At Your Service #1
Yesterday, 29th March 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 in order for the UK to start negotiating its way out of the European Union. The decision to Leave was made on 23rd June 2016 and since then many European citizens who reside and work in the UK have been wondering if they will be allowed to stay in the UK or whether their rights will change or, in the worst case scenario, may be asked to leave. I have met many fellow Europeans who have expressed their views an emotions in the last 8 months - emotions that ranged from anger, surprise and sadness to anxiety, frustration and disbelief.
Just over a month ago I applied for the Ways of Making exhibition opportunity at Yorkshire Artspace. I proposed to paint the portraits of European employees within our local Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. These portraits wouldn't simply portray the individuals, these pictures would tell the story of where they came from and what they love about the City of Sheffield in a colourful patchwork of images and patterns, without revealing what role they perform within the NHS. I also want to record their personal views on Brexit and find out what they love about the NHS and what they concerns they have for its future. The NHS is a very British institution that relies heavily on the expertise and hard work of its employees, many of whom are immigrants and a high number of those are European.
Yesterday, 29th March 2017, I received the news that my project proposal was accepted and that I will have my first solo exhibition in September 2018. By the time the exhibition will open to the public, we will (hopefully) know what has been decided about the rights of European citizens within the UK and British citizens who are residing and working in European countries that are still part of the Union. We may also know much more about the future direction of the NHS which is under constant scrutiny and is criticised in the national media on an almost daily basis.
I want to do this because I like to show how wonderful it is that people from different parts of Europe end up working in this very British institution to provide care for people who are sick or who have been injured. I also want to show that they have a connection to the city that they have adopted as their home, a city where the majority of its citizens voted to Leave the European Union.
I'm really excited to start this project. My first 'sitter' will be Roxana Whiteman, born in Romania and who has lived and worked in the UK since 2007. She started working at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals in 2015. Her story will feature in my next blog post.
(Image: At Your Service - self portrait with cow. Gouache, goldleaf on paper, 2017 (sample provided with proposal).