More than ever, we’re aware of the wonderful work of medical professionals, doctors, nurses, and carers. And of our own fragility. Amongst the horrors of the last year and a half, it’s been reassuring to know there is an army of people dedicated to caring for us when we are most in need. We also began to recognise a much wider group of people as Key Workers, those stacking supermarket shelves, so we are fed. Those delivery people brought us our essential shopping when we couldn’t go out.
We’ve rightly started to thinking of these people as heroes.
Here we see some works celebrating these modern heroes – not holding swords aloft as heroes used to be depicted, but struggling to keep their eyes open after hours on call, so they can keep on helping.
Brook Hobbins Exhausted NHS Nurse Plaster from clay original, edition of 15, 35 x 40 x 35 cm £1,750
"Tara is a Support Care Night Nurse for the NHS on a C19 ward. Her sister took up my offer to make a portrait of an NHS front-liner for #portraitsfornhsheroes. Among the photos she provided for reference was a small, low-resolution close-up taken by a colleague during a hastily snatched break. Despite the paucity of three-dimensional information this snap provided, the narrative power of the image was compelling: I had no choice but to take on the challenge. Tara has been working selflessly on the frontline throughout the pandemic. It was a privilege to be able to celebrate her courage and sacrifice in this way.
"Portrait sculpture is my core practice. The improbability of imbuing an inert material such as clay with a 'life' equivalent to a living individual, the stubborn materiality of sculpture, is what intrigues me as an artist. I strive to locate my work in a contemporary context while pursuing a practice based on figuration - in which likeness, humanity, and materiality each play their part in creating a unique piece of sculpture. In doing so, I hope to touch on our 'common clay' and our collective responsibility for our fragile world and each other."
Brook adds, "My thanks go to Tom Croft for the #portraitsfornhsheroes initiative and to Tara’s sister for facilitating the making of this sculpture. All profits to NHS Charities."
Nicholas Baldion The Death of a Courier Oil on Gesso Board 93 x 117 cm £6,000
Nicholas Baldion's painting The Death of a Courier depicts a dead Deliveroo cyclist and a crowd of onlookers and attending paramedics.
"I leaned on the Renaissance tradition of religious painting. In particular, I looked closely at Annibale Carracci, The Dead Christ Mourned, (The Three Maries), which hangs in the National Gallery, and used it as a jumping board for this composition. However, the Death of a Courier is a modern narrative figure composition that deals not with a religious subject but an all too common occurrence. The death of a gig economy worker.
Annibale Carracci The Dead Christ Mourned 1604. The National Gallery
"It's a painting that is unashamed in having a message; about the value of human life, the everyday drama of needless death, the daily social murder that is commonplace. A food delivery worker's job is poorly paid, often on bogus 'self-employed' contracts. The pressure to work long hours to make ends meet, the pressure to quickly finish a job to start the next, doubtless leads to an increase in accidents. Dangerous and badly paid, the current pandemic reveals its also an essential job."
Kate Newington Amanda (NHS Frontline Worker) Paper collage, crayon, ink 30 x 30 cm £500
This is a collage portrait of Amanda, a phlebotomist on the frontline who works across all the Covid wards at South Tyneside District Hospital.
"I was contacted by Holly (Amanda’s daughter) via #portraitsfornhsheroes, an Instagram site which was set up by the artist Tom Croft. Holly asked me to make a portrait of her mum as a surprise. I made a few versions of the portrait, and it is possibly the only portrait I will ever make of someone wearing a mask and a helmet! It is really a portrait of a pair of eyes - the eyes needed to express as much as possible about the whole person. It was a tall order and a unique challenge."
You can find out more about Tom Croft's Portraits For NHS Heroes project here: www.thomascroft.co.uk/portraits-for-nhs-heroes
Donate to NHS Charities here: www.nhscharitiestogether.co.uk
Figurative Art Now is available to Browse & Buy until 20 September