Healing the heart: celebrity art exhibition draws on real life stories

PUBLISHED: 11:00 08 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:13 10 October 2016

Cindy Lass and Nikki Newman

Cindy Lass and Nikki Newman


Six years ago Highgate resident Nikki Newman lost her 17-year-old daughter, Natasha, suddenly in a fatal car crash in America. Since then Ms Newman’s life has changed in more ways than she expected.

Cindy LassCindy Lass

“It was the worst thing in my world that had happened,” said Ms Newman. “But it changed my way of thinking.”

After her daughter had passed away, Ms Newman was sent a piece of art that Natasha had made before she died. Something about the painting struck a chord with her: “It started to turn my life around.

“Art is a strong medium for reconnecting with your own heart. I recognised the importance for my surivival of reenergising a heart emotionally and by opening it up.

“When you lose someone you lose your future and your past. You don’t want to go back and look at old photos because it’s too painful, and also to think about what might have happened in the future. So it is important to ground yourself in the present.

Ms Newman added: “Sometimes it takes these big trauamtic events to appreciate these things and teach you not to sweat the small stuff.”

This concept of reenergising the heart has become the subject of a new celebrity art exhibition, ‘All our hearts beat as one’, curated by Cindy Lass, an artist based in St John’s Wood.

Ms Newman and Ms Lass had gone to stage school together and reconnected when they realised they were both concerned with similar ideas.

Ms Lass had been working on a children’s art project based on the theme ‘all our hearts beat as one’.

She said: “I was frustrated by people judging others on things like looks or religion. It is important to feel the joy of life without an iPhone or a club membership or whatever else.”

The artist wanted to bring the subject to adults, so sent out 10 inch square canvases to 50 mostly local celebrities, who have used them to respond to the theme. The artwork by the likes of Bill Oddie, Arlene Philips, Gail Porter and Vanessa Feltz will be on display next Thursday and Friday at Gallery Different in Bloomsbury. They are being auctioned off online to raise money for Heart Cell Foundation, a stem cell charity, until 4pm Saturday 15 October.

The pair have been taken aback by the willingness of celebrities to donate work, which will be displayed alongside pieces from other artists. Ms Lass said: “Mary Portas created a fabulous heart with fluidity and colour in it. Mel Sykes created a sponge painting with her son.

“I love how the project has brought people together.”

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