Remembering With Gideon Summerfield
January 27 marks Holocaust Memorial Day – a day for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. In an effort to engage with the devastating effects of such events, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has launched its first ever online art competition. One of the competition’s judges is 18-year-old artist Gideon Summerfield who has embarked on a personal project to meet and draw the portraits of Holocaust survivors.
How did your passion for art develop?
Initially I started copying famous paintings and drawing cartoons inspired by many of the Simpson characters. My parents and an artist teacher, called Andrew Burgess, encouraged me to spend more time developing my interest and gradually improving my techniques.
Why did you decide to undertake your ‘From Generation to Generation’ project?
I had learnt about the Holocaust through my parents and at school. My dad thought it would be a good idea to meet some survivors, as many are now in their ‘twilight’ years. I began spending some time at a centre called Shalvata where I was able to meet and spend time with some survivors. I was also able to meet some people at their homes where they would talk about their experiences and what they had been through. Whilst doing this I took the opportunity to sketch them, doing small drawings of them and taking a few photos. This helped me to do a larger portrait.
Speaking to different Holocaust Survivors, which story has left the biggest impression on you?
I started this project having some knowledge about what happened during the Holocaust and had heard a few survivor stories. But I never thought I would hear the kinds of stories I heard from some of the survivors I met. I found it extremely hard to even comprehend what it must of been like to be in the situations they were in. The pain, the teenage years they had in contrast with the ones I have had. I only heard the stories from those who wanted to speak about their dramatic experiences. I know that the few that didn’t want to share had experienced unimaginable trauma and it had effected their whole life.
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt from this project?
This project has taught me to really appreciate what I have. My family, friends, my life. I learnt how important it is to remember what happened all those years ago and that is why I felt it was so important to draw these survivors, as part of their legacy.
How did you become involved in judging The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s art competition?
It was very thoughtful of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to invite me to be a judge and I am delighted to be part of this initiative. Regarding the judging, I will be in Cardiff (where I am studying illustration) so the Trust are making special arrangements for me to view the artwork to be reviewed and judged. I’m looking forward to working with the other judges from the Arts Council and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. It should be a moving experience.
What advice would you give to other young aspiring artists?
I guess all I can say is what my teachers and other artists have said to me… to keep on drawing every day, even for just one hour a day. And to stay inspired by others.
Where do you hope to be in the future and how will you get there?
It’s too early to say what I may find myself doing in the years to come. My plan is to study illustration, to take on new challenging projects and progress opportunities. Last summer I really enjoyed my time as an intern at an agency – Dutch Uncle – which represents illustrators around the world.
Entries for the competition close tomorrow – on then on the 27th, awarded artwork will be exhibited at the Holocaust Memorial Day UK Event. Visit the website for more information.