Art has the potential to be much more than simply decorative. When chosen carefully it can impact our mood, improve sleep patterns, and help our bodies track the passage of time, all of which have measurable benefits to our wellness and quality of life. This is something that major architects and developers are increasingly designing into their corporate and commercial properties, and may be something that we can all learn from in our homes and offices.

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Light colour and frequency have played a large part in our human evolution. Modern advances in the study of the ways in which light impacts us, known as ‘Human Centric” lighting, have taught us much about the effects on our circadian rhythms and the implications for our broader health. From energy levels to optimisation of our ability to concentrate and immune systems, the more we learn the more important light quality becomes. Yet more and more of us spend much of our lives in artificial and unchanging places at home or in the office. This idea of beneficial manipulation of artificial light is being used by some innovative artists in their work. Jason Bruges created Icosahedral Sky to closely replicate the changing colour and frequency of natural sunlight, updating in real time through sensors placed outside the building. Bringing the sun inside thorough art in an ingenious fashion.

Icosahedral Sky

Numerous studies show that light colour can also change our moods and influence decision-making, including increasing heartrates or helping to focus on detailed tasks. At the 2016 Bristol Biennial, Liz West’s Our Colour installation simply used tinted light bulbs to wash over the empty interior of an office block.  The effect was that of a rainbow cast indoors. Consider certain times of day in your own office when decisive and bold action is required, or others calling for moments of quiet contemplation.  Or your living room, which may need to adapt to be multiple different rooms within a single day.

A fascinating combination of both of bringing daylight indoors and considered use of colour is the wonderful Olaf Eliasson’s Weather Project in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern (top picture). The vast sun was made up of mono-frequency lights that rendered invisible every colour other than yellow and black. The fully mirrored ceiling created a second sun and bounced light around the vast hall, creating a very strong sensation that one could palpably feel being shared throughout the audience.

The Weather Project by Olafur Eliasson

In addition to light quality, studies have shown that our energy levels and sleep patterns are badly impacted by the static nature of our homes and offices. We evolved in constantly changing surroundings, hour to hour the world is remodelled. Yet the places we live and work tend to be stagnant. Art is a great way to break this cycle.  Rob and Nick Carter created the Transforming series – an exhibition of largely classical oil paintings and drawings.  Only they weren’t.  They were incredible animations looping over hours. A Turner-inspired woodland of trees whose leaves flutter in the wind, clouds lazily moving so slowly as to be almost imperceptible.  Over the course of the day dawn turns to dusk, art that changes every time you see it, tracking the passage of time with the viewer.

Tree of Life series, Tumbleweed

Barbara Myers’ Tree of Life series brings gnarled branches and twisted trees into our homes, boughs that seemingly grow through walls and crawl across ceilings. However, they are cast in solid bronze, then patinated to match the colour of the original wood, there is even moss on the ‘northern’ side. We have previously installed simple lights on rotating rigs that gradually lengthen the shadows of these organic forms, patterns cast onto floors and walls, creating a sensation of walking through woodland.

 

Which brings us, rather neatly, to another way in which art can contribute towards wellness – reintroducing the natural world. There are fascinating reports looking at the benefits of being surrounded by nature, even when synthesised multi-sensory replications. Some sculptors integrate sound, scent or motion into their work to communicate to a viewer how they experience the natural world.  Walter Bailey, a protégé of David Nash and extraordinary sculptor working primarily in charred wood, has previously created pieces that blur the distinction between art, furniture and building.  Dodecahedron and Cube encourage us to sit within the artwork, surrounded by the scent of the natural oils of the sequoia and bathed in dappled light as if we were in cool forest.  Shown here in combination with the composite photography of David Anthony-Hall, 400 images of woodland digitally combined into a 5m wide scene that feels more like a window than a photograph, with planting in front. The effect was to transport the viewer from central London and pull them immediately into the surrounding countryside.  How might snatched moments of privacy in this English idyll impact your mood?

This principle of recreating nature is not new, it has been with us since the very earliest art daubed on cave walls. However, as our lives have become increasingly urban and removed, and artists’ techniques adapt to integrate sounds, scent and texture, the benefits of natural curation have become more pronounced.

Perception of time, improvements to our circadian rhythms, reintroduction of the natural world into our homes and offices, stolen moments of seclusion in calming spaces, washing space in coloured light to influence moods. Whatever your reasons to surround yourself with art, from investment to wellness, we would suggest seeking support from a trusted adviser and spending some time discussing with them the various ways in which you wish to benefit from this fantastically exciting market.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Oliver Hawkins is a Director at Marshall Murray, an art advisory with years of experience in the curation of artwork for private collections, corporate collectors and design professionals.  For further information he can be contacted via enquiries@marshallmurray.co.uk

 

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