BBC APRIL 19, 2013 - by Jane Dreaper


His music has been heard on radio stations and in stadium concerts around the world - including at the London Olympics opening ceremony.

And his light installations have been beamed on to the sails of Sydney Opera House.

The latest project by Brian Eno has a more low-key setting - in a hospital in Hove where he has produced two pieces of art designed to relax patients.

He says he would "absolutely love" to do this work in many more hospitals.

A hospital reception is generally a bustling place, filled with people who would rather not be there.

Just inside The Montefiore Hospital in Hove, a series of eight plasma screens are arranged in a pattern, displaying colours and shapes which gently transform themselves.

Mr Eno has named it 77 Million Paintings.


He explained: "The images on the screens are made of combinations of images I've drawn over the years.

"A piece of software selects these images at random and combines them to create ever-new combinations."

The idea is to absorb patients, staff and visitors - and encourage them to reach a point where they slow down and relax.

One of the hospital's surgeons, Robin Turner, contacted Mr Eno to talk about his work, after noticing the effect it had on his mother-in-law at a festival in Brighton.

Mr Turner said: "Normally she runs around as though her hair is on fire.

"She doesn't sit down anywhere for any length of time.

"But I was impressed that she spent two hours just chilling and looking at one of Brian Eno's fantastic installations."

Downstairs at the hospital is a more intense experience of Mr Eno's trademark ambient music and three panels of subtly changing colours in The Quiet Room.

The pictures are in the style of a Mondrian painting.

It is like a cocoon for people who want to escape the hospital environment. A man who has just been diagnosed with cancer and begun his treatment is keen to greet Mr Eno and thank him.

The patient said: "I liked it instantly. It's wonderful. Every hospital should have something like this.

"And having what I have, I understand what it's trying to do."


This unexpected encounter has a clear effect on a well-respected artist and producer who has spent decades guiding some of the biggest names in the music business.

Mr Eno told me afterwards it was the first feedback he had had from a patient, and it had moved him.

He said: "Music does something to you - it says 'be quiet and listen'."

The hospital is run by a private company, Spire Healthcare, though a third of its patients are referred by the NHS.

The matron, Lynette Audry, points out that the Quiet Room is just as much for relatives as patients.

Mr Eno is known for his attention to detail, and he felt his initial design for the artwork was too busy. So he ripped it out - at the last minute.

He told me: "I tore it apart. I was then sitting staring at an empty hole.

"It was a real risk, because this left me with just five hours to make something that does work.

"There's a timber yard down here, so I went there.

"I started off with straight lines - and although it needed finessing, we had the bones of it in a few hours."

There's excitement about this work - not least from Clive Parkinson, who runs a long established department called Arts for Health at Manchester Metropolitan University.

He said: "There's evidence that projects like this can even reduce pain. It's impressive stuff - and part of a growing international movement.

"In neo-natal units for babies, the synthesized singing of a woman's voice with lullabies reduced the time babies needed on the unit.

"What Brian Eno's doing is an exemplar - because it joins the idea of the visual arts and music. It's a very powerful concept."

And in Hove the hospital's head receptionist, Ann-Marie James, said: "Some patients haven't even heard of Brian Eno - but the artwork and music helps take people's minds off while they're here.

"In the evening the work comes into its own when the lights go down. Visually it's stunning and people look into the window in the evening."