Can art improve your mood?

“We wanted to create art that makes people feel good and research has shown that there are certain features that most people like including symmetry and natural images.”

Dr Nichola Street, Lecturer in Psychology

A touring exhibition which uses eye and body tracking technology to explore how art can improve your mood is coming to Staffordshire University next week.

Reflecting Nature is a collaboration between Staffordshire University Psychologist Dr Nichola Street and award winning artist Mark Ware, whose work draws on his experiences since having a stroke.

From Tuesday 4 October the University's Science Centre will house 16 large digital prints featuring natural imagery and symmetrical patterns which have both been shown to trigger positive responses in the viewer. Huge banners with abstract 3D images inspired by Exeter Cathedral will also adorn the building.

“We wanted to create art that makes people feel good and research has shown that there are certain features that most people like including symmetry and natural images.” Dr Street explained.

“For me the most exciting part of the project lies in understanding the impact that visual stimuli can have with a view to creating psychologically positive environments where mobility or choice of location is limited.”

The project looks at whether beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and visitors are invited to take part in scientific research investigating how we respond to artwork and different environments.

It is hoped the findings can be used to inform environments including hospitals, prisons, schools and even space craft to help improve psychological wellbeing, stress recovery and benefit people with neurological conditions including stroke patients.

Mark commented: “Most of my art since having a severe stroke in 1996 has been touched by my disability and as a result I have become increasingly interested in how my subjective experiences have been altered by my brain injury. The Reflecting Nature collaboration is allowing me to explore subjects that are of profound interest to all artists: why we create art, how we respond to art and how art is intrinsically linked to our interactions with the natural environment.”

Dr Street added: “This tour has been a fantastic opportunity to open up our research to a wide range of participants and we’ve collected some really interesting feedback.”

“We're really excited about the potential use for our findings and Mark and I are keen to continue working together to develop this even further in the future.”

The exhibition runs from 4  October at Staffordshire University's Science where there will be the opportunity to buy signed, limited edition high resolution prints of the artworks.

Due to popular demand the exhibition will remain in the Science Centre until the end of November. During this time people can borrow 3D specs from the reception desk to view the banners as well as having the chance to take part in the ongoing scientific investigation, with questionnaires available at the reception desk.

Mark, Nichola and fellow Staffordshire University psychologist Dr Gemma Hurst, are inviting members of the public to take part in workshops based on their research on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 October as part of the All Stoked Up programme of activity. Find more information here.

*The Reflecting Nature exhibition, supported using public funds by Arts Council England, is part of The Wavelength Project, an ongoing arts/science collaboration between Mark Ware and neuroscientists and psychologists at Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Staffordshire University.

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