Cardiff and Vale University Health Board with the support of Cardiff & The Vale Health Charity was delighted to be able to commission a signature painting by contemporary painter, Aidan Myers, in Celebration of 70th Anniversary of the founding of the National Health Service.
Aidan conducted a large amount of research as part of the commission, discussing opinions and feelings about our iconic institution, which is personal to us all. The result is an exceptional painting, ‘Resilience’, which through a unique visual language, celebrates the NHS’s core values of care to all, support, kindness and positivity, acknowledges the complexities of our NHS, and celebrates a forward-thinking organisation.
Below, Aidan shares his creative process of how he created Resilience.
Intentions, basis of project, ideas
“The commission to create a signature painting marking 70 years of our National Health Service jumped out at me because of the very important role that the NHS plays within all of our lives within the UK; this project provided a chance to celebrate the wide range of incredible achievements over the past 70 years since its inception in 1948. This opportunity also comes at probably the most crucial stage in the service’s history.
“My processes for the project involved a period of research into the achievements, developments and history throughout the 70 years as to find the route of navigation for a final outcome. The difficult challenge was how to concentrate or consolidate NHS developments and core values with my wide range of ideas, feelings and energies all into one single image.
“Initial ideas involved rhythms, cycles, and spherical forms within composition – symbolising ideas such as: the cycle of life and signifying how the NHS completely surrounds, entwines and encompasses communities within the nation.
“Colours were restricted as to be specific and suitable for the permanent Llandough hospital site. I felt that the colours had to really allow for positivity to emerge from the surfaces of the image to uplift the viewer and to bring bright, fresh, vibrant energy to the permanent display space.
Interviews, conversations within my communities, ideas extending from this
“Following a period of research into NHS history, the second stage of the project led to me working with many individuals within my immediate community as to collect unique stories about experiences with the NHS; from my initial research, it was very paramount that the main area to explore was my own immediate community allowing the painting to be much more personal journey.
“I understood the NHS to be unique and individual to everyone; certainly within the first instances of NHS being a service, the GP was a central member to many communities long before developments in transport and road infrastructure. It was a time where families lived their entire lives in one place, far before modern times where families and communities are constantly moving, fragmenting and re-structuring elsewhere. I was interested how healthcare professionals lived, worked and treated patients in the immediate area. Professionals knew more about their patients than just what the charts displayed; this has certainly become much more impossible with the constant movement of people in modern day.
“This simple, yet huge change in how communities were much more localised, comes simultaneously with a change in the speed of our lives. Our modern lives are very fast paced and very busy (perhaps even too full in some cases). This fast pace perhaps comes with a reduction in patience or ability to wait – alongside this, there have been vast improvements to the treatments that are now available and increase in general procedures within NHS services that essentially now sees a rise in demand for healthcare treatments and professional service.
“I think that this extends to a rise in levels of expectation within NHS much more than in days gone by.
“The conversations with healthcare professionals, patients and families of patients would often lead to the discussion of these shifts in community structures as well as how this relates to expectation and entitlement.
“I discussed ideas of how some people expect 100% accuracy of all healthcare services. Although none of the individuals I spoke with had this outlook themselves, some of them had experienced other patients or families with unrealistic expectation levels whilst being in hospital. It seems as if some individuals are led to believe that the healthcare system is ‘failing’ if it doesn’t achieve a positive turnaround without any complications or if procedures come with waiting lists. This ultimately puts a lot of stress on the services.
“I spoke with two patients both with currently incurable long-term illnesses who regularly use services at Llandough. Both patients absolutely rely on the NHS to live, it is very apparent that the healthcare services have dramatically improved over their lifetime, however their reliance of hospital care is absolutely vital to their existence. The fact that 10-20 years ago, some of the medical treatments to aid their conditions were not available meant that life expectancy was very low – from new medicine and treatments, life expectancy has risen year on year allowing them both to defy the odds and lead a better quality of life, to which I find absolutely amazing, positive and very inspirational. The optimism and positive outlook by both patients is incredible and really makes me realise just how crucial the NHS staff and communities are to encourage and support patient positivity.
“How can the NHS be ‘failing’ if it is saving lives, extending lives and providing breath for many?” – a very clear and honest remark detailing just how much the NHS means.
“The current plans of privatisation by government essentially suggest that everyone would be ‘means tested’ for how wealthy they are to afford treatments as opposed to how ill they are or how much medical attention is needed. This is something that is quite simply ludicrous and inhumane. It also opposes everything that the NHS stands for in the way of being a service for everyone no matter of wealth or race. It also suggests that wealth dictates one’s entitlement to healthcare. Undoubtedly, entitlement of one over another in terms of their wealth is completely immoral and outrageous.
“The false or misleading claims by government and press about NHS failing the UK is really disconcerting and destructive to those individuals that are in absolute need of the services and to all of the NHS staff who work their entire lives to save or prolong the lives of so many others. It suggests that anyone who isn’t extremely wealthy is not entitled to healthcare. The government are making out that they ‘own’ this public service by means of them trying to privatise it. The truth is, everyone is a part of the NHS, the NHS is not failing and it is certainly not a product for the government to sell in any way.
“The term ‘Resilience’ rose from a patient conversation. It probed this idea of the whole service being Resilient to the pressures and negative press being constantly thrown at it by the government and other high level
corporations in attempts to make it a private service. It is remarkable that at the most crucial point in time, the NHS has still gone on to improve and develop new treatments and strategies. Even with all this constant negative energy, bad press and funding cutbacks it defies the odds, suggesting it is one of the strongest services that there is.
One thing this solidifies is just how important the NHS is and grateful we should be as a nation to have such a service, that many other countries do not have. I certainly feel very saddened by the government making every effort to destroy this and make the NHS appear to be bad in order to privatise it rather than fund its every need.
With the obvious misguided claims from the government, I am far more aware of my own perceptions when it comes to news articles trying to force negative opinions on the nation. It is certainly vital to have knowledge of where much of this information is sourced as to take a truthful view of the news story. From talking first hand with my local communities, I have certainly strengthened my positive outlook of the NHS gaining a much greater, more realistic and honest view of the many NHS services from these personal experiences. Many of these experiences and positives will never be a featured headline news story, as the organisations reporting are very much only interested in shocking the nation with tragic or negative stories.
“The personal experiences were important to understand how the NHS provides patients the power to feel resilient to long or short-term issues, to allow patients to overcome or improve their health; to give hope to both patients and families.
“My processes involved a lot of paint layering within the final painting; I used many thin glazes or translucent colours to probe ideas of seeing ‘beyond the surface’. I wanted this to be physical in terms of seeing the many layers of the painting. This aimed to probe ideas of seeing beyond the surfaces of the NHS, seeing that the NHS consists of multiple services.
“A motif of hands crossing/connecting within this composition is relatively hidden and not quite defined; this forms a transition from a previous painting titled – ‘Helping Hands’ I created for the Ronald Mcdonald Health Charity children’s accommodation in University Hospital Heath. The idea aims to suggest the passing of care, from professionals to patients. For me, this aspect is a very important part of the NHS story.
“As we enter into the 70th year of our NHS, the bright colours within ‘Resilience’ suggest a positive nature; they lean towards optimistic future and probe ideas that the NHS is constantly growing, developing many more ways to care for and nurture human health. Our NHS is something to be very proud of, to look after, to respect and to be publicly available for everyone in this country forever.”
– Aidan Myers, Artist
Aidan’s painting, Resilience, is now on permanent display outside the Hearth Gallery in University Hospital Llandough.