ARTDAILY.COM, 14.04.2020: “Leading artist Michael Craig-Martin creates colour your own “thank you” for NHS staff”
One of Britain’s leading artists, Sir Michael Craig-Martin, has designed a poster for adults and children to colour in and display as a show of support for the work of the National Health Service (NHS).
The poster can be downloaded from the BBC website:
Sir Michael said, “Now more than ever is the time to show our appreciation for the courageous work of our NHS staff across the UK. We might be in lockdown but, by colouring in this design individually and sharing it either in windows or digitally, you can show your personal support for the selfless work they’re doing to save the lives of our friends, family and loved ones.”
Across the UK, people have been showing their support for frontline NHS staff and other key workers as they grapple with the extreme circumstances of a deadly virus and a country in lockdown. This has taken many forms, from communal clapping to painted rainbows in windows.
As well as being an acclaimed artist in his own right, Michael Craig-Martin was an influential teacher at Goldsmith’s College, London from the 1970s to the 1990s where he mentored a group of young artists known later as the Young British Artists among them Damien Hirst, Gary Hume and Sarah Lucas. For this tribute poster, he has used flowers as a poignant thank you to the vital doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who, every day, are working to save lives and take care of people affected by the spread of coronavirus. Known for his painting, sculpture and print-making, the Royal Academician has been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries across the world. He said he wanted his design to be positive and hopeful.
Along with the iconic blue and white NHS logo, Sir Michael’s design uses gerbera flowers, also known as the African daisy, as they grow in a riot of colours. This lets people at home apply their own palette to show their appreciation of those doing life-saving work in hospitals and care homes.
“You may be surprised to see me drawing flowers but in isolation I have been drawing fruit, vegetables, and flowers,” the artist said. “Of course they refer to ‘nature’ in a way I never normally do, but they seem appropriate in our present challenging circumstances.”
He said that flowers had an added significance in these extraordinary times. “As the only place one is able to go to is the supermarket, by far the most striking things we see are these gifts of nature. They never looked more important or more beautiful.”
There is added symbolism and poignancy to Sir Michael’s choice of flower. It was named after the German medical doctor Traugott Gerber in the 18th Century. Historically, the gerbera has held a variety of meanings in different cultures. It is thought the Egyptians believed that they symbolised a closeness to nature, and for Celts they lessened the sorrows and stresses of everyday life.
When the artist is able to work again on making prints after the lockdown, he will create a limited edition version of the print, in collaboration with Cristea Roberts Gallery, with all sales proceeds going to the NHS.