Both Lawrie and I loved to visit galleries and discover the factual and imagined stories held within the paintings we encountered. He was a professional writer and photographer, whilst I am an artist trained in mindfulness. I’ve worked with art in the NHS for many years and know how healing it can be.
Art helps us to relax and ‘breathe out’. It encourages us to notice and connect with the world around us, it focuses our attention in a positive way, and it keeps our minds stimulated by learning new things. We know from studies that absorbing new skills, being mindful, and taking time for quiet relaxation can all help our wellbeing. Studies also show that looking at beautiful art can raise our mood, lower our blood pressure and even help with pain management.
St Ann’s Hospice not only cared for Lawrie just prior to his passing, but also played an important role in supporting me through the devastation and shock of losing him. Counselling and complementary therapies are all aspects of care that have been offered, and that have strengthened me sufficiently to allow me to undertake the launch of this very special project that represents Lawrie and me.
Look at Paintings is a testimony to Lawrie’s imaginative, warm, lively, funny, curious approach to life. It was his idea, and creating it brought together our twin talents and passions. Once he gave me the idea, I ran with it and he supported me to create and improve all the meditations.
The site takes people into a virtual gallery with six rooms, where thematic paintings are displayed. The selected paintings are from the 16th to 20th century and offer a wealth of detail. For each painting there is an audio guide to listen to, which stimulates connection, noticing, reflection and relaxation.
At the time of creating the site, we conceived of it as a means of connecting people who were isolated in their place of residence – for whatever reason – so that they could still benefit from visiting an art gallery and hearing the stories of the paintings. Suddenly this need has become a reality for many people around the world: lockdown and isolation mean we now need art to come to us, rather than being able to approach it ourselves.
Social isolation and social distancing are challenges right now that carry the danger of disconnecting us from our emotional hearts. From any point of view this could be unhealthy, but add to that the fear and anxiety of this time and it feels like we need some light in our lives. Our new website ‘Look at Paintings’ uses meditation and art to support wellbeing, soothe stress and lighten a dark mood.
Look at Paintings launches in memory of my beloved Lawrie. I miss him very much but I am quite certain Lawrie knows about this initiative from where he is, and is encouraging it forward. The website is completely free and there to enjoy, so I hope that people will share it widely with one another.