Following Lisa Timmerman’s first portrait, Ruth Nurse, I plan to talk about each artwork of this series in detail. The second is Sylvia, an intensive care nurse at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton. This portrait combines two photos sent to Lisa of Sylvia in and out of her protective clothing. Lisa’s initial thoughts of these photos were:
“Her expression is so honest & says so much about dedication, loyalty & drive, I hope I’m able to capture it. One photo alone didn’t tell the story, so I’m going to try to combine both photos.”
Although the masked figure’s identity is obscured, we can easily link them to the centralised figure from the red marks left on Sylvia’s face. These indentations further signify the uncomfortable duration that this uniform is worn. In relation to time, shown adjacent to the seemingly endless hallway, there is a clock. With no clear indication of time, fortified by the artificial lighting, this portrait was painted at a time when the future was uncertain. Lisa’s inclusion of the clock was to hail the hard work of Sylvia and silence those impatient for results:
“I also thought it was important to have the clock in to signify Sylvia’s night shifts & as a reminder of the journalists constant ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ questions during the daily government briefings.”
Lisa uses her signature-red background, emulating the warning stripes in ‘Ruth Nurse’. Using the simple colour palette of red, white and blue, each colour contains symbolic importance; Often to capture attention, red suggests danger. The colour white suggests purity, which may be referring to the sanctity and sanitisation of hospitals. Finally, blue represents the NHS in their well-recognised uniform.
This series perfectly captures the sacrifice and troubling times that we have experienced in the past year, and admiration for the individuals working in a highly pressurised experiment.
To view more of Lisa’s portraits of NHS Heroes and read their stories, visit her website.
‘Neutral buoyancy’ is neither sinking nor floating.
Another world lies beneath the sea, its darkest waters as unknown to us as the unexplored galaxies. It is so quiet, your exhaled breath bubbles toward a yellow veil above the water’s surface. Each sound is muffled, so as not to break your focus. This balancing act, with your flippered feet in motion, leaves you with your thoughts.
Whilst remaining calm and focused on breathing, you also feel the silent dread of your own mortality creep into the vast ocean. But in this cushioned, anti-gravity sphere, you can fly slowly and capture your surroundings. You save the memory for later nostalgia.
The light above is safety, whilst the depths below are full of fear yet curiosity. As you continue to focus, those bubbles take with them your anxiety. You are a silent presence in a world far from security and comfort, but full of promise.
You allow yourself to explore, but with the scuba diving instructor still in your vision.
Often in a busy and bustling city, it is hard to find quiet.
As the Earth thaws, the public flock to the parks for a day of sunshine and socialisation. Shorter lengths and bright patterns, London is awash with summer florals and blue denim. I tend to avoid the crowds, in search of my own haven.
Along the illuminated paving stones do I find a Victorian-inspired, cast iron gate. The black metal is scorching as I tenderly allow myself into the garden patio. I see an inviting bench, almost as if the sun has two weighty hands on my shoulders. Before I reach the comfort of sitting down, I am swarmed by a small animal tribe: an unlikely trio of hens, entrusted as keepers of the garden.
I hold my breath as they circle my feet and peck at my laces. I am not sure how happy they are to have a foreign invader, but my silence quickly earns their trust. Over a shared lunch, we bond even more. All three sit with their feet tucked in, their feathered bodies as dense as bread loaves.
They rise to wish me farewell, as the heat of the iron gate subsided from the cool evening air.
Breakfast is important. In those first moments of your first meal, it sets the tone of the rest of your day. As a child, breakfast was crafted with fascination, from animal-shaped pancakes to intergalactic cereal; It almost felt like a small window to eat, before the contents of my plate would make their escape.
My favourite meal was a boiled egg, with regimented soldiers placed alongside and ready for combat. It is a ritualistic meal – tapping my spoon against the egg, removing the top and dipping the soldier into the salivating, saffron yolk. It is seemingly a quick meal, and I was always eager to start my day and escape from the ordinary into my wild imagination. But this was a moment that I would savour, leading to an unusually quiet morning in a house of frequent, chaotic energy.
To eat soldiers felt fit for a soldier, an occupation that I manifested for myself that day. But that could wait. I placed my cowboy gun nearby, ready to go should an epic battle present itself in the middle of my breakfast.
This is a scene that I hope to wake up to each morning. When my eyes are closed, I can transport myself to sunny days in the British countryside.
There are white beams of light through each window, not ceasing until late into the evening. The days are long and sleepily warm, as not to exert yourself; Whether that is from the sunbed with a book, or a picnic on the bright gingham tablecloth, or a dinner party where champagne flutes clink in celebration, you so often find yourself outside. As your skin browns, it seems as if your physicality absorbs your surroundings.
There is nothing better than that feeling of opening the door and the strong waft of French lavender, vibrant and quick to flower, greeting you. Its calming influence subdues the mind.
The hens of my garden are happy little souls, strolling up the gravel path, hoping to explore inside further. But I will be leaving my house to meet them, to follow their forked footprints from their morning venture.
I think of this memory all year round, appealing to my weary, wintery soul until the snow melts and the flowers flourish.
Coming home is so safe and familiar, but I am excited to go, to step out into the exquisite unknown.
White roses are traditionally associated with new beginnings, as white as a bridal gown. They may not be as loud as their coloured counterparts, but their understated beauty flaunts in their layered tones of white, playing with light and shadow.
