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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ageing Creatively with the National Gallery

LONDON.- An innovative art project developed by the National Gallery is giving a group of stroke survivors the chance to get their creative juices flowing.

Ageing Creatively is an outreach programme that aims to make it possible for people who may be isolated, vulnerable or unable to visit the Gallery independently, to access and enjoy the collection.

During November, members of the Greenhill Aphasia Group took part in four outreach workshops at the Greenhill Centre in Newham. Aphasia is a difficulty speaking or understanding speech, reading or writing. It occurs following damage to the brain and is most common after a stroke.

Participants worked with artist Viyki Turnbull to create still-life drawings and paintings.

For this project – titled "The Real and Unreal" – the group looked at images of still-life paintings in the National Gallery’s permanent collection and compared and contrasted the different approaches that artists have taken.

Using acrylic paint on canvas, participants experimented with techniques used by 17th-century painters and explored how these artists used composition and tone to create ‘ideal’ and symbolic still-life paintings.

Participants then moved on to consider paintings made 250 years later and experimented with techniques that emphasise the ‘real’ qualities of objects such as texture and weight.

The group focused on a number of still-life paintings, including work by Jan Jansz. Treck, Willem Kalf, Harmen Steenwyck, Paul Gauguin and Gustave Courbet.

There are many other Ageing Creatively projects planned for other parts of the UK over the coming months. This follows the success of similar projects delivered in Great Yarmouth and London last year.

National Gallery Outreach Officer, Emma Rehm, explained the motivation behind the project: “Participatory projects which use art as their starting point bring clear benefits for people with disabilities in terms of physical stimulation, sociability, creativity and enjoyment, and this can have a positive effect on health and general well-being. Participants will be able to share their thoughts and use the National Gallery paintings as inspiration for their own work.”

Newham Council’s Executive Member for Health, Councillor Clive Furness, said: “When people suffer a serious or debilitating condition, there is the fear that their useful and creative life is at an end. Projects like this enable people to discover and develop new skills, and to do so in the company of a group of friends.

“Newham Council is committed to giving all residents the best opportunities to lead active and engaging lives and this is an excellent example of the use of art to stimulate and encourage people who suffer with aphasia.”
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