Ecosystem
by Eleanor Weaver

Creative Piece

I have created a semi-abstract piece, which I have called ‘Ecosystem’. Originally I chose just to paint, but after deeper reflection into my chosen topic I felt a mixed-media approach would be more appropriate.

In hospital, it takes not only the traditional doctors, nurses and health care assistants, but also medical scientists, laboratory workers, radiographers, porters, receptionists, volunteers and cleaners, all just to treat one person. As the fifth largest employer worldwide, the care environment we have come to expect today from the vast network of people within the NHS requires a perfect symbiosis between each member. This chaotic web of practitioners has inspired me to create a mixed media work, described perfectly by its name: Ecosystem.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this painting, artistically speaking, is the striking juxtaposition between light and dark. The darkness present at the centre of this piece represents the inherent sickness within the heart of the hospital community, with the unembellished blackness of the bottom corners ultimately representing death. The melancholic isolation of the darker regions of this painting is symbolic of the dignified, yet matter-of-fact way death is expected in the hospital. My own frank reflections on this subject rather surprised me, having never encountered death myself I have rather readily come to accept it as member of the medical community, and the extent to which I exhibited death in my painting is a tribute to that. In contrast, the lighter portions of this painting are a metaphor for health, and leaving the hospital community behind. The gradual fade from darkness to light is the steady ascent back to health, however the sharper, more contrasting regions signify the acutely ill, and their rapidly declining health.

I chose blue as the tone of this piece due to its reputation as a very clinical, impersonal colour, as well as its abilities to promote calm, peacefulness and reflectivity 1. The highlight colours of white and yellow create areas of radiance and positivity, with the yellow and gold clusters embodying the limitless kindness and dedication of nurses. The bright green glitter is also a cheeky reference to the high drama and precision of paramedics, so rarely considered an integral part of the hospital community.

In this piece, I have used an array of media, including watercolour paint, acrylic paint, spray paint, glue, pencil and even glitter, each medium reflecting on a different role within the medical community. The different media interact and overlap, creating a delicate network of colour and texture. A friend of mine remarked that ‘Ecosystem’ resembles a pond, and now I see the floating weeds, specks of sand, the insects and the hidden depths, which brings my previously static representation of hospital a new sense of life. The frantic energy of the ecosystem, juxtaposed by the tranquil cool of the pond could be considered a metaphor for what the doctor feels, versus what the patient sees on a hospital ward.

The fine, finger-like branches etched in pencil, that expand into all corners of this piece represent the doctors, each branch projecting delicately into its own specialty. Many of these branches point joyfully into patches of light, directing patients back to health. However, few branches point the other way, striking into the darkness, marking the palliative doctors, who bravely and respectfully lead their patients to their inexorable deaths. The lighter, healthier regions are rather more decorated, integrating clinical medicine with the social side. The nurses, health care assistants and social care workers blend together, spattered into the light in a blend of colours, easing the transition from dark to light, from sickness to health. The chaotic epicenter of this piece portrays the frantic busyness of the working hospital. The layers of different media, complementing and enhancing one another, act together just as the different professionals do within the hospital, creating a glowing area of light within the darkness.

I faced a number of technical challenges with this work. Primarily I found it difficult to generate the depth of colour I was seeking in areas of darkness using the watercolour paints available to me. I also struggled with the blue, which seemed much more brilliant when wet, and fading to a dull grey as it dried. Watercolour is a medium I am not familiar with, and my struggles with it led me to complement with acrylic paints, particular to draw the white branches which meander across the painting. It was always my intention for the different media to interact and contrast with each other, however another difficult I faced was that the layers interacted with one another rather too well, creating a blurred mess, particularly in the centre of the piece. My inner philosopher said to leave it, but I decided to repaint the centre rather more carefully, to achieve the chaotic effect that I desired and I am very pleased with the final outcome of this piece.

By reflecting on the action of the hospital as a community and as an ecosystem, it has allowed me to encompass many medical professions, consider the value of communication and cooperation and has also lent me new perspective on the doctor-patient relationship. In the modern day, clinical care is more complex than ever, and thus successful communication between patients and clinicians is becoming more and more important.

It is these opportunities to reflect which allow me not just to further my compassion and understanding, but to come to terms with past experiences, to learn from them, and to develop my resilience and integrity as a future doctor.

Eleanor Weaver, Whole Person Care, Year One, 2017

1.Begum R. “Depths of Colour Psychology” - 1st Edition, AuthorHouse 2008