On the first day of Spring, there is no overcast to be seen, but rather an empty sky and a scorching sun. The artist sees this from her studio and, after a long winter, is eager to capture the changing seasons. As if stealing a palette from the sky, her background is sapphire. In her ever-flourishing garden, the muted white roses provide that dramatic contrast that the artist desperately seeks. With a bed of sun-lounging roses below, only the fighting few climb upwards, their tightly closed buds unravelling, their faces exposed. She uses a thin brush to trace their intricate stems, before sculpting her white paint into oval shapes on the canvas.
When the seasons change once more, and we return to shorter days and colder nights, these white roses are a gesture of remembrance. A farewell to summer, but a promise to return, their purity expresses a quiet optimism for the future. This painting says, ‘I’m thinking of you’.
There is nothing quite like the sheer panic of forgetting someone’s birthday, more specifically a birthday card, to truly mark the occasion.
Luckily, an artist works well under stress. As someone so often used to the pressures of meeting deadlines for clients, she quickly make haste; She grabs her art supplies and throw them down onto her work surface with an anticipatory thud.
This is no regular client, and there has been no debrief in this instance. But with her husband as the recipient, she knows him well enough to paint something of his taste.
Using a piece of paper, easily folded into a card, the artist begins to plot her canvas just in time for this important day. In her mind, she fondly envisions the summer garden.
The buzzing bees and singing birds are an orchestra in this quiet corner of the countryside. The wild flowers grow with such a vigour, they often overstep into the pathway. This is the pathway which the artist’s husband will walk after the working day. Crunching gravel underfoot, the bright bulbs are thrust forward by the wind and kiss his feet. The artist imagines his pace quicken upon his excitement of seeing balloons, or a colourful banner in the archway perhaps; His mind is animated with what surprises may be awaiting behind the front door of their home.
The artist plays out this warm and happy scene inside her head as she paints. Almost as if the mental image has been scanned onto the paper, it is complete. The artist reviews the finished birthday card, with the long, overreaching stems of the flowers and the path seemingly built around them. With dots of sapphire and rouge to imitate their swaying, she leaves the darkened doorway, as the beautiful, ambiguous end of one’s journey up the garden path.
As I tend to my garden, I can make out the sound of mischievous scheming and clucking. The hens of my next-door neighbour, with their comical determination, are planning to infiltrate once more.
Their small size should not be underestimated, as these chickens are fierce, with a complete disregard of my attempts to keep the vegetable patch intact. It is a daily battle which occurs with clockwork precision.
Initially, they try to conceal themselves in the long grass. However, their clawed feet signal their presence, with their white and orange tail feathers peak over the top like sharks drawn to bait.
They near the end and realise that I have been watching them, arms crossed on the patio, with just a hint of a smile. Quickly, their subtle approach expires; They rush past me with such a brazen disregard, their eyes wide upon seeing the forbidden, emerald cabbage.
They peck at such speed, diminishing everything in sight before I am able to stop them in their tracks. It requires two people to herd these free spirits back to their home, with my neighbour and I laughing along the way.
However defiant, her chickens and their amusing antics are welcome in my garden.
Annually, the russet floor of the woodland is flooded with a sea of violet bluebells. In their most natural setting, they flourish and flower for humans and animals alike.
Where the woods thinned, a farm was awoken by the shrill crow of a small, white-feathered cockerel. The farmer sleepily approached the hen coop as the sun slowly climbed over the hills, bearing light on the locked door. Upon lifting the latch, the farmer was greeted excitedly by hungry hens. Once they were fed, the door was left open to endless possibilities before roosting at dusk.
On this day, one hen gingerly stepped onto the bluebell path. Inspired by one’s courage, the other hens trickled into the wood, clucking in low tones of caution. However, as they ventured further into the purple haze, the brood quickly fell silent.
The enchantment of the bluebell forest stole their voice, and caused the hens to pause in silent awe of their surroundings. The woodland air overwhelmed the senses with melodious bird calls and fragrant flowers.
As the hens continued, they could see an area in which the gleaming sunlight above was concealed by formidable, towering trees. Mistaking this as night-time, or risking danger ahead, many began to turn back. The first, brave hen marched to the edge, with only a few followers remaining. Looking at the path ahead, the hen glanced back to see the safety of the collective lingering behind her, unable to follow her into the darkness. Her unfledged desire to explore was quickly triumphed by the sensible majority.
The garden roses are more sophisticated, and social, than meets the eye.
The sun breaks through the misty morning sky, awakening the roses. As perfect chaos ensues, they strive for sunlight, their twisting stems climbing higher and higher. Once on equal footing, the bursting rose buds turn to face each other. They are planted lovingly by human hands, in hopes of the garden becoming enriched with pink and red hues, infused with their sweet perfume. To the human ear, there is only silent compliance between them, their roots entwined in the same dirt.
The soil beds may be quiet on the surface, but I hear whispers of a community beneath the Earth. A summer romance ensues, with the rightful privacy of underground communication.
Each feathered, dark root is a lifeline and the will to survive, as a neighbourhood of roses share information; Each message is sent with care, with warnings of environmental change, appeals for lost family members, and the distribution of precious nutrients before their timely deaths. As one dies, another rose takes their place, as a near-identical reminder of what once was.
Hours move slowly in their world, so the human eye merely witnesses small actions suspended in time. It fails to see the valuable words exchanged and the important relationships formed for survival.
The community of roses give endless performances of joy and colour to their viewers, blooming bright.