Sydney artist paints Westmead doctors in new light

19 Jan 2016

Surry Hills painter Michael Simms has become Westmead Hospital’s unofficial portrait artist, creating powerful artworks of several clinicians.

Simms recently completed a painting of neurosurgeon Dr Gemma Olsson, who treats patients at Westmead Hospital, the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Westmead Private Hospital.

Surry Hills painter Michael Simms and neurosurgeon Dr Gemma Olsson 

After the pair met through mutual friends, the busy clinician agreed to sit for Simms, who created a stunning oil-on-canvas image of Dr Olsson as a gift.

“When I first met Gemma, I was struck by her wonderfully soulful eyes,” Simms said.

“As I got to know her, I was drawn to her vibrant personality and intellect, but also fascinated by her profession.”

“I didn’t want to capture Gemma in the workplace in a literal sense, my goal was to convey the gravity of what she does; the interplay between warm and cool light was used to evoke the compassionate and clinical aspects of her job and the facial expression was carefully considered to display empathy.”

The painting has now taken pride of place in Gemma’s Balmain home.

Simms has since been commissioned to create another portrait for a Westmead Hospital staffer; this time, a female obstetrician.

“It’s been fantastic to work with these doctors outside of their busy lives at the hospital,” Simms said.

“I like that I am in contact with people who work in a totally different environment to me; the determination and focus required to pursue a career as a surgeon is awe-inspiring.

Simms graduated from Flinders University in Melbourne with a Bachelor of Behaviour Science (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in film and media and minoring in visual arts.

In 2013, he received the Sydney Mechanics School of Art full-time scholarship at the Julian Ashton Art School, where he completed a Diploma of Fine Arts.

He has exhibited at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the UTS Gallery and the Tap Gallery in Darlinghurst.

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