I was asked to paint Katie Tomkins, Mortuary & Post Mortem Services Manager by her colleague Natalie Miles - Kemp on behalf of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust. Katie was nominated by the trust in recognition of her outstanding leadership through the Covid-19 crisis and in celebration of her extraordinary courage, working in the less discussed field of mortuary care. When I ‘met’ Katie via video link and learned more about her role during the crisis I was awe-struck by her extraordinary strength and tenderness during this most challenging of situations, but also by her unconventional, distinctive appearance: her body art and tattoos countering the uniformity of her scrubs and PPE. In combination with her contemporariness her style suggested for me something of the Rosie the Riveter archetype and the wartime portraits of Dame Laura Knight. I hoped with my portrait to evoke something of the focus, resolve and heroism of Knight’s subjects, placing Katie within the sanitized realm of her highly-skilled and indescribably challenging work, simultaneously appraising the day past while readying herself for the demands of the next day to come.
"The portrait will tour the hospitals over the next 18 months to ensure the maximum exposure and prominence in recognition not only of the work itself but also as part of a wider memorial to the events of 2020." Natalie Miles - Kemp