Discussing the elephants in the room: Artist shares vision for dental ward

The artist’s challenges: Create artwork that appeals to young patients of varying ages in a location where there exists not one single large wall on which to hang your work for display. Sidenote, must be easy to sanitize.

Stephen Smith
Stephen Smith

Illustrator Stephen Smith, of the Neasden Control Centre, explained to creativereview.co.uk how those  parameters inspired his designs at Whitechapel Dental Ward: “It needed to be cool but not too scary.” As for the layout of the Royal London Hospital’s ward, busy with patients and furniture: “It was a major challenge to design and ensure that there was a good flow of work throughout the space and that not one single area was dominating another,” he added.

Photographs by Owen Richards.
Photographs by Owen Richards.

All the artwork was carefully measured to fit between dental practice furnishings, along corridors, around pillars.

Which explains toucans perched above operatory chairs and cheetahs guarding nitrile glove dispensers. As for the aforementioned elephants, intermingled with skyscrapers and skateboarders, not to mention foxes, giraffes and hound dogs, the artist said he attempted to blend the patients’  familiar city vision with an imaginative world of the wild.

Smith told Creative Review: “It was important that being in an

Photographs by Owen Richards.
Photographs by Owen Richards.

inner city hospital the artwork responded to the nature of the site in Whitechapel – and reflected the urban nature of many of the kids who use it. I wanted to create an environment that responded to this, but also build a world that was wild and full of animals and forests.”

After being approached last year by Vital Arts, the arts organisation for Barts Health NHS Trust, Smith spent time with head doctors and staff on the ward as part of his creative process. His commission (in vinyl, in keeping with the cleanliness factor) was recently unveiled.

The end result, according to Vital Arts’ Mark Sinclair:

“Much of the artwork is used in locations where Smith’s illustrations can be viewed from the dental chair – to help relax patients while creating a warm and stimulating environment for the dental staff.”

For the full story and additional images of Stephen Smith’s art at Whitechapel, visit: http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2015/august/neasden-control-centre-vital-arts-royal-london

Photographs by Owen Richards

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