Print 'NHS v Covid-19: Fighting on Two Fronts' by the Singh Twins
- The Singh Twins
Giclée limited edition print 'NHS v Covid-19:Fighting on Two Fronts' by The Singh Twins, 2021. Coloured print resembling an illuminated manuscript showing a masked NHS worker in the guise of St George slaying the dragon. Signed, editioned and dated bottom left. Edition 5 of 25.
The Singh Twins produced the original mixed medium digital artwork for this print during the first 2020 lockdown, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and particularly the experiences of health care workers from a BAME background. It comments on the government’s contradictory actions regarding the NHS during the pandemic as well as wider debates around British identity and immigration politics.
Typical of The Singh Twins' beautifully detailed work, 'NHS v Covid-19: Fighting on Two Fronts' resembles an illuminated manuscript and marshals a rich variety of text and image to comment on the experiences of NHS workers during the 2020 pandemic. Central to the print is an Asian nurse shown as a modern-day St George on the edge of the white cliffs of Dover. Riding a horse with her arm raised, she prepares to strike her lance at the Covid-19 virus in the form of a dragon. A tiny Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in the guise of a jester, is shown straddling the horse behind the nurse, thrusting a knife into her back whilst pulling on the horse’s reins. Notably the nurse wears makeshift PPE.
Other details show former Prime Minister Theresa May holding a placard with ‘Brexit Sale’ and ‘NHS Workers’ Rights’ and a copy of the infamous parliamentary bill that voted down a pay rise for nurses in 2017; or the British lion sat holding an NHS flag over a version of the public health signage used for the government daily briefings, with the message altered to ‘Heed the Warnings, Provide PPE, Save Lives.’ Decorative details throughout the print comment on the bravery and commitment of those on the front line caring for people infected by the virus, such as strawberries and a pelican - Christian symbols of a life of good deeds - or crocus flowers - representing saffron, an Indian symbol of self-sacrifice. The white cliffs of Dover are planted with peonies, which are associated with medicine in Greek mythology, symbolising how the battlefields of Britain's fight against Covid-19 were hospitals across the country.
With this critical imagery, The Singh Twins comment on the government’s support of clapping for the NHS in public while advocating policies and attitudes over many years that saw the NHS under-funded and under-valued. Likewise, they highlight the particular experience of workers in the NHS from a BAME background during the pandemic, who were shown to be especially vulnerable to Covid-19, and died in greater numbers than other health care workers, at the same time as the government refused to end the surcharge imposed on migrant workers to access NHS care.
The Singh Twins appeared with this artwork on 'Grayson’s Art Club' broadcast on Channel 4 on 1 June 2020. Presented by Grayson Perry, this programme encouraged viewers to contribute artworks in response to a theme each week, capturing the creativity that lockdown encouraged across the wider public. The Twins appeared in the final episode that ‘celebrated all things Britain’.