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.

Lisa’s NHS Portraits: Ruth Nurse

Ruth Nurse: Lisa’s NHS Heroes

Over a year has passed since Lisa Timmerman’s art series of NHS Heroes began.

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to the first national lockdown in March 2020, there was a large emphasis on thanking and supporting the NHS. Whilst risking infection, hospital staff were leading the fight against what Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the “invisible enemy”. Masks and gloves, as well as other layers of protective clothing, were first worn by NHS staff before becoming the social norm that it still is today (pending post-lockdown). I imagine these images often lacked that human connection which is so vital in critical care, and the identities of those behind the vacant PPE lost.

The online campaign, #portraitsfornhsheroes, was a way for artists to truly express admiration. It was an initiative instigated by Oxford based portrait painter, Tom Croft, to connect artists and NHS workers through social media. Whether it was direct communication, or often through family and friends, it enabled artists to paint and gift portraits during this time. Not only was this movement a way to capture this strange and uncertain time, but also to learn more about the experiences of those behind the paintings.

Lisa has since painted twenty NHS portraits, which are currently exhibited at the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Lisa’s NHS Heroes: Leicester Royal Infirmary Exhibition
Ruth Nurse (50 x 50cm)

Lisa’s first portrait, ‘Ruth Nurse’, was a day surgery nurse before she was required to work in intensive care during this pandemic. Her daughter reached out to Lisa via Twitter, so that the portrait would be a surprise gift.

The original photograph is clearly taken in the midst of the action, as seen by the frantic co-workers behind Ruth. This further emphasised by the diagonal brush strokes which appear to break through the background colour.

Ruth Nurse: Work in Progress

Typically, Lisa does use red as a ground colour for many of her paintings. However, in the context of an emergency room, this colour emphasises alertness to danger, with the yellow stripes appearing to caution the viewer. The rest of the colour palette appears muted in comparison, as the nurse is swaddled in monotonous protective clothing.

Due to the ballooned shape of Ruth’s body, we are drawn towards her defined hands and eyes. Only a small area of her face can be seen, which appears darkened by the fluorescent lighting reflecting onto the suit and visor worn. We can only imagine the amount of discomfort in her numerous layers and lenses from her glasses and hazmat suit.

With her identifiable features hidden within her uniform, she can only be truly identified by the small text written across her chest; Ruth’s name and occupation reveals her individuality, yet it is also comforting for her patients to know the person behind the vast amount of PPE worn.

From this portrait, we can see the true diligence of ‘Ruth Nurse’ and her ability to work under these hazardous conditions. To quote Lisa, “Words are not enough for these wonderful people”.

To view more of Lisa’s portraits of NHS Heroes and read their stories, visit her website.

Swimming into Summer

Koi Study No. 7 (50 x 50cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Like most mornings, I walk to the bottom of my garden with a sense of purpose.

The winter garden has now thawed, and I feel the sun coaxing me out of my dormancy long before I step outside. I gingerly step as to not disturb the chatty birds or the wandering bees. I begin in my slippers, but the temptation to feel the grass underfoot soon becomes a compulsion. I enjoy the tickling sensation on the soles of my feet, and being connected to my surroundings.

I finally get to the fish pond and struggle to make out the dull, distant shapes. I too enjoy the immersion of the water, often thinking to my childhood summers of white sands and clear waters. My eyes scan the water’s surface, as I sprinkle a thin layer of fish food and wait. I watch the orange blur at the bottom of the fish pond manifest into the koi fish who snap up their breakfast hungrily.

The interaction is soothing for me, as a simple relationship which requires so little. In exchange, I receive a private performance of twirling orange bodies reflected in the tumultuous water. The tiny dancers are aware of their talents, and they never fail to parade their beauty for my own enchanted eyes.

**Article continued on Page Two**

Gentle Reflection

Gentle Reflection (60 x 60cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

The gentle reflection of the water, and of the mind.

Exercise has become so integral to lockdown life, with countryside walks becoming a social visit to those outside of family.

We walk for hours and chat along those canal paths, takeaway coffees and dog leads in hand. Our furry companions are so happy that we work from home, their need for affection and fresh air satisfied.

Most of us have struggled under the bizarre circumstances of a worldwide pandemic, often feeling like characters of a dystopian novel. Everyone has made sacrifices, but so rare is it that we share the same reason for doing so. There is a strange comfort in unity. Each begrudgingly slow step of the past year has now led to enormous leaps in modern medicine, and a new compassion within the community.

The end appears nigh, as we hope to throw our masks up like the graduation caps and celebrate a long, carefree summer.

As autumn returns, perhaps we should hold onto the masks from the bitter wind, and a bittersweet memory which we battled through.

**Articles continued on Page Two**

Sunlit Tree, Summer Dreaming

Sunlit Tree (30 x 40cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

This kind of weather prompts us to leave our homes and toward any nature within the vicinity. In a city filled with sparse areas of green, I am fortunate to live in the bountiful countryside where Mother Nature hides around every corner. She takes my hand on a wildlife adventure, transporting me back to my youth and endless curiosity.

Each time I visit the canals, there seems to be new colours, new life, found there. It tickles the leafy trees and runs along the lazy river. I choose today as a mission for myself to find the perfect picnic spot, my basket swinging excitedly, giving me momentum.

Travellers in their moored boats will soon join the steady stream downward, towards the local pub and café, for leisure and nourishment. Rather than following the general crowd, I cross a rickety bridge and settle down near the sunlit trees. As I lie on the patchwork rug, the warm air weighs on my eyes and sends me into a dream. I dream that I am outstretched on a cloud, with the rays of sun lighting what appears to be a racetrack; With chalked lines in the grass, there is a chicken scuffing their feet in anticipation. There is a distant but high-pitched whistle, just as a siren calls the sailors to shore. The chickens run excitedly, their plumy wings at their sides and their heads thrust forwards. They cross the finishing line in quick succession, before huddling together excitedly, feathers flying. When I awake once more, my skin is rosy and my open book has cascaded onto the floor.

I collect memories of this place to keep me warm in winter.

**Article continued on Page Two**

Underground Communication: A Floral Fantasy

Underground Communication (100 x 100cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

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.

**Article continued on Page 2**

Reminiscing in the Warm Fields of Autumn

Warm Fields (63 x 63cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

My boots crunch on the autumn leaves as my light-footed companion rushes forward eagerly, his lead pulling me in tow.

As we reach the top of the hill, he pulls me toward the creaky gate. Our decision is finalised as the gate swings abruptly shut behind us, with a loud clang.
We are now down on the tow path which follows the canals as eagerly as he does; With his tail in the air and his nose on the ground, he traces my route ahead.

As we walk, the sun comes out from hiding behind the cloud-covered sky. With one hand gripping the dog lead, I extend my other hand in front of me, the daylight bouncing off my painted talons.

It is all so familiar as I stop briefly during our walk, out of habit, and begin to reminisce.

We are at the place where, in the spring, I had admired the resting swans.

During the summer, they would sit on the bank and I would eagerly throw food offerings in their direction. Both fearsome and beautiful, the swans glided across the water, their long, snow-white necks snapping into the water hungrily. The surrounding trees now appeared to make space for the absent swans, arching outward, with their near-empty branches eclipsing the water.

I look behind the trees to see the wind sweeping up their fiercely orange leaves in the field beyond, further saturated by the low Autumn sun.

Blown forward, as I am now, into Autumn, I imagine the field that was once lime green with its new Spring growth.

I pull up my collar and forge ahead, focusing on the crunch of the leaves and their golden hues.

The abundance of summer, in all its forms, will return again.

**Article continued on page 2**