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.
I showed the painting of Anne and Peter Snell to Anne, as it was Peter's wish (supported by Anne) that it be done and included in the A Graceful Death exhibition. Anne is a graceful and deeply experienced lady, with a gift for doing good to people. She liked the painting - actually, she and her wonderful children found the painting extremely difficult to look at and were very upset by it, but not because they did not want the painting to be done. They were knocked sideways by the sight of Peter and Anne as they were for his last weeks, by the memories of that time spent loving him and allowing him to die in dignity and peace. After many tears and conversations amongst themselves and me, they have given me more than the go ahead. I have found Champions. Fearless, intelligent, experienced and brave champions. Anne Snell, with the support of her children, especially two of her daughters Maddy Pook and Jemima Lipari, have enabled A Graceful Death to find its first sponsorship money. Peter Snell has provided funds for good works and his wife and step children have given A Graceful Death enough money to put on two whole exhibitions, with all expenses paid. I cannot thank them enough.
I am looking for sponsorship. I am looking for donations. I am looking for funds to enable this amazing exhibition to tour the country. Many places have asked for it to be shown - I have so far, firm commitments from Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin and York. The exhibition goes to where it is needed and asked for, and needs funds to help it travel, advertise, for me to paint the new paintings, for me to print out all the wonderful new poetry and writings I am sent to include in the exhibition, for all the helpers who help me keep it going. Please think hard. Can you help? Can you donate anything to this A Graceful Death exhibition? I have been shown so far that it is possible to reach out to people and say that the memories of the passing of someone never goes away. It is a terrible and awesome gift to know, really know, that death will happen and it will happen to all of us. And we can grieve, and we can talk about it, and all our stories are important. What we have to say on this personal and sometimes terrible, sometimes miraculous subject, is necessary. Often, in the A Graceful Death exhibition, someone will come in and relive the loss of someone special. You may think this is unwelcome, and to be avoided. But it is not. It happens all the time to those who grieve. It is what happens, and for it to happen with those around who say, "Yes, it happened to us too, and look, it is fine to cry. And look at us now, we are never over it but our lives go on and we are so much better for this experience", for it to happen amongst those people, is a gift.
To come to the exhibition is a brave choice. You have to choose to come, you will never stumble upon it. You know you will be vulnerable to sorrow and you know you will see your own experience there amongst the paintings and writings. But - you will be affirmed. You will see it is more than fine to grieve, it is part of your life. I don't intend for the exhibition to weigh you down or to burden you. I aim for a connection with the End Of Life issues that you have experienced, and to affirm that you still live, and love, and that this real real thing that happened to you is Fine. It is OK. It happened and you are not alone. And now you are here, days, months, years after someone you loved or even someone you just knew, died. We can't chose who we grieve for, we just do it.
A Graceful Death Exhibition is Growing and Going Places.
This is Anne and Peter Snell. Peter asked to be included in the A Graceful Death exhibition before he died, and Anne asked for me to come and see them. Anne was telling Peter how much she loves him here, and Peter was loved out of this life a few days later.
The A Graceful Death exhibition is becoming more inclusive. Anne and Peter Snell are featured above, and will be the central piece for the Oxford Exhibition which is coming up next month. I have found this painting so good to paint, it has taken me some time because Peter's head seemed so vulnerable and precious, as he lay on his pillows. I wanted to capture his dignity and strength. Anne has always been very beautiful, and is shown here concentrating on Peter and talking to him.
A Graceful Death will include one more image next month too. I have been allowed to paint the image of Kate Massey's Grandfather before he died, and when I have finished it you will see what a lovely face and smile this Grandfather had. I am hoping to have it finished within the next two weeks. Kate Massey is a student at Queen's Theological College in Birmingham, and was moved to include her much loved Grandfather in the next exhibition. I am grateful to Kate.
Included too will be some very profound poetry by Penny Hewlett. Penny is a modest but highly accomplished poet. The first poem I put up of Penny's is entered for a poetry competition so I am using another of Penny's wonderful poems -
10 Years On
extract from the first verses
I thought I was done with this task,
knifing through each circle of the onion
to get at the grief inside,
chopping the flesh of my loss
slice by slice, always another layer,
yet not stopping, not, because I knew
that somewhere the taste of memories
would be sweeter for the tears that I let fall,
that you would return without the bitterness
without the sting of it.
extract from the second verses
I thought I was done with this task
till in a new home the walls looked bare
because you had not seen them, the kitchen table
had just a four legged function where the world was
not vividly explored, the door less welcoming
because your hand had never pushed it wide,
this house did not know you,
and I misses you at its kernel and its core.
(2 extracts from her longer poem "10 Years On")
There is a wonderful piece of writing by a young man who has suffered the loss of two of his friends by the time he was 24. I am very moved by what Liam has written and will be including it as a booklet for people to take away. It is called "Change, Emotion and Life".
A Graceful Death has started with my story. I painted my way through the first two years of my loss of my darling Steve from liver cancer in November 2007. From the resulting pictures has come the most wonderful response by those who have created something of their own to include in the next showing of the exhibition. There are more and more people involved in its progress around the country, and this is what I had wanted. It is very good that A Graceful Death is speaking to those that want to hear, and we are all having this very important but deeply avoided conversation about How Do We Die? How Do We Survive The Loss Of Someone We Love?
The planned venues for the exhibition are, without finalising the order,
Oxford, Dublin, Westport Ireland, Manchester, a new venue in Birmingham and Yorkshire.
As soon as they are finalised I will publicise them. And, I will be creating a new website for easy access to the gallery of paintings and poetry and prose. More soon.
Snowy the Cat RIP, another very important member of the A Graceful Death paintings