‘Painting helps me forget about my cancer’: how the Van Gogh Alive exhibition is helping Christie patients

A popular art exhibition is supporting people living with cancer in Manchester in a very special way.

<p>Julie Colville with one of her paintings</p>

Julie Colville with one of her paintings

Cancer patients at The Christie have been inspired to do paintings in the style of Van Gogh as part of a competition being run in conjunction with the Van Gogh Alive exhibition at MediaCityUK.

The patients have all benefitted from art classes in the art room at The Christie in the past which will shortly undergo a major refurbishment - funded by The Christie charity and the charitable proceeds of the Van Gogh Alive exhibition.

One of the patients involved is Julie Colville, 68, from Withington. Julie was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in 2015 and first started to visit the art room in 2017. She is now in remission following what she describes as a gruelling cancer treatment.

VanGoghAlive Credit: Richard Blake

She said: “I’m delighted to be involved in this project, supporting the fundraising efforts to expand the art room at The Christie. Van Gogh was a fantastic painter and imitating his style in my own work will be a challenge.

“The art room at The Christie is a truly amazing place where patients can go to focus on something other than having cancer, at least for a few hours at a time.

“It’s good to be with a group of people who understand the emotions that you go through when you are living with and coming to terms with cancer.

“I hope that as many people as possible support the Van Gogh Alive exhibition at MediaCityUK as the art room at The Christie will benefit from the charitable proceeds generated by it.

“The artist who runs the room at The Christie, Pat Mountford, is a brilliant teacher and a great artist in her own right. She takes us through very useful techniques and the ways in which we can make the best of our art. But above all else, she encourages us to have fun and enjoy the art, as that’s the most important thing. Amazing stuff comes out of us and the room because of her.”

The pandemic has meant that patients like Julie are currently undertaking art classes at home led by The Christie’s artist in residence, Pat Mountford, who manages the art room and classes. Pat also supports Christie staff by providing art classes for employees at the Trust.

VanGoghAlive 3D sunflower room Credit: Richard Blake

The artworks created by the patients will be exhibited in The Christie and one will be chosen to go for auction at The Van Gogh Alive exhibition with the proceeds supporting the new art room at The Christie.

Pat said: “With the support of The Christie charity and The Van Gogh Alive exhibition we will be completely refurbishing the art room with an extension and an outside area. It’s a very exciting project and will be a huge benefit to our patients.

“Cancer can be physically devastating, but it is emotionally draining too. This is why the art room service at The Christie is so important. Many of our patients say that coping with the emotional effects of cancer, can be as hard – if not harder – than dealing with the physical effects of treatment such as nausea and fatigue.

“The art room at The Christie has helped many of our patients cope with these effects. They may never have picked up a brush before, but it’s somewhere they can escape, and be with others who understand what they’re going through. It does something medicine cannot do - it helps them to regain confidence and become their self again.