The finished portrait and interview with Father Dominic Rolls, a Catholic priest and my youngest brother, is here and ready to join the A Graceful Death exhibition. I am happy, relieved and grateful that it is finished, and that it has had its first showing at the Dying to Know event last month at Bournemouth. Let me introduce you to Dominic, and beneath the painting is the interview in full.
Dominic took some time to work out what he thought about the painting. He knew it was him but did not see himself. The more he looked, the more he saw it was his portrait, but it was of a person in the midst of chemotherapy, and post severe surgery. It wasn't, Dominic said, who he is now. It was when he was at his least well, and that is a difficult thing to see. Dominic is on his second bout of chemo right now, a year has passed since his first round. In that year he has given himself all the time and space he needed to accept his cancer, accept his treatment, understand and love his fears, and to enjoy his time. Now, Dominic looks more well and more rested than he has ever done, and this portrait you see is about the beginning of the journey of can er, and it was not comfortable for Dominic to see it.
But Dominic has give the painting his blessing, and has said it is very good and very lever. Please show it, he said, and thank you.
The painting shows Dominic in his clerical outfit, as a Catholic priest. In his hands he holds his intravenous chemotherapy bag, attached to a pc line directly into his body, which took a couple of days to filter into his system after each session of chemotherapy at the hospital. Dominic is holding this bag with characteristic good humour, and pointing to it as it was impossible to pretend it wasn't there. I wanted to show Dominic's sweetness of spirit and his good humour, and his refusal to pretend that he was not ill, but having accepted his illness, to joke about it and to make of it the very best he can.
There will be no more portraits for this A Graceful Death exhibition. It has 54 paintings and interviews now, it is big, loving, challenging and enough. Father Dominic is the last Graceful Death painting I will do, and it is fitting that it started with Steve, my partner who I loved, and is finishing with Dominic, my brother who I love.
Now, I will work with whoever wants to work with me, one to one, and the resulting paintings and words will be theirs to keep.
Here he is.
The interview with Father Dominic Rolls
I went to interview Dominic in early Summer of 2014. Dominic is my youngest brother, and at 51, has been diagnosed with an advanced cancer of the bowel. After an operation to remove much of his lower bowel, Dominic is undergoing chemotherapy, and is living with his cancer. The chemo is to shrink the secondaries in his liver.