The A Graceful Death Exhibition and Project by Antonia Rolls is about what it means to die. Portraits, paintings and words from the end of life. Powerful, moving, loving, uplifting, inspiring. The A Graceful Death Project includes talks, presentations, discussions, events connected to awareness raising of end of life issues. The latest news, exhibitions, events and developments will be available here.
Friday 25 September 2009
Painting Stick Men
My wonderful writer friend Olivia said "Even if you paint Stick Men and call it death, it will be profound". I think she has something there.
When we loose someone, everything to do with death and dying and bereavement is personal. We see things that have no significance to anyone else, as deeply personal. Everything has a memory attached. It is as if there is nothing that does not have a link to our loss. I looked everywhere in the weeks and months after Steve went for something that was neutral. I wanted to lay my eyes on an object, any object, any view, any scene that was not filled with memories of Steve. In the end, I fixed my eyes on a photo of a peeling wooden door taken by my photographer friend Eileen, and it became the only thing that I could look at that was not directly related to Steve.
It was, I understand, mind over matter. There is no reason why this photo of a door became my refuge, but it did. Every tree, every person, every sound was linked to Steve. There was always a way back to him and the link was instantaneous.
Our experiences of loss make us see the world differently. It is not possible to do otherwise, and I have found that seeing links to death and dying has become routine . Once, it was filled with pain and furious distress, but now it feels real, as if I have a slight handle on the intransience of things. I am painting my observations of Steve's last few days, I am painting the terrible state of his body and I am compelled to look again and again at the photos I took of the man I thought would be here for ever. I am painting the blankness and the sense of smallness I felt both before and after he had died. And everything I do is imbued with this sense of inexplicable, awe filled and terrible end of a life.
And so, today I am going to paint stick men and call it death. It is profound, because I have a tiny tiny insight into one person's end of life.