This is the first in a series of blogs featuring limeSHIFT artists.
In 2011, artist Lyn Godley filled a gallery in Cologne, Germany with 75 images of birds in flight with points of light along their wingtips and tails. Dimming the lights so that the fibre optics showed up more, the wingtips of the birds became like a constellation in the night sky and the dark magnificence of the room unexpectedly drew crowds that would come and sit quietly, sometimes for hours and often repeatedly, in an embrace of calm.
This is not a typical response; the average amount of time viewers spend in front of a piece of artwork is 30 seconds. Multiple hours is not the norm. For the next year, Godley talked to doctors and art historians and dug into research databases to understand why! She found that exposure to images of nature, natural fractals, and repeated pattern has healing capabilities, reducing stress and improving overall health in the viewer. She also found that particular wavelengths of light result in reduction of stress and calm the body on a physiological level.
The result is a growing collection of sublime artworks that both visually astound and literally make you feel better! Lyn Godley is a trailblazer artist and lighting designer who uses science and technology to create interactive environments with the potential to calm, relieve, heal and engage.
She says, “In public settings where the pace is fast, and stress is amplified, the choice for artwork that can help to reduce these feelings becomes important.”
Here are few nuggets from her findings:
‘Beauty is not a luxury, but a universal desire.’ Anthropologists believe that the desire for beauty is an innate need across all cultures and through all recorded history. , Artistic appreciation and expression are inherent to our species unrelated to comfort level or socioeconomic class.
Nature in artwork has been shown to reduce anxiety and discomfort. Views of simulated landscapes or images depicting nature can speed recovery in patients. One study at East Alabama Medical Center found that drug use for anxiety dropped significantly when the patients were exposed to nature-based artwork. Patients in a Swedish university hospital who were recovering from open heart surgery experienced the least postoperative anxiety when looking at pictures of natural scenes that included water, compared with pictures of abstract art, a control picture, or no picture at all.
Ratios of the layout of the image can instinctively induce feelings of balance and pleasure.
Much of the most successful artwork falls into certain proportions e.g. the golden ratio. Further studies have shown that humans break down all visual information into symbols, and by using those symbols we can mimic the effect of the actual stimuli.
Light can trigger processes that relieve pain and change mood. For example, when human skin is exposed to blue LED light at a specific wavelength, it triggers processes that relieve pain without chemical substances and pharmaceutical actives. More well known is the use of non-visual light to change mood. Light-waves influence hormone secretion, heart rate, alertness, sleep propensity, body temperature, and gene expression in humans;there is preliminary evidence it might be useful for anxiety.
For more please see Lyn Godley’s talk: The value of Beauty- Using Art and Light to Promote Wellbeing in Public Space
 How Long Does it Take To Look at a Painting?, James Elkins, Huffington Post, as well as Spending Time on Art, Jeffrey K. Smith and Lisa F. Smith
 The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution, Denis Dutton, 2008
 The relation between perceived sensory dimensions of urban green space and stress restoration, Grahn, Patrik and Ulrika K. Stigsdotter.
 The Healing Presence of Art: A History of Western Art in Hospitals, Richard Cook
 Arts in Healthcare: 2009/ State of the Arts Field Report, Society for the Arts in Healthcare
 Transforming the Health Experience Through the Arts, Blaire L. Sadler and Annette Ridenour
 More than a Feeling: How the Arts Affect your Health, News in Health – National Institute of Health
 The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art. Mind, and Brain by Eric R. Kandel
 A New Use for LEDs: Mind Control, By MICHAEL KANELLOS
 Light and Human Health: An Overview of the Impact of Optical Radiation on Visual, Circadian, Neuroendocrine, and Neurobehavioral Responses, Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. Prepared by IES Light and Human Health Committee: Mariana G. Figueiro, George C. Brainard, S.W. Lockley, V.L. Revell, R. White