Sunday 6 November 2011

A Quiet And Profound Opening

A Graceful Death Exhibition
St Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham B5 5BB

Friday 4 November - Tuesday 29 November

Open Daily
Come and write your piece in the Memory Book in the exhibition.  Write about you, write in poetry or prose.  Say what you want.  Tell us about who you remember.

We opened A Graceful Death on Thursday 3 November, in the lovely old church St Martin in the Bull Ring in Birmingham.  Eileen Rafferty, the photographer, photographed some of the paintings in situ, and photographed the poetry workshop which was held by Penny Hewlett, poet in residence at the church.

This is a small update for you, I will post another account with photos from Eileen next week.  Our new works, Nushi Khan-Levy and Stuart and Sue Pryde, were received with interest.  People were heartened by Nushi's image of Cancer Chic, and the account of her decision to live one day at a time.  Her obvious beauty, even while undergoing chemotherapy, even while losing her hair and feeling so very ill, made people smile with recognition.  If Nushi can do it, we can.  And Stuart and Sue Pryde's story stunned a good few people.  Very powerful, they said.  It is very powerful, and the fact that some of Sue's words are displayed as part of the artwork, is very touching indeed.  Sue has left behind an account of her decision to kill herself, which will start a profound discussion about suicide. Her writing is difficult to read, she is extremely articulate and holds nothing back.  I have only used a fraction of it in the paintings, but what I have used is very good.  Her husband, Stuart, is a brave man to allow this subject of his wife's suicide to be made into an art work to try and touch others who may be in the same situation.

I was very fortunate to meet at last, the Rev Al Barrett and his wife and children, who came to the exhibition on Friday morning.  I know of Al through friends in Birmingham, and though we had corresponded, we had not met.  Now we have, and very lovely it was too!   I was touched by his and his wife's response to the exhibition.  As a priest, Al has to deal with bereavement and the end of life.  It never gets any easier, he says.  He often doesn't know what to say, but just being there is all he can do sometimes.  The painting that meant the most to him was the Tea And Hope Diptych.  There is always, he says, just the simple act of making tea.  Sometimes, that is all he can do.  Al wrote a wonderful piece about the exhibition in his very excellent blog below.

 Tea And Hope Diptych.  This is the painting that the Rev Al Barrett liked the most.

It is worth mentioning that Al's enchanting little son aged 3, when asked how Steve was feeling in one of the paintings, said without hesitation, Grumpy.  

The poetry workshop was so moving and so excellent.  Penny Hewlett ran quite a challenging session for us, and I recommend that you who can, go to Penny's other two workshops.  They are

Workshop 2: Saying Goodbye    Saturday 12 November 11 am - 1pm (if you are coming to this workshop please bring some photos)

Workshop 3: Moving Away      Tuesday 29 November, talk 2.00 and Workshop 2.30 - 4.00 pm 

 Penny will be compiling a small book of all the poetry that is created from these sessions, which will be available at the next A Graceful Death exhibitions.  To end today's update, I want to add a poem that Penny wrote in response to the painting below.  It made me cry.

Letting Go

What do you see,
my love, as you sit in this bath
with bubbles and yellow ducks,
touches of life and loving kindness
in the midst of desolation?
What do you see,
from your tired eyes, heavy lidded,
No longer looking out at what
is all around you, the gentle hands
that hold you, wash you,
bringing you this gift,
last as it was first.
What do you see,
now the world is disappearing,
as your strength leaves you
and light no longer brings you
gifts of sight?

I see that you are leaving me,
even now, you who are the life
that breathes colour into my days.
I see that you have passed into shadow,
as even my touch slides like water
from  your skin.
I see there are no hands
to hold me now, no last look
to say goodbye, though I say it
for us both, through the fierce
pain of separation.

Penny Hewlett

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