In 2019 The Model commissioned Andy Parsons to be Artist in Residence at Sligo University Hospital (SUH). Parsons particularly focused on the Renal Ward where patients undergoing dialysis explored creativity through experiments in painting and drawing. After the imposition of Covid restrictions the artist worked in a studio at The Model and developed a body of drawings, paintings and sculptures tracing the many stories at the heart of hospital life.
Staff, patients and families of Sligo University Hospital, Saolta University Health Care Group.
The project aimed to forge links between SUH and The Model and to explore methodologies for future collaboration. The project also set out to identify the possible scope for artists to work in different areas of the hospital.
The project was conceived as way of opening up future collaboration and involvement in practical educational activities as well as creating opportunities for staff and patients to engage with contemporary art, potentially utilizing the geographic proximity of The Model to SUH.
Andy Parsons’ practice involves working in community contexts, and tends to focus on people and places, and on activities where people work together and help each other. Andy combines collaborative approaches to making art with a commitment to object making, including painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking.
During the residency Parsons engaged staff, patients and families in creative activities and conversations. Working in the Renal Ward, the artist encouraged patients to try watercolour painting and drawing whilst undertaking dialysis.
The Renal Ward was chosen as patients there have to attend regularly and for long periods. Alongside the physical challenges the patients have to contend with boredom and extending an invitation to try an connect with creative activities seemed a logical approach.
The patients explored areas such as mark making and colour mixing and enjoyed developing new skills.
Parsons went out to locations suggested by the patients to take photographs to use as starting points for these paintings – using subjects such as mountains, clouds and the sea. The results were beautiful, with each person responding to the materials in their own personal way.
The aim was to foreground the materiality of painting; the pleasure to be gained from the feel of materials and the flow of paint on an absorbent surface.
In tandem with facilitating the patients’ work, Parsons also made a series of drawings and watercolour paintings of the ward, often drawing things suggested by the patients as a way of faithfully recording the environment.
With the imposition of Covid lockdown restrictions closing the hospital to non-essential visitors, the emphasis of the project shifted, from being primarily collaborative to being more focused on the artist’s recollections and interpretation of the experience of being in the hospital.
The Model provided Parsons with a studio and over the course of 18 months the artist developed the work for the exhibition ‘Patience’.
During the initial stage of the project at Sligo University Hospital, patients in the Renal Ward of SUH created their own artworks.
The exhibition ‘Patience’ at The Model in Sligo, ran from 23 October – 23 December 2021. This major exhibition occupied the four front galleries of The Model. The exhibition included large scale paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures in plaster, bronze, clay and wood.
The website patience.ie was developed to enable everyone to see the development of the work and to function as a virtual environment that recreated the artist’s studio. As such it was a way of future proofing the work made during the project against further curtailment on visits to art galleries and giving patients unable to leave the hospital the opportunity to experience the work.
Informal conversations with staff and patients took place throughout the residency, even after the lockdowns began. More formally throughout the residency there were studio visits by Dr Paul Hartel, Consultant Histopathologist at Sligo University Hospital, who acted as a liaison between the artist and the hospital during Covid restrictions.
Another element of the evaluation of the residency was a dialogue between the artist and Dr Richard Davey, Senior Research Fellow in Historical and Critical Studies in the School of Art and Design, Nottingham Trent University. This dialogue took place for a whole year and examined the ethical position of the artworks alongside their formal and imagistic development.
‘When The Model commissioned me to be Artist in Residence at Sligo University Hospital, I was delighted and apprehensive at the same time. The hospital has a resonance for me as my youngest son was very ill and was treated there for a long time. Everyone has a personal connection with their local hospital, and it is part of everyone’s life, so I knew when I took on the role that I had to work very hard to do justice to the seriousness of the subject I was taking on.
My interactions with the patients and staff, though cut short by the pandemic, were truly inspirational. The exhibition Patience aimed to explore the difficulty and complexity of being in a hospital and at the same time foreground people’s enormous strength, kindness and resilience.
The residency has crystallised ideas that I have been developing for some time about making empathy central to my work and to the response it aims to elicit from the viewer.’ – Andy Parsons
‘Working with artist Andy Parsons has been an enlightening and refreshing experience for Sligo University Hospital, and in spite of the recent frustratingly difficult times of lockdowns, I’m happy to say that Sligo University Hospital remains committed to this creative and healing project. Keen interest endures in its further development and its potential is timely, urgent and meaningful. This wonderful venture, truly, has a life of its own and will continue to help heal and inspire!’ – Dr Paul Hartel, Consultant Histopathologist at Sligo University Hospital. This reflection forms part of Dr Hartel’s response on patience.ie
There were a number of visits by hospital staff to the exhibition ‘Patience’. The exhibition had consistently high attendance rates reaching out to a wide audience.
Documentation and Dissemination
- Handmade invitations: The artist made 200 hand-printed lithographs which were given to staff and patients at the hospital.
- Artist Talk with Andy Parsons and Dr Richard Davey as part of VAI’s Artist Breakfast Club in November 2021.
- The exhibition ‘Patience’ was open to the public from 23 October to 23 December 2021.
- The website patience.ie remains online and new content is being constantly added.
- A video about the residency and the work that has emerged from it can be viewed on https://patience.ie/the-residency/
Date of Publication
2019 - present
The Model, Home of The Niland Collection, Sligo
The residency was commissioned by The Model with funding through Creative Ireland, Sligo, and the Arts Council.
Nature of project
Collaborative/ participatory, Exhibition, Residency