What You Do I Like, presentation


| Arts & Health

What You Do I Like - Hospitalfield House, Arbroath, September 2018

Jeni was invited to talk about autonomy and creativity at the end of life, and to reflect on her experience as an artist working in a hospice setting. This talk was part of ‘What You Do I Like’, an event exploring ideas of translation, visualisation and poetry.

Jeni spoke about her work as an Artist at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow and her role supporting patients who are approaching end of life. She focused in particular on how creativity can play a role in supporting a person’s autonomy in life.

People face many challenges when living with a life-limiting illness which impact greatly on an individual’s autonomy. Often when the hospice artists meet patients for the first time they have lost a sense of themselves. They are no longer able to make meaningful choices in relation to what matters to them and their relationships can change as they become less well. Often people feel a loss of control over the life they had once hoped for.

Jeni described the creative choices that people have while in the Art Room at the hospice and the process-based approach developed by the artists working in the art service. Mostly we work with people who have never engaged in creativity and Jeni described how we invite people to take those first steps. The invitation itself and how it is presented has the potential to either work in support of, or against a person’s decision to make the initial mark. It can be a lot to ask of people at such a difficult time in life and it can take a while before people develop their confidence.

Patients, working as artists, develop their practice in both physical spaces and internally. These spaces can help people reconnect with themselves and with others around them. It is a shift in focus from health to art and it can be really supportive for people to experience this. Developing an art practice at the end of life can offer something back to the person that has been lost through illness - a sense of achievement, regained confidence or simply having an interest that connects us to the world outside of ourselves.

This experience of making art can offer opportunities to grow, learn and to create new things. People can take their art practice in directions of their choosing and it can surprise and challenge. It can be a journey of discovery as the work develops and they begin to connect and recognise their marks as their own. The experience of art making is of great importance to people because it is often set in stark contrast to what else is happening in their lives as they become less well.

Jeni concluded her talk by outlining how her role working as an artist in a palliative care setting involves helping people to recognise the opportunities art making offers and to make very human connections with people, to find sparks of creativity, whether it be an object, a story or the colour of a person’s eyes. There are starting points for people to be creative everywhere, even at the end of life.

The What You Do I Like event was curated by Neil Bickerton and included talks by Jeni Pearson, Curator / Writer Francis McKee, and art work and performances by Sarah Forrest, Sophie Mackfall, Andrew Kerr, Neil Bickerton and the band Sound of Yell.