Illness inspires art at Blackburn University Centre’s Annual Art and Design Degree Show


A Blackburn woman has spoken of how her illness has inspired her to return to education.

Wendy Hartley, 58, enrolled on a BA (Hons) in Fine Art at Blackburn University Centre after an illness led her to pick up a paintbrush for the first time since childhood.

She is showcasing her work art at Blackburn University Centre’s Annual Art and Design Degree Show 2022, which was launched on Friday night by fashion designer Wayne Hemingway at Blackburn College’s Victoria Building.

The show, which is being run until 17th June, showcases the talent and culmination of practice of degree students at Blackburn University Centre.

Her exhibition work is based around her recent experience of going back into hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic and the trauma that it caused.

She said: “About 12 years ago I had two hip replacements and following that I had serious infections including a septic kidney and various other issues. A couple of years ago I ended up back in hospital and after that I was unable to do a lot of the things I could do previously as I had been quite active.

“I’d never been interested in painting, but for some reason I went out and bought a canvas and art supplies and painted a snowy landscape. I was shocked at how much time had passed and how it helped to relieve my pain.

“My daughter suggested that I look at doing a course in art. I was unsure as I lacked confidence and I didn’t think I would be accepted as I’d never studied art before, and I’d had a long time out of studying as I was working and raising a family. I was delighted when I was accepted.”

Wendy says her art for the exhibition was inspired by her illness and her first-hand experience of seeing the NHS overrun.

She added: “Last summer I was in hospital again and I saw the difficulties that the NHS were experiencing with the high volumes of people coming in and how short staffed they were. It was organised chaos with all the staff knowing what they were doing but there were just too many people for them to treat. It really made an impact on me.

“My main piece is an abstract look at what I saw but mixing in perspective with the inclusion of the hospital corridor and people walking along it.

“The course has been therapy for me, it’s been very emotional and cathartic, allowing me to express the feelings I had of being ill.

“I have loved studying for a degree. The tutors have been amazing, they have been incredibly supportive and given me the confidence that I needed to get out of my comfort zone. They have also encouraged me to get involved in a range of different exhibitions and festivals.”

16 Jun 2022, 18:13 PM