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On the Covid frontline: Hampshire exhibition inspired by Stanley Spencer war murals



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A NEW exhibition inspired by the Stanley Spencer First World War murals explores life in a hospital during the battle against Covid-19.

Front Lines, an exhibition of sketches by artist Geraint Ross Evans, explores the day-to-day life of medics and patients at a Welsh hospital during the fight against coronavirus.

It opens at the National Trust’s Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere, home to war artist Stanley Spencer’s famous series of artworks, which were created from his own experiences as a hospital orderly and a soldier during the First World War.

Map and the Territory - © Geraint Ross Evans
Map and the Territory - © Geraint Ross Evans
After Spencer 1 - © Geraint Ross Evans
After Spencer 1 - © Geraint Ross Evans

Almost a century after Spencer began work on this chapel to honour the soldiers of the First World War, Geraint Ross Evans was invited to Grange University Hospital in Cwmbran, South Wales, to record patients and staff working on the front line of healthcare.

His drawings capture a time when the hospital was dealing not only with the usual medical needs of its patients, but also the extra demands brought about by the coronavirus epidemic.

Evans was inspired by Spencer’s work on view at Sandham Memorial Chapel and has used similar pictorial techniques when creating his own complex image. He says: “I’ve been looking to Spencer since I was in sixth form when we were taught about the War Artists and, to me, Stanley Spencer’s work shone. It was visionary and imaginative, far beyond reportage. I’m particularly interested in putting lots of views into a single image, which is what Spencer’s mural does so well.”

Grange Hospital Detail 2 - © Geraint Ross Evans
Grange Hospital Detail 2 - © Geraint Ross Evans
Grange Hospital Detail 4 - © Geraint Ross Evans
Grange Hospital Detail 4 - © Geraint Ross Evans

Evans’ work includes drawings of patients receiving treatment and nurses going about their duties and are a modern-day response to the art Stanley Spencer created after working as a medical orderly at the Beaufort hospital in Bristol and then serving as a soldier.

Evans drew Spencer’s murals inside Sandham Memorial Chapel in preparation, gaining a new understanding about how the striking images were created: “In drawing Spencer’s work, I feel I’m having a conversation with him as an artist… it gives me a unique insight into how he composed his paintings.”

Spencer’s use of perspective and unusual viewpoints has directly inspired one of Evans’ pieces. In ‘Map Reading’, Spencer shows an army officer contemplating a map of the Salonika area of Greece, his soldiers placed around the sides.

Evans responded with ‘Map for the Territory’, where a self-portrait is seen holding out a map of his home city of Cardiff, surrounded by local people: “I share with Spencer the desire to both put the viewer amongst the crowd, while also providing a sense of place.

“The map and figures are encircled with a panorama of Cardiff’s horizon line and is a musing on the push and pull between collective human ingenuity and individual limitation.”

Like Spencer, Evans does not look to celebrate leaders and bosses: “A lot of my work includes people looking for pathways towards a better future, for example litter pickers and volunteer groups.

“I’m interested in people who are looking to create heaven on Earth. Spencer did that too – he sets heaven in the everyday world, not fluffy clouds. He celebrates the work real people are doing.”

Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere, Hampshire
Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere, Hampshire

Front Lines exhibition: Sandham Memorial Chapel, June 11 to September 25, Thursday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, 11am to 3pm. Entry to the exhibition is included with a ticket for Sandham Memorial Chapel, National Trust Members free. All artwork available to buy.

For more information: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sandham-memorial-chapel, tel: (01635) 278394.

Sandham Memorial Chapel, Harts Lane, Burghclere.



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