Lisa’s NHS Portraits: Sylvia

Sylvia: Lisa’s NHS Heroes

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.”

Sylvia: Initial Sketches
Sylvia: In Progress

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.