Hayward Gallery
exhibition

Everyday Heroes

Sep – Nov 2020

Taking place across Southbank Centre, Everyday Heroes is an outdoor exhibition that celebrates the contributions that key workers and frontline staff have made during the pandemic.

It features more than 40 portraits of some of the entirely ordinary but also utterly remarkable people – among them health workers, bus drivers, faith workers and shop assistants – who have helped to keep this country going during the crisis, often working in extremely challenging circumstances and putting their own personal safety at risk. 

Many of the contributing artists and writers have chosen to portray family members, friends, or people in their local communities. Often disarmingly intimate, each portrait – whether originally rendered in paint, charcoal, photography, collage, or with language – is vividly imaginative and emotionally compelling in its own way. 

Together, they highlight the sheer scale of the collective response to this crisis, and the many different ways that people across the country have come together to support one another, and find a way through it.
 


 

The Everyday Heroes exhibition was made possible through a generous donation which covered all costs.

Featured artists:

Michael Armitage, Lydia Blakeley, Jeremy Deller, Laura Grace Ford, Mahtab Hussain, Evan Ifekoya, Matthew Krishanu, Ryan Mosley, Janette Parris, Alessandro Raho, Silvia Rosi, Benjamin Senior, Juergen Teller, Caroline Walker and Barbara Walker. 

Featured poets:

Romalyn Ante, Raymond Antrobus, Simon Armitage, Jackie Kay, Vanessa Kisuule and Roger Robinson. 

At this particular moment, perhaps more than ever, this kind of outdoor exhibition can play a crucial role in furnishing the inspiration which visual art and poetry provide to our collective imagination and civic life.
Ralph Rugoff, Hayward Gallery Director

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Across the Southbank Centre site

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Michael Armitage

Lives and works between London and Nairobi

John Barry, O Kelly, Sonny and Richard Moore, 2020
Oil on Lubugo bark cloth

At the top of this painting a pair of paramedics maneuver a stretcher into an ambulance. Below, a team of refuse collectors are pictured at work, four figures blending seamlessly into one – their individual names listed beside them. This is the first painting by Armitage set in the UK, but it follows his usual practice of reflecting on current events. ‘Painting is a way of thinking through something, trying to understand an experience or an event a little better, and trying to communicate something of the problem to others’, Armitage has said.

Everyday Heroes: Michael Armitage, John Barry, O Kelly, Sonny and Richard Moore, 2020. Oil on Lubugo bark cloth. Copyright the artist.
Michael Armitage, John Barry, O Kelly, Sonny and Richard Moore, 2020. Oil on Lubugo bark cloth. Copyright the artist

Lydia Blakeley

Lives and works in Leeds

Jacqui, 2020
Oil on linen

Tom, 2020
Oil on linen

Tom at the counter, 2020
Oil on linen

Lydia Blakeley’s aunt Jacqui is a nurse at a community hospital in Oxfordshire. ‘This period has been extremely stressful and worrying, especially for people like my aunt, who carried on working throughout the lockdown’, Blakeley comments. ‘It’s been bleak, but I wanted my portraits for Everyday Heroes to convey the opposite: resilience, quiet optimism and serenity, and to show the individuals during a moment of calm.’ Two further portraits by Blakeley, which feature two shop assistants – both called Tom – who work in the shop next door to her studio, can be found at either end of Southbank Centre’s Mandela Walkway. 

Everyday Heroes: Jacqui, 2020 Oil on linen
Lydia Blakeley, Jacqui, 2020. Oil on linen. Copyright the artist

Jeremy Deller

Lives and works in London
An Immigrant Saving a Racist’s Life x 500,000, 2020

‘This text is a word portrait of what’s been going on in the UK over the last few months.’ – Jeremy Deller.

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Jeremy Deller, An immigrant saving a racist’s life x 500,000, 2020at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Jeremy Deller, An Immigrant Saving a Racist’s Life x 500,000, 2020 at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Laura Grace Ford

Lives and works in London

Majed, 2020
Collage

This collage by Laura Grace Ford depicts the artist’s friend, Majed, who works as an occupational health doctor at London Gateway port in Essex. Majed provides medical and pastoral support to dock workers, HGV drivers, and Asbestos workers throughout Essex. ‘I think occupational health professionals are massively undervalued’, Ford comments. ‘Without them life would be a lot more dangerous for precarious workers’. Majed’s work throughout the pandemic has contributed to the smooth running of food delivery, logistics and construction.

