There is something different about the Park Royal Hospital. The typical, white walls are now filled with bright, geometric shapes and colours; their bold, cheerful design bringing a sense of comfort to a place where people can sometimes feel lost.
“In mental health centres, people can experience a dislocating anxiety that they are divorced from the real world, that they have entered a separate reality where they are somehow less valid as human beings,” says Nick Rhodes, CNWL Principal Clinical Psychologist at Northwick Park Hospital, responsible for commissioning contemporary artist Camille Walala to decorate the Park Royal Hospital reception area.
Nick manages the Nightingale Project, a charitable project which works with CNWL to bring art and music to hospitals and other healthcare settings. Camille Walala, known for her powerfully positive mural work, is the latest artist to bring her vision to the project.
“Colour and light and design have a direct impact on mood,” Nick continues, “If people are saying (the atmosphere has made them feel) uplifted then you have made a difference already.”
Camille has just completed a wrap-around mural which covers all of the walls of Park Royal’s reception centre, engulfing the environment in her vibrant design.
“I’ve been to hospital myself (so I know) it’s important to bring life into it,” says Camille, “I use colours and patterns in my work in the city and I wanted to use my art to bring life into mental health as it’s something that’s quite close to my heart. I have family who’ve suffered from mental health issues so it’s really interesting to be here.”
However, decorating the hospital presented a challenge for Camille. In order to create a soothing atmosphere, she had to take a very different approach to the project.
“This one was a bit of a challenge,” says Camille. “My work is normally intense and full on – very joyful. I get a lot of inspiration from African tribal patterns and Memphis Design from the eightie’s. I normally produce bright colours with black and white contrasts. However, for this project I looked to the artist Sonia Delaunay whose shapes and colour palette are much are softer. I also took inspiration from the Russian artist Malevich.
A dedicated professional, Camille devoted herself to getting the balance just right by using a projector to see what the design would look like before starting to paint.
“I started on Monday and then I painted over that again and changed the colour! I was trying to follow my instinct and trying to get the right balance of composition and colour to bring in a sense of harmony. Using the projector, I created a composition using the reception’s space and the elevators.”
“Even while Camille and her team have been working at the Centre, we have been very struck by the number of patients and staff who have said ‘Wow! This is uplifting!’ or ‘This makes me happy!’” adds Nick, “So we think Camille’s work is having the desired effect. NHS hospitals tend to be institutional, old-fashioned and drab, and Camille’s work is anything but that – (her designs are) fresh, contemporary and optimistic, so for that reason she is a good fit! We want our hospital projects to be life-enhancing.”
Following the huge success of the Walala mural in the ground floor reception, the Nightingale Project is hoping to raise £10,000 to enable the Camille Walala project to be extended up the stairwell and into the first floor lobby. Although she is now much in demand internationally, Camille has agreed to fit the project into her schedule if we are able to raise the funds. Any local businesses who would like to help to sponsor the project are invited to contact the Nightingale Project’s Director, Dr Nick Rhodes – firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Nightingale Project is Charity no 1082989 – www.nightingaleproject.org