Mindfulness and Art
The practice of mindfulness, a way to explore and notice physical and mental wellbeing, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity. From the workplace to schools, mindfulness and meditation are being used to increase productivity, reduce anxiety and offset the impact of a life led in perpetual motion.
UCL Culture’s Art Museum has now launched its own mindfulness event series - Mindfulness and Art. Inviting visitors into the museum to soak up the feeling of contemplation that comes from being in a gallery or sacred space.
From looking to making, participants are gently guided back into the present moment. Setting aside all other anxieties and worries to focus on the brushstrokes and pencil marks that make up a living, breathing work of art.
The work of printmaking genius Richard Cooper Jnr, the subject of the current exhibition Legacy, form the focal point of the sessions. His rich manuscripts and soft-ground etchings are beautiful and absorbing, a restful respite from the flat, textureless glow of the computer screen.
The relationship between art and mindfulness is nothing new. Marina Abramović’s The Artist is Present (Performance, MOMA, 2010) saw the artist seated at a wooden table in front of an empty chair for three months, eight hours a day as members of the public came and locked eyes with her. “It’s luminous, it’s uplifting, it has many layers, but it always comes back to being present, breathing, making eye contact”, said one visitor to Abramović’s performance.
The Tate Modern’s Rothko room is similarly transformative, using dimmed lighting to indicate that this is a space to sit and drink in the meditative quality of the artist’s Seagram Murals. The rise in sales of adult colouring books is yet another example of our desire to return to a state of childlike playfulness and present-moment focus.
Art has the potential to wake us up from the dream we spend most of our time in. To recommit us to living in the here and now and to make us connect with much deeper, more profound aspects of our experience. As a tool for meditation, it’s hard to beat.