Arts for Health MK: Twenty for Twenty

Peter Brown FRCS
Monumental Family by Jon Buck

The Monumental Family (1996) from the Milton Keynes University Hospital Collection.

In the next instalment of our Twenty for Twenty series, we ask  founding member of the hospitals’ voluntary Arts Committee Peter Brown to select an artwork from the Milton Keynes University Hospital Art Collection.

Which work in The Collection have you chosen to talk about?

Jon Buck’s The Monumental Family, cast in bronze at the Pangolin Foundry and exhibited at Sculpture 2000 [at MKUH].

When and how did you first see it?

When it was delivered to the Sculpture 2000 exhibition organised by my wife, Sue, and I.

This was the first major exhibition we had organised at the hospital, and it was appropriate that it was to mark the Millennium. We knew Rungwe Kingdon, owner of the Pangolin sculpture foundry, and were delighted when he agreed to curate such a major exhibition for us free of charge.

What first interested or attracted you to this artwork?

We knew and admired Jon's work, and at this time his sculptures were representational but not realistic. More an artistic distortion to emphasise an emotion perhaps. For a sculpture to be in a hospital setting with anxious patients and relatives passing by it could not be too challenging. The works needed to be emotionally uplifting and settling rather than disturbing. I felt that The Monumental Family fulfilled these criteria.

The size of the arms and legs of the figures are larger than life and the three figures are intertwined in an embrace with the central figure protecting the other two. Rather than looking heroic in a Soviet-era sense, the faces express concern and mild anxiety. This group is empathic with the patients that pass by
and seems to understand their feelings.

Do you remember how seeing this work made you feel?

In spite of a nurse commenting that all she could see when leaving the hospital were "big bottoms", it made me feel that this was one of Jon's best and most powerful sculptures. I loved it!

Many of the sculptures in that exhibition were sold and several remain in the hospital having been purchased and then donated.

Imagine the delight of my wife and I when Sir Peter Thompson said he would purchase the “Family" and donate it to the hospital - the dream of it adorning the entrance to the hospital had come true! What amazing philanthropy.  Afterwards any TV items including the hospital always opened with an image of The Monumental Family. It had become an icon!

In general, what kind of impact do you think seeing art at MKUH has on your experience of being on the hospital site?

Many patients have commented to me when I worked in the hospital how they found peace and an escape from some of their worries when walking around the art works, or hearing live music being played, or getting involved in sharing their emotions in group poetry writing

I am so happy to see that Arts for Health MK has endured, and I wish it all the best for the future and hope it will continue to give some uplift for a very long time to the many patients who will pass by.

Contributor: Peter Brown FRCS

Peter, a former ENT surgeon at MKUH and his wife Susan Brown were founding members of a Voluntary Arts Committee when the hospital first opened. Together they were instrumental in evolving it into the organisation Arts for Health MK in 2004. 

Arts for Health Milton Keynes
Facilities Directorate
Milton Keynes Hospital
Standing Way
Milton Keynes

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Arts for Health Milton Keynes is the working name of MK Arts for Health charity number 1107625  company number 05137693