Art and Healing: ‘The Leaves of The Trees’

Decades of research has found links between art and health.  Florence Nightingale founder of modern nursing stated in her notes on nursing, “Variety of form and brilliancy of colour in the object presented to patients are an actual means of recovery” (Nightingale F. 1859).

Art and Healing : ‘The Leaves of the Trees are for the healing of the nations’ (2020) 

Access Article in Chrism Magazine The Journal of The Guild of Health and St Raphael, Volume 57, Number 2, Winter 2020

A Covid Memorial Artwork by Peter Walker Sculptor 

Sacred spaces and institutions around the UK are hosting a nationally touring art installation, which has been designed to provide people with an opportunity to personally reflect on the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Leaves of the Trees” installation is visiting towns and cities around the country. Created by Sculptor, Peter Walker  it has been designed to honour those who have passed away during the pandemic, but also to allow everyone to take a moment out and contemplate what we have been through and to think about loved ones.

Designed as a reflective memorial to the pandemic the installation is made up of 5000 steel leaves with the word HOPE written upon, which will be laid out on the floor of the cathedral creating a beautiful impression of autumn leaves fallen from the trees. Appearing as though naturally scattered by the wind the leaves symbolise the past, that which has transpired. However, the leaf is not only emblematic of the past but also hope for the future and the shape of a sycamore maple leaf has been chosen because it symbolises, strength, protection, eternity as well as clarity.

“Steel has been chosen as the material for the leaves, to remind us of our resilience and collective strength. As the artwork tours around the country the steel will age, rust and change colour, just as the leaves of trees do when they fall each year. However in nature fallen leaves are essential to prepare the planet for spring and new growth.  It is hoped that the simplicity and beauty of the installation will give people the chance to pause and contemplate on their own experience and also the wider situation that we find ourselves in” Peter Walker

The steel leaves were significant for Rev’d Canon Keith Farrow of Sheffield Cathedral who hosted the artwork this year:

“It will give people a sense that they are together in this and that we are together and resilient. Hope is certainly a very powerful characteristic, and the message of hope is like steel – it’s a very resilient thing…Throughout history people have gone through some dreadful things – Sheffield for instance went through the Blitz, We want people to understand that we have got it within us to get through this and the importance to be together as a community. There are sad things that will hap-pen, and there will be tears, but we can cry together and laugh together and move forward to-gether and be strong together. Hope is written on our hearts as resilient as steel is.”

The installation has been seen currently as it tours around the UK seen at Cathedrals and loca-tions for people to safely access, so far during 2020 the installation has been viewed at Exeter, Sheffield, Lichfield, Chester and will be touring to many locations in 2021 including Rochester, Winchester, Carlisle, Southwell, St Albans, Southwark, Peterborough and Worcester.

Alongside the installation at some of the locations the artist has also invited people to write their thoughts upon a paper leaf. The responses gathered allow for the viewer to express themselves and connect with the artwork, expressing messages of hope, prayers and personal sentiments in response to the artwork:

“what a wonderful exhibition, I pray that everyone will be moved to pray for our world and the dear Lord will have mercy on us.”

“The symbol of the leaf is eternal, the growth of the new leaves in spring – one that was so signifi-cant this year on my daily walk. And now as autumn draws near they will fall and rot, ready to start the cycle again in the spring.”

“I pray for every single one of those who are worried that they be relieved /know that they are not alone in this. I hope all those who are suffering be alleviated of their suffering.”

The project is supported by the Guild of Health and St Raphael



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