Life, death and art come together in a special Exhibition

Life, death and art come together in a special Exhibition

09 May 2024

Art therapy and the use of creativity has long been recognised as a valuable tool in healthcare, aiding in emotional expression, stress reduction, and fostering a sense of connection and meaning. 

For people with a life limiting illness who often face complex physical and emotional challenges, integrating art into their care offers profound benefits. Art therapy has even been proven to alleviate symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and depression. And it’s known that creative outlets, such as painting, drawing and photography can provide patients with a sense of empowerment and control, even in the most difficult circumstances. 

St Vincent’s Palliative Care at Sacred Heart has been incorporating art therapy into their services to complement traditional medical interventions for some time – creating a space for patients to explore and express their feelings, experiences, memories, hopes and fears. 

Art Psychotherapist Jo Sullivan has been running weekly Art Therapy sessions for patients and their carers and families, either in groups or one-to-one. Art therapy can open a window for understanding around palliate care, end-of-life care, death and bereavement. It can help to improve death literacy and bridge the understanding gap between living well and dying well. 

Jo reflects “interacting with creativity, a life-giving force, whether in art exhibitions, in art classes or within an art therapy session, is a valuable and developing interest in healthcare systems. In palliative care art therapy sessions, art making is used for participants to express and explore any thoughts, difficult feelings and concerns within a therapeutic relationship. It can assist in making sense of endings that may be hard to say in words”.

In a research partnership with UNSW, St Vincent’s Palliative Care Service is further exploring the process of using art as therapy, as a source of comfort for people who are dying, and the people who love them, by using artistic expression as a form of release as well as comfort.

Having published a book of photographs from St Vincent’s palliative care patients, the works will now form an exhibition to coincide with National Palliative Care Week. The exhibition be on display in Sacred Heart Foyer during Palliative Care Week and into June. 

Palliative Care Week runs 19-25th May.


Jo Art Therapy

Art Psychotherapist, Jo Sullivan