Everyday Heroes: Laura Grace Ford, Majed, 2020, collage. Copyright the artist.
Laura Grace Ford, Majed, 2020, collage. Copyright the artist

Mahtab Hussain

Lives and works in Birmingham

Dr A Shahid with Ember, 2020
C-Type with paint

The Surgeon, 2020
C-Type with paint

Mahtab Hussain has contributed two portraits to Everyday Heroes. In one of these images, a surgeon is pictured with one of the tools of his trade – a stapler used for keyhole gastrointestinal surgery. In the other, dermatologist Dr A Shahid, a friend of the artist, who worked throughout the pandemic while heavily pregnant, is pictured with her scrubs, her mask, and her newborn. The elements in gold reference the decorative surfaces of Mughal miniature paintings. Speaking of the border of interlocking fish that frames Dr A Shahid, Hussain has said: ‘A fish symbolises fertility, emotion, creativity, rebirth, good luck and transformation’, as well as ‘happiness, strength and endurance’. 

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Mahtab Hussain, Dr A Shahid with Ember, 2020 at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind (4)
Installation view of Mahtab Hussain, Dr A Shahid with Ember, 2020 at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Evan Ifekoya

Lives and works in London

No 1. Start From A Place Of Abundance, 2018
Photograph
Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

Evan Ifekoya is interested in ‘the artist as maker, the artist as mediator, the artist as facilitator, the artist as healer’. This photograph is part of a series of images that explore everyday rituals, intimacy and community, as well as our ‘spiritual-material relationship to the natural world’. It is part of a larger body of work, Ritual Without Belief, that emerged from the artist’s ongoing residency at Lambeth’s Gasworks gallery, in 2018.

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Evan Ifekoya, No 1. Start From A Place Of Abundance, 2018 at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind (1)
Installation view of Evan Ifekoya, No 1. Start From A Place Of Abundance, 2018 at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Matthew Krishanu

Lives and works in London

The group of portraits that Matthew Krishanu has produced for Everyday Heroes focuses on four female religious workers who, along with other religious workers across the country, continued to find ways to serve their community throughout the crisis. The subjects are Rehanah Sadiq, a Muslim chaplain for two Birmingham NHS hospital trusts; Eve Pitts, Britain’s first black female Church of England vicar; Margaret Jacobi, a rabbi at a progressive Jewish synagogue; and Deseta Davis, a pastor and prison chaplain. All four live in Birmingham, a city that Krishanu knows well, and are pictured at work, sometimes dressed in ceremonial clothes, or personal protective equipment. 

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Matthew Krishanu and Lydia Blakeley,works at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Matthew Krishanu works at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Ryan Mosley

Lives and works in Sheffield

My Brother Paul, 2020
Oil on linen on board

Ryan Mosley’s painting depicts his brother Paul, a train driver who has continued to work throughout the pandemic. Paul is pictured in profile, his eyes lowered. The contrast between Paul’s bright orange tabard and the blue tiles behind him enlivens the portrait’s formal composition, and undercuts its sombre tone. Mosley’s paintings usually feature fictional characters inspired by folklore, as well as by paintings in the National Gallery, where he used to work as a guard. ‘I’ve always been interested in the idea of portraiture, and what can be considered a portrait’, says the artist.

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Ryan Mosley, My Brother Paul, 2020 at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Ryan Mosley, My Brother Paul, 2020 at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Janette Parris

Lives and works in London

Willow buys lunch in Cafe Spice, 2015/2020
Digital drawing

Lambeth-based artist Janette Parris made the digital drawing Willow buys lunch in Cafe Spice in 2015, as part of a commission to capture everyday life on Peckham High Street. Local resident Willow was a careworker at the time that Parris made the image, but due to underlying health conditions had to stop working during the lockdown. Parris recently updated this image for 2020, a time in which ‘everyday life’ on the high street includes wearing a face covering. Two further digital drawings by Parris – which feature a Deptford grocers, and fishmongers, respectively – are on display as part of Everyday Heroes

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Janette Parris works at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Janette Parris works at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Alessandro Raho

Lives and works in Hastings

Precious, 2020
Oil on canvas

This is a portrait of Precious, a family friend of Alessandro Raho, who works as a nurse at Conquest Hospital in Hastings, East Sussex. Precious has spoken about the fear and anxiety she experienced at work, brought about by spiralling coronavirus statistics. ‘Being exposed to the virus was the biggest concern’, she says, ‘along with how I would protect my family’. Raho’s full-body portraits – often painted in a photo-realist style against a white background – pay close attention to the subject’s clothes and accessories, in this case Precious’s bright blue nurse’s uniform.

