Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Time To Pack Away Till Next Time

http://www.antoniarolls.co.uk/ for my website
http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ for my blog on being an Artist and Mother in West Sussex
antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com to email me

Dancing Steve Out Of Life

Time To Pack Away Till Next Time

I am drawing to the end of the first A Graceful Death exhibitions. It has been two years of thought and work, and I am glad. I am glad that it has been shown and that there has been such a response to it. I am glad that I have been able to show what began as my story, and seems to be most other peoples' story too. It is also good that the paintings exist. I can't imagine how I would have coped if I had not done them. Or if I had not the gift of painting to use to work throughout this experience.

I am sad too, because there was some opposition to the show, which makes me think it is even more important to do it. Important though it is to hear and accept how some people may not like what this exhibition is about, the amount of support and encouragement I have received from all sorts of places is very heartening. Many professional groups in the palliative care and end of life initiatives are interested in using the exhibition. Bereavement training organisations are interested and interestingly enough, some churches have expressed a desire to use the exhibition during the training of ministers. The images are being shown in a theological college in the Midlands over Lent and Easter in 2010.

Here are some more comments from the exhibition that is just finishing now. It needs to be said that individual images out of the context of the exhibition as a whole just do not give the same feeling of peace and strength and power that walking around the exhibition when it is set up, can do. Each painting has a description and an explanation. There is much love and hope in A Graceful Death.

"Extremely moving, extremely honest. This show must be seen by many people. Death and cancer are with us. It's unpleasant and frightening but this series of paintings helps us deal with those emotions in a positive and wholly honest way."

"I think this exhbition is brave and courageous and I hope that it becomes the first step to many other projects which will raise awareness of issues surrounding end-of-life care. I admire you, Antonia, and all you do. Thank you!"

These kind comments come from two people who have lost a parent each within the last two years.

This has been an unusual journey. It has shown me that we want to have a conversation about dying. It has shown me that grief, bereavement and loss are part of our world and should be accepted and understood as normal by everyone, as naturally as marriage, birth, redundancy, as natural and acceptable as a birthday party, by us. I don't expect us all to understand the depth or pain involved, but to accept that it is normal, and to let it happen. Give it time, give it its rightful place as a part of every single person's life on this earth. And death itself, gosh. That takes so many forms. It leaves us, the living, with sometimes insurmountable problems with carrying on. This is where as a society, we need to know that this will happen, that we will either experience or witness others experience, profound grief and what seems to be, madness.

This "A Graceful Death " is coming to London in February. I will keep you informed of where and when. I hope to see you all there.

Steve well and happy. "I Am Not Going Anywhere" is what he used to say. But he did.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Some Responses To The Exhibition

http://www.antoniarolls.co.uk/ for my website
http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ for my blog on being an Artist and Mother in West Sussex
antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com to email me for the exhibition venue.

Responses To The Exhibition

There have been a steady trickle of people coming and taking in the paintings, the words and the atmosphere of the A Graceful Death Exhibition. I have sat and watched people pass silently from painting to painting, thinking and observing and often remembering their own story. I have drunk so much tea this past week, sitting and talking to the visitors, and I am more aware than ever that People Are Fascinating. We have covered topics such as Death, Bereavement, Religion, Re-incarnation, Euthanasia, God and more. I even had two elderly ex world war two fighter pilots to visit, with all the stories of their lives and experiences.

A couple of the comments are below, and they represent the general feeling of the experience so far -

"A very powerful exhibition. As a cancer traveller I find this hugely emotional, challenging and reassuring. As Christian ministeers we feel this is tremendously important - a good, graceful death is what we should aim for"

"An exhibition that should be seen by eveyone - it has a message - a healing stlry which will resonate with everyone who has experienced a loss and separation. Brilliantly moving!!"

I am posting a few photos below to show you what it looks like.

The first photo shows the images against the wall. The second is an image of Steve sitting beautiful and brave, on his chair waiting to die, with text behind about how hard it was for