on a weekly basis. The painting has many shapes, shades and colours to it and, to me, it represents what it is to be fully human.

Accepting our humanness involves embracing the dark sides to our psyche – and there are three prominent dark sections in this painting – something addicts are incapable of showing. They hide the dark sides of their psyche from the world and ultimately from themselves. They put on a performance: what they think you want to see in them; what they think you want to hear from them. They’re basically living a lie – they’re not authentic; they’re not real; they’re not true to nature. What they show you is not who they are.

Winter Landscape by Jane ForsterJune Forster, Winter Landscape. Part of the Paintings in Hospitals collection.

To demonstrate this I hold three sheets of white paper to cover the dark sides of the painting - which is what the addict does metaphorically. This leads to a sense of separateness; the unbearable burden of aloneness that blights addicts’ lives. Over time they lose touch with who they are; they develop a spiritual void which they spend the rest of their lives trying to flee from by stupefying themselves with alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, anxiety, consumerism, etc.

To recover, we have to learn to embrace these dark sides of our psyche. I call it ‘loving the cancer within’. Loving something which is slowly killing us is alien to us. But, in order to recover from addictions, this is what we have to do. Everyone in the world knows that an alcoholic cannot begin to recover until he accepts he’s an alcoholic. What the alcoholic is doing here is accepting some uncomfortable truths about himself; he’s beginning to embrace the dark sides of his psyche - to accept himself as he is, warts and all.

The painting, therefore, represents an emotionally and spiritually healthy individual.

I’m sure this is not what the artist had in mind when she painted Winter Landscape. But this is my interpretation. It’s an interpretation that ‘Living-Roomers’ fully understand. And it is a constant reminder to them – because it has pride of place right at the therapeutic heart of the Living Room – of what is their ultimate recovery goal: to be fully human.

Find out more about how patients and service users can benefit from working with Paintings in Hospitals...

Celebrating 60 years of Paintings in Hospitals in 2019

Follow #60Voices on TwitterFacebook and Instagram...

Wynford Ellis Owen is Centre Head & Chief Executive Officer. After 40 years as a writer, actor and director working in theatre and television, Wynford returned to college in 2006 to study for a Fd.Sc. degree in Addictions Counselling. In 2008 he started work as Chief Executive Officer of the Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs. Wynford is in recovery and his sobriety date is 22nd July, 1992.