Everyday Heroes: Alessandro Raho, Precious, 2020. Oil on canvas. Photo Credit_Todd-White Art Photography, Todd White Art Photography Pete Braithwaite
Alessandro Raho, Precious (2020). Copyright the artist

Silvia Rosi

Lives and works in London

Portrait of my mother during isolation, 2020
Photograph

Brother studying on phone, 2020
Photograph

During lockdown, Silvia Rosi began documenting her family’s daily life, and new routines. In her photographs for Everyday Heroes, Rosi’s mother prepares food in the kitchen, while her younger brother can be seen studying. ‘My brother has been busy with distance learning since mid-March’, Rosi comments. ‘He has been struggling to concentrate on his studies due to his dyslexia and being hyperactive.’ Rosi often works in full colour. Her use of black-and-white for this series helps capture the sense of stillness and suspension that, for many of us, was part of the experience of lockdown.

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of artworks by Silvia Rosi and Jeremy Deller at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Silvia Rosi, Brother studying on phone, 2020, at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Benjamin Senior

Lives and works in London

The Grocery Stall, 2020
Egg tempera on cotton on plywood

The Grocery Stall is based on Benjamin Senior’s local market in Croydon, south London. ‘Grocery shopping took on a particular urgency early in the lockdown, when supplies were scarce, and the marketplace has been a focal point of our lives since.’ Senior’s paintings often pay close attention to pattern. ‘I am interested in the visual impact of the market stalls and the awnings separating the scene into zones of coloured shade and the vegetables providing a feast of textures’, he says.

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Benjamin Senior artwork and Simon Armitage poem at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Benjamin Senior, The Grocery Stall, 2020, at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Juergen Teller

Lives and works in London

Natasha, London, 2020
Photograph

Stephen, London, 2020
Photograph

Natasha and Stephen are London bus drivers. Juergen Teller photographed them at Waterloo bus station, next door to Southbank Centre. ‘Working on the frontline during the pandemic was definitely a challenging time, but I’ve never felt so proud doing the job I love’, says Natasha. For Stephen it was also extremely challenging. ‘But I was very proud to be able to participate in serving the nation’, he says, ‘I’m glad to have been able to play a part.’

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Juergen Teller works at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Juergen Teller works at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Caroline Walker

Lives and works in London

Elaine, 2020
Oil on linen

This is a portrait of Elaine, a shop assistant at Caroline Walker’s local bakery, which stayed open throughout the lockdown. ‘The bakery is a big feature of the local community’, Walker says. ‘In recent weeks they’ve had to adapt how they do business, serving from the door of the shop’. Walker’s paintings often depict women at work in the service industries, in roles that are, as she puts it, ‘largely taken for granted’ or ‘designed to be unseen’. 

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of  Caroline Walker, Elaine, 2020 at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Caroline Walker, Elaine, 2020 at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Barbara Walker

Lives and works in Birmingham

Attitude, 1998
Oil on canvas

Rosemary I & II, 2020
Charcoal on paper

Barbara Walker has three artworks on display as part of Everyday Heroes. Attitude (1998) is a portrait of Barbara Walker’s daughter, who works for the NHS. With Walker’s mother also having worked for the NHS, service to the nation’s health is, for the artist, ‘very much a family matter’. ‘Frontline NHS staff are of course particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, and the susceptibility of ethnic minorities to the pandemic is sadly a matter of fact. My daughter bears witness to personal stories of surviving the virus. Not only surviving it, but immediately upon recovery, returning to frontline NHS duties.’ 
 
Walker’s charcoal drawings – Rosemary I and II (2020) – depict the artist’s friend who works as a nurse. ‘I wanted to capture the sense of quiet dedication, dignity and commitment that she, and indeed a great many other NHS workers, embody. Through the heavy tonal background I’ve used on two of them, the drawings evoke a sense of ominousness, which speaks both to the challenges that lie ahead as well as the times we are living through now. I was keen, however, to also convey a sense of the optimism that we all need to get ourselves through these difficult days.’

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Barbara Walker's works at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Barbara Walker's works at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Romalyn Ante

Lives and works in Wolverhampton

‘Heatwave’

In ‘Heatwave’, Romalyn Ante offers a visceral and affecting poem about her mother, who, like her, works as a nurse. Born in the Philippines, Ante moved to the UK aged 16. The poems in Ante’s newly released debut collection, Antiemetic for Homesickness, which explore both the experience of migration and working in the health service, began as journal entries. ‘Even though this is personal to me, it is not just my story’, she says. ‘I want my experience to evoke something that others can relate to’. 

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Romalyn Ante's ‘Heatwave’ at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Romalyn Ante's ‘Heatwave’ at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Raymond Antrobus

Lives and works in London

‘On touch’

For poet and teacher Raymond Antrobus, teaching and writing are a way of trying to connect – of holding conversations, and finding ways to learn together. Of his award-winning first collection The Perseverance, Antrobus says ‘More than anything [it’s] about communication, it’s about conversation and how we convey ourselves in language’. It is also ‘a homage to the NHS’. So too is his poem ‘On touch’, written after interviewing NHS nurse Joan Pons Laplana.

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Raymond Antrobus' ‘On touch’ at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Raymond Antrobus' ‘On touch’ at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Simon Armitage

Lives and works in West Yorkshire

‘Omnipresent’

Simon Armitage became Poet Laureate in 2019, but as he puts it, he’s ‘always been somebody who’s happy to tackle current, topical subjects’. This March, he wrote and published a poem about lockdown. ‘There are times in our national consciousness where a poem feels like the right form of address’, he says. Publishing poems on the sides of buildings makes sense to him too: ‘I’ve never been satisfied with the idea that poetry just lives in books.’

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Simon Armitage's 'Omnipresent' at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind (1)
Installation view of Simon Armitage's 'Omnipresent' at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Jackie Kay

Lives and works in Manchester

‘Home’

Scottish Makar Jackie Kay (Scotland’s poet laureate) has argued that ‘poetry gives a voice to the voiceless’. Her own poems often begin with a voice, and take the form of monologues. ‘I want the voices that I create to be compelling, to be mysterious, to be urgent, to have something important that they want to say’. Above all, she wants people to recognise themselves in them. ‘The best thing that people can say is “that was me”.’

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Jackie Kay's 'Home' at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Jackie Kay's 'Home' at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Vanessa Kisuule

Lives and works in Bristol

‘Scrunchie’

Vanessa Kisuule is a writer and performer based in Bristol. She is currently the Bristol City Poet. In June, she wrote and performed a poem – ‘Hollow’ – about the statue of Slave Trader Edward Colston being pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol. ‘Everyday Heroes gave me the opportunity to reflect on the micro effects of this global pandemic’, Kisuule has said. ‘Amid all the media flurry, it’s grounding to consider the combination of mundane and exceptional things that any given person carries out on a daily basis.’

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Vanessa Kisuule's ‘Scrunchie’ at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind
Installation view of Vanessa Kisuule's ‘Scrunchie’ at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Roger Robinson

Lives and works in Northampton

‘On nurses’
from Portable Paradise

The poems in Roger Robinson’s award-winning collection Portable Paradise began as a series of ‘philosophical excavations’ of what paradise might mean, quickly opening out into something broader – including reflections on hope, and the pursuit of happiness. ‘I want these poems to be useful and to help people practice empathy’, Robinson has said. Speaking of the importance of frontline workers, he notes: ‘It wasn’t the bankers, millionaires or computer magnates that we turned to in the crisis – it was the nurses, garbage cleaners, supermarket workers; I hope these people will be valued more’. 

Everyday Heroes: Installation view of Roger Robinson's 'On Nurses' at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, on until 7 November 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit_ Linda Nylind (2)
Installation view of Roger Robinson's 'On Nurses' at Southbank Centre's Everyday Heroes, 2020. Copyright the artist. Photo credit: Linda Nylind

Use the map below to find your way around our outdoor exhibition.

view Everyday Heroes exhibition map

from the blog

story
In our interview, the artist speaks about portraying people whose work supports their communities
story
Take a look at our outdoor exhibition Everyday Heroes, ahead of its opening