The Art of Wellbeing  


Art evokes emotion, memories and feelings, however, with the help of the experts at The Arx, L-J Andrew discovers how it also affects our overall wellbeing  

If you have ever experienced being alone in a gallery, you’ll know that it’s a feeling that’s hard to replicate, you feel as if you’ve entered a different world. The quiet and tranquil atmosphere has the ability to relax your mind as soon as you enter. 

Becky Bosworth, of The Arx, describes: “Being in a gallery can be a calming, peaceful and meditative experience. It’s a place to think and explore your inner thoughts and respond to the perspectives of others. From an immersive experience to gaining knowledge, a gallery can provide aesthetic stimulation and inspiration.” 

Standing before the artist’s masterpiece as if it has just been created, inviting you to look at every tiny detail. You could spend hours in front of just a single artwork. This transformative effect of viewing and interacting with art can be tremendously beneficial to our health, contributing to overall happiness and mental well-being. It provides a distraction from daily stresses as you’re consumed by the narrative before you. 

“Standing in front of a piece of art can transport us out of our day-to-day world,” Becky explains “Stepping into someone else's shoes and their lived experiences, bringing empathy and awareness of the wider world. It provides time alone to think, creating a feeling of joy and fostering your own creativity, and inspiration. Helping us to focus, relax and gain a sense of clarity. It can also provide us with a way to explore our inner selves and find purpose. Finally, engaging in art can help us to build strong relationships with others and our environment.” 

For example, the dramatic action in the Ella Baudient’s work, prepared for her solo exhibition in Spring 2023 during her residency at the Arx, occupies our minds. A Melbourne-based artist working worldwide, Baudinet is known for her abstract expressionist aesthetics. Her work explores the space between conscious and subconscious thought, provoking emotions, associations, memories, spiritual connections and philosophical reflection within her viewers.  

Baudinet explains: “As an artist, the unity of the mind, body and spirit are at the very heart of my work. Painting continues to be an exploration into my own journey of healing and discovery. This exhibition bridges the gap between conscious and subconscious in a painterly dance of opposing elements. At its core, my work is an expression of duality, an invitation to reconcile with the conflicting aspects within, while celebrating the power of love as a transformative force.” 

Photography by: Nicola Charalambous

The experience of looking at pieces such as Baudinet’s, can be interactive, sensory, cognitive, emotional, or even spiritual and studies show that this repeated experience can have a long-term change in our brain circuits. 

Baudient continues: “Art is a great display of vulnerability, reflecting the soul of the artist and acting as a mirror to all those who gaze upon it. We don’t perceive things as they are, rather, through the lens of our own identities. I invite viewers to be fully present and listen to anything that is evoked by the art. I often hear that my paintings feel like looking into a dream. Dreams speak to us in mysterious, intangible ways and can only be understood through feelings or sensations. I hope to inspire viewers to reflect within, without necessarily creating meaning for them. It’s an opportunity to wonder, be curious and connect with the self on a deeper level.” 

Another benefit of art is that it encourages creative thinking and imagination whilst also enhancing problem-solving skills. Because there’s no wrong answer in art, we’re encouraged to imagine our own solutions to the questions a piece of art raises. This type of flexible thinking has been shown to stimulate the brain and prepares it for complicated functions in the same ways that learning a new language does. 

Art also has a powerful impact on our experience of our wider environment. It can humanise a harsh, clinical hallway or enliven a dull office, emphasising the human element of sterile or functional environments. Humanising and beautifying an environment has the effect of reducing anxiety and depression, while improving general happiness and productivity. 

Beautification plays an important role in art’s effect on wellbeing, but to believe that this impact is down only to improving the aesthetic of an environment is to undermine the full power of art. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts Health and Wellbeing published an Arts Health and Wellbeing report in 2017, with a two years’ worth of research, demonstrating that visual art improves psychological and physical wellbeing in a number of ways. 

Medical professionals are now prescribing art, in various forms, as a means of illness prevention.  Becky says: “Art therapy is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, become more self-aware, and improve cognitive functioning. It can also help them gain a sense of accomplishment and pride in their artwork. In addition, art therapy can help individuals practice new coping skills that can be used in everyday life, as well as work on communication and social skills in a non-threatening environment.” 

Arts on Prescription, a project backed by Arts Council England, has shown that GB consultation rates drop by 37% and hospital admissions decrease by 27% when people actively attend galleries and museums. The report calls for a change in the culture of our healthcare, claiming that the UK has not yet realised the potential art has to aid medical practices. 

Other findings follow suit. In 2006, the Department of Health Working Group on Arts and Health discovered that factors beyond well-being, such as length of stay in hospital and pain tolerance, were significantly reduced by the presence of landscape paintings in hospitals. The parliamentary report notes that the UK lags ‘in significant respects behind other countries, such as Australia, Cuba and the Nordic countries'.  


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