Nick Gentry one of the UKs most popular contemporary artists has created a brand-new series of portraits of the frontline NHS healthcare staff during the lockdown. Nick wanted to find a way to express the nations gratitude for these wonderfully caring, inspiring people and to help mark a moment in time that will be remembered forever. Itd be great if youd be interested in running this story and hearing more about the different stories that these portraits represent?
So much of what we do today relies on technology and this is the first time that data has been placed right at the heart of the story. The portraits are made from used vintage computer punch cards from the 1960s and 70s, one of the very first methods of programming and talking with computers. These cards are sourced from all over the world and show the markings of data on their surfaces. The stories from each staff member are unique and take centre stage and create an opportunity for us to hear directly about their unique experiences and the immense daily challenges that they face.
The Covid-19 pandemic and recent events have highlighted many of the advantages and also the concerns society has about technology, data privacy and surveillance. Never have we been so conflicted over our own technological creations. The world is looking to technology to help us track and trace, while shiny new 5G masts burn to the ground. Our data-driven world absorbs us to such an extent that we now do not now know where the separation lies between humans and technology.
One of Londons hottest artists, Nick Gentrys work is recognisable for using old technology such as Floppy Disks and VHS cassette tapes to transform them into sculptures and paintings, but this is the first time hes used punch cards. Nicks incredible work is currently on display at Opera Gallerys brand new opening exhibition to celebrate the gallerys re-opening post Lockdown and is being featured alongside biggest names in contemporary art from Damien Hirst to Ellen von Unwerth.
Commenting on his time at home and the impact of Covid on his livelihood, Nick says: My art studio is in my garden, so working from home has been a way of life for me for 2 years. During lockdown I have felt so blessed to have this special place where I can be in my studio creating my artworks, or outside in the garden. At first I felt helpless and worried in the face of such challenging times, but I remembered that with art it is possible to at least help tell the story of the moment. I had to find a new way to tune in to what was happening remotely in the news, over things that were happening in my own bubble. As shops and offices closed, many of us opened up to neighbours and made the most of online connections. I think we have all in some ways felt a strange shift where we have never felt more distant from others, but at the same time so digitally connected - cherishing more than ever the limited time spent with loved ones.