A new and exciting charity

My name is Mark Ware and I am the founder of this new and exciting charity called Reflecting Nature in art & science.

Why have I set up the charity?

The answer to this question stems back to when I had a severe stroke in 1996, aged 39.  After enjoying a successful fine art and commercial art career in the UK and USA, my world was abruptly changed by my brain injury.  It affected almost every aspect of the way in which I navigate and negotiate the world around me. This life-changing event happened when the vitally important Stroke Association charity was in its infancy and so stroke awareness wasn’t great.  I remember feeling very confused by it all, not certain whether I would continue to live, or whether I would die. Strangely, the experience was peaceful in many ways.  The stroke made me realise that I wasn’t as important as I thought I was, but that I was significant.  Above all, I became aware of my vulnerability and how connected I am to the world around me.  I became aware of what we share, as opposed to the things that make us different.

This idealistic sentiment of positive, inclusive connectedness is certainly a foundation of both my art since my stroke, and the charity. Especially recently, where we have witnessed a rise in the language of division, with talk of ‘them and us’ – language that embraces intolerance – I feel it is of utmost importance that we offer a very different message through the work of the charity; a message that supports collaboration, inclusion, tolerance, the sharing of ideas and the desire to help protect the natural environment.

The impact of the natural environment is the central focus of the charity’s work.  Photo: Mark Ware

The experience of the stroke influenced the direction and content of my art in more direct ways, too.  Since that time, I have become increasingly interested in my altered subjective experiences caused by brain injury.  This has led to my collaborations with neuroscientists and psychologists, supported by Arts Council England.  At the centre of these collaborations -under the header ‘the Wavelength Project’- has been a focus on the great impact that the natural environment has on wellbeing and health and, in turn, the urgent need to protect and nurture this wonderful planet we live on.

The Reflecting Nature in art & science charity is the next step, building on the successful outcomes of the Wavelength Project. These outcomes have included neuroscience investigations at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, Brighton, into the benefits of exposure to natural sounds, and our recently published science paper: https://tinyurl.com/n46gy5o.  Other successes included the Reflecting Nature art science national touring exhibition and public engagement activities.  It is estimated that this exhibition, my collaboration with psychologists at Staffordshire University, has been seen by over 90,000 people.  One of the purposes behind the Reflecting Nature exhibition activities is to find ways in which art influenced by nature can be used to help vulnerable people in environments where sensory monotony is an issue.

I feel incredibly passionate about what we have achieved so far through the Wavelength Project and, as a result, I now want to dedicate the rest of my life to the ambitious aims of this new charity.  I am extremely grateful for the support and encouragement offered to me by the charity’s trustees and patron concerning this ambition.

For more information about my art science collaborations so far, please click on the links:

New Scientist

Arts Council England

The Psychologist

Disability Arts Online