I don’t know about you but my hospital birthing room was fairly plain. Battleship grey walls, off-putting blinking machines and a bed which I remember eyeing suspiciously knowing what would be happening in there before long.
Labour took much longer than I’d expected – an hour after admission and I was disappointed when my baby still hadn’t put in an appearance. Optimistic? A tad. I remember that the only thing on the wall was an agonisingly slow-moving clock – and this had my complete, undivided, obsessive attention.
Hospital walls are pretty grim in most cases. Uniformly grey and peeling, they may as well paint bars on them and be done with it. Which is why I think this exhibition by Quentin Blake is the most fabulous idea. Four hospitals in the UK and France commissioned him to produce therapeutic art for various units (mental health, eating disorders, health and social care, and maternity), with unsurprising positive results.
|From the series Mothers and Babies Underwater (c) Quentin Blake|
The maternity series, the largest of the projects, contains more than 50 illustrations and in Blake’s words is a way of saying ‘it’s going to be alright in a minute’. Well, I certainly could have done with a bit of that at the crucial moment. I think I may have been expecting too much from the scented candle and hypnobirthing CD.
The exhibition is currently on tour - the itinerary's below. It's not clear what happens to the art afterwards but I really hope it ends up back in the hospitals where patients can continue to have something cheerful to look at.
The Foundling Museum, London 12 January - 15 April 2012
Paisley Museum, Renfrewshire 27 April - 24 June 2012
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle 7 July - 14 October 2012
Kirkby Gallery, Knowsley 29 October 2012 - 13 January 2013 (tbc)
Bankfield Museum, Halifax 2 February - 13 April 2013 (tbc)
Bodelwyddan Castle, Denbighshire 20 April - 14 July 2013 (tbc)
Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry 27 July - 3 November 2013 (tbc)