By Francesca Fenn, Jan 17 2017 04:55PM
Hello! This is our first blog in a long time. We never meant to stop – but you know how it is – you miss a week cos you’re on holiday, then another cos that week was busy… and somehow the delightful habit of writing and musing on different bits of London life is lost. But it’s a new year, complete with resolutions, and we have been driven to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, by a particular exhibition in one of the City churches. Our photos in no way do justice to the pictures, but they give you a taste.
St Stephen Walbrook is one of Sir Christopher Wren’s churches. It sits on Walbrook, just behind Mansion House and very near Bank Station. It is an interesting and beautiful church in its own right, and it often hosts exhibitions and concerts. The current exhibition is there just until the end of this week (Jan 20th) and it is both moving and very special.
Artist Hannah Rose Thomas is 24 years old, is extremely talented, and she has a special place in her heart for refugees. (hannahrosethomas.com) Throughout her degree course in art and Arabic she sold her work to finance humanitarian work in some of the world’s hardest trouble spots, and she is still working with and visiting a number of camps now.
The exhibition of her work is small, and has two main themes. The first shows her own portraits of people living in refugee camps in Jordan, and in ‘The Jungle’ in Calais. These are beautiful and intimate, with the pain in the eyes of the refugees movingly depicted. The dignity of these people, who have suffered so much is striking and the faces are worth taking time to gaze into in depth.
The second theme comes from Hannah’s visit to Jordan in 2015, when she organised an art project for Syrian children living in the camps. You can read more about this on her website. The childish drawings are of events that no child should have to witness and they are sobering: planes, tanks, guns, blood, ambulances and bodies lying on the ground are scattered around the normal looking homes. Then there are large murals, created by the children and Hannah working together,and were are a real lesson to me about the resilience of the human spirit. There are two murals from Jordan. One is a dark, abstract chaos of the children’s war experiences. But the children didn’t want to stop there. They wanted to paint memories from home, and the second mural, bright, vibrant and beautiful, is the result. It hangs beside the one of war memories . In enabling children to visually articulate their memories and hopes, perhaps Hannah has helped to keep their humanity alive in the most terrible circumstances.
We are so fortunate that our children can draw trips to the park, or to the seaside, or to London, as their 'event'. Let's all enjoy that freedom.
To see Hannah's refugee portraits, go to hannahrosethomas.com/portfolio-1
Or should you be in the City this week, we recommend popping in to St Stephen’s to see these very special pictures.