Architecture Art Design Marketing

Eno installations at the Montefiore Hospital

I’m not given much to hero worship, but Brian Eno is as close as I get.  His ambient music is often the backdrop to my work, and his albums Neroli, Thursday Afternoon, The Plateaux of Mirrors (with Harold Budd), Music for Airports, and On Land are all favourites.  While his book, A Year With Swollen Appendices, which I read several times, influenced the course of my life and helped me diversify and enrich what have done with my life.

Lately, I have been researching hospital waiting rooms, as I believe the experience for people using them can be drastically improved. No surprise to find that Eno had already gone there before me. I visited the Montefiore Hospital  in Hove, just walking distance from my home, which has two installations by Brian Eno.

In the reception area you can find Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings for Montefiore, a slowly-mutating light painting, which layers and combines in millions of ways previous artworks by Eno.  He says in his notes, ‘The movement of the whole piece is deliberately slow. My feeling is that this slowness produces a calming experience — because it takes the viewer down to its speed.’ Soothing ambient sounds also provide a tranquil backdrop to the reception area.

The Quiet Room for Montefiore  is chiefly used by patients after chemotherapy and it creates a therapeutic, humanising tranquillity.  About this room Eno writes, ‘Creating a healing environment isn’t only about correct surgical procedures and the right technology but also about making an atmosphere where the patients feel able to relax enough to clearly think through their options, and to properly take part in the healing process themselves.’ As you sit on the sofa and watch the light combine in different ways, and sense the ambient sound calming you, you can tell this is art of a different sort, that provides a context for you to exist calmly. It is a brilliant piece of work.

I picked up the comments book in reception and read, ‘you can feel your blood pressure calming by the minute. It made me think of cells and change and the beauty of life.’ Another person wrote, ‘I truly believe they play a significant role in my treatment and my journey to being well’.

I believe treatment should begin in the waiting room, and The Montefiore Hospital, through its use of these Eno installations, may be on the way to doing just that.

I would like to thank Tom Collins of Montefiore Hospital for showing me the work.

Below a snap of the endlessly changing 77 Million Paintings for Montefiore, in the reception area, and a photo taken from the sofa in the darkened The Quiet Room for Montefiore.

77 Million Paintings for Montefiore by Brian Eno
The Quiet Room for Montefiore, by Brian Eno



Design Music

Wonderfully ingored


To be ignored by a piece of art is an amazing possibility. I came across this article in The Guardian about a book with facial recognition software built in. According to the article it is “Designed by Thijs Biersteker of digital entrepreneurs Moore has created a book jacket that will open only when a reader shows no judgment”.

I have always been attracted to the idea of a sentient piece of art. For example, when I wrote, with Matthew Pollard, the piece, This Concert Will Fall In Love With You, we envisaged a piece of music haunted by a sentience that was aware of its audience, which gradually became heartbroken as it realised that the music would end, and the audience leave. This interaction explicitly acknowledges the fact the audience exists and is listening.

I love the idea that a work of art can choose to withhold its engagement, to ignore you as a person might, really appealling.

Art Design Music

Two boyhood heroes: Steve Howe and Roger Dean

Steve Howe on the Anthology tour April 2015

I had a two for one deal on boyhood heroes at Trading Boundaries on the 12 of April. Not only did I see legendary guitarist Steve Howe but he was introduced to the stage by Roger Dean.

Steve Howe is a fabulous guitarist. His self-taught mastery of musical genres from classical to country blues, plus an extraordinary musical imagination, means he has always been my benchmark when listening to guitarists in any genre.  At Trading Boundaries I found his performance uplifting. I’d first seen him live in 1975, and several times since then, but not for perhaps ten years. For me it was heartening to see my boyhood hero, guitarist of Yes, in such an intimate and pleasant venue. He was relaxed, chatty and still playing exquisitely after all these years.

Then there’s Roger Dean. As a teenager I loved Dean’s fantastic landscapes and Dean’s Views was the first book by an artist I felt I could personally relate to. He also made me imagine what life in one of his organically-rounded dwellings might be like, opened me up to the possibilities of set design, and gave me a glimpse at the trial and error that went into the creation of a logo. Thanks to my mother, I was taken to galleries from an early age and by the time I did an A Level in art I was more German Neue Sachlichkeit than fantasy art. But to this day I have a Roger Dean poster in my study and his work is always something I have in mind, say when at the recent Peder Balke exhibition in the National.

The work of Howe playing with Yes and Roger Dean combined to form a sonic and visual environment that was a teenage refuge, a niche in the imagination that belonged to me. For that I am still grateful.

Design Poetry

A note on formats: Free Verse – The Poetry Book Fair

Popped into the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square on 6th September to meet Robin Houghton and have a mooch around the stands at this year’s Poetry Book Fair together. We found it heartening to chat to dozens of poetry publishers from around the UK, and see evidence of a thriving scene.

Poetry’s tendency to  experiment with good quality visual design, and unusual formats may actually help protect these small presses. When working as a copywriter in the days of junk mail, I spent countless afternoons with an art director partner, dreaming up different formats (aka ‘paper engineering’) for junk mail. Perhaps it is for that reason I often feel slightly short changed by pedestrian ‘me-too’ production.

It may be fortunate for such publishers that poetry doesn’t fare well in ebooks. On a kindle, the poem’s formatting is often wrong, introducing bogus line breaks or ruining the shape of the poem on the page. Seen on a bland screen, the value of these sweated-over words is diminished. Poetry publications in general, and especially publications that use interesting formats, have a tactile quality and shape on the page that enhances the reading experience. Being reminded of this at the fair reassured me that the future of the niche poetry publication scene is secure. More than that, many in the room seemed on a mission powered by a fierce love for what they were doing. Nobody can stop them.

Below I enjoyed speaking to Hugh Bryden, of Roncadora Press from Dumfries, and particularly liked the visual style of some of his productions, which he illustrates. I came away with one example, Five Days A Week/Twelve Months A Year, a limited edition pamphlet designed and illustrated by Hugh, with poems by Hugh McMillan.

17 Poems by Hugh McMillan, designed by Hugh Bryden.
17 Poems by Hugh McMillan, designed by Hugh Bryden.