Artist Q&A: Creating connection, balance and flow with artist Supermundane

CW+ is delighted to have caught up with London graphic artist Rob Lowe, also known as Supermundane, following the installation of his bespoke artwork to transform the children’s inpatient ward at West Middlesex University Hospital.

Supermundane creates distinctive, colourful images that play with line, pattern and typography, and his work has been published and exhibited worldwide. Since 2019, he has been working with young patients, their families and staff at the hospital to design and create the bespoke wall artwork, signage and colour schemes, which have now been installed throughout the ward, creating a fun environment for children being treated at West Middlesex. 

Supermundane took the whole space into consideration, including the corridors, doors and signage

Introduce yourself to our audience

I’m Rob Lowe, sometimes known as Supermundane, a graphic artist who works with colour, line and words. I like using flatness to create work that has dynamism and depth through the simplest of means. Everything I make is made with a human viewer in mind and is ambiguous enough to have multiple ways of seeing it.

Why did you want to do this project?

I have designed murals in the past, but this commission was on a different level: a whole ward. It was a chance to make the space – which was looking very tired – into something more inviting. I’m always amazed by how art can transform a space, so this was a chance to do it on a new scale.

What do you want the impact of your artwork to be?

Nobody ever really wants to be in hospital, especially at a young age, so I feel the wards should be uplifting without being too over the top. I held some workshops with children and staff to create patterns to use in the artwork, to make the design more personal to the ward. I wanted my work to be abstract enough to allow for different interpretations, for the children to see whatever they like within the shapes. In some of the rooms – especially those without windows – the impact of the artworks was immediate. The colours and movement brought the spaces to life.

The artworks were created in collaboration with patients and staff

How did you find the process of curating the spaces on the ward?

It took me quite a long time to get my head around the size of space and how to use it. The only colour other than white was lilac. I have nothing against lilac when used with other colours, but I’m not sure it is anyone’s favourite colour – maybe that was the point. The ceiling is quite low on the ward, so in the reception and a connecting corridor I used oversized shapes that were cut off by the roof, to give the illusion of height.

For the bays, it wasn’t practical to design something for each room as they were all different shapes and rarely empty. Instead, I had the idea of making a huge sticker pack (some of the circles are 1m in diameter) and deciding in the moment where to put them in each bay. This was done in a very random way, starting with a large shape and then reacting to that. I was trying in each case to create a sense of balance and movement around the room. The idea worked, but it took longer than I thought because it was tricky to get to some of the walls, especially when the rooms were occupied.

I hadn’t put any artwork on some of the corridor walls as I was worried about it being too much, but after the bays were finished I felt there was a disconnect between inside and outside the rooms and some of the artworks in the corridors. This was when the sticker pack idea really came into its own. We started putting some of the small leftover stickers on the corridor walls, and straight away it made more sense. There now isn’t a place in the ward where you can’t see a least one sticker, which gives the whole ward a sense of connection and flow.

What’s your favourite piece in our hospital art collection?

It’s been a while since I have seen the collection, but I remember a Richard Woods print I really liked. I’m a fan of his graphic prints and houses.

What do you do for your own wellbeing?

I started cold water swimming about six years ago and it was really life changing. I love it for many reasons – being outside all year round in just some trunks is something I never thought I would do. The feeling of icy cold water is very life-affirming but I’ve also met some amazing people I never would have met otherwise, and in the summer the mornings are like little holidays.

Describe yourself as a font

I have a font I designed myself called Mundane Sans. I use it on most of my prints. It is very simple and just uses geometric shapes. It’s unpretentious and bold, but I’m not sure if that describes me – I’m probably really more Comic Sans!

Supermundane’s artwork is part of the charity’s Sun and Stars Appeal, which raised £100,000 to renovate and update the children’s inpatient ward at West Middlesex University Hospital. The ward sees over 8,000 children and young people every year, and the appeal has helped create a more welcoming, child-friendly and bright environment with better facilities, specifically designed to make being in hospital easier for children and their parents.

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