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RNRU patients' interpretations of our values

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An Exhibition

September 2014


This wonderful exhibition has been specially commissioned and was created by long stay patients with acquired and traumatic brain injuries in the Homerton’s Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit.

Working with the diverse techniques of collage: painting, gluing and sticking coloured paper, photographs and words  - the patients have responded to the Trust’s core values, giving a unique and original interpretation to the themes of Safe Responsibility Respectful Personal

When you look at the art works in this exhibition you don’t immediately see any literal interpretations of these values. Instead, you are presented with  deeply personal, reflective responses  which may incorporate what these values feel like to a patient, or how they can be represented on paper in an inventive and captivating way. One patient’s preoccupation with the theme of responsibility captures the collective concern for our environment and carefully constructs a picture that is a sort of prophetic warning.

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‘Safe’ to another patient presents us with an image of protection epitomized by the use of fragile and delicate imagery, often taken from old photograph albums in which original, historic pictures have been refreshed and given new meaning by the application of hand painted colour.

Thus, a world previously portrayed in monochrome is now revealed in the palette of the patient’s personal choice, imbuing an obsolete and unknown photograph with an invigorating contemporary aspect. The use of illustrations from damaged books which have been cut up and made into collages demonstrates how these values have been incorporated into dream-like pictures of outstanding virtuosity and playful ingenuity.

In many examples patients have used vintage photographs, taken from photo albums to recreate a history about an unknown person or community of people. In this sense the art work is presenting us with an image that has been revisited and revalued by the patient. By working over and into these old photographs the notion of giving new life to an otherwise forgotten and unknown history is evident.

There are also some art works where parts seem to be missing, perhaps these are present and absent reminders of the intricacy and unreliability of human memory seen through a process of interruption, where the missing components in the art work are silences, pauses, and an invitation for the viewer to fill in the gaps.

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Images which directly portray care actually personify various sorts of  human and animal caring and have been sourced from the National Geographic Magazine. In one image (pictured) you can see a woman dreaming about a variety of forms of care; care for society and children, oneself and the wider community. However, care is not just a metaphorical allusion, it also extends to the care with which the art work has been put together, the cutting and arrangement of specific shapes and pictures to form the basis of stories, the juxtaposition of words and phrases which are intended to act as fragments of description, the careful placement and intention of each art work within the framework of an exhibition about what values mean to people with brain injuries.

This is an inspiring exhibition about how these core values can be translated into unique art works and what the messages (some obvious, others more mysterious) contained within each might represent for all us. Looking at each art work indivisually is akin to reading a puzzle or unscrambling memories of lives lived, it is a testament to the creative innovation of the patients and the artists who assist in the process of recovery in the RNRU’s in the Art Workshop and multidisciplinary healthcare programme.

Shaun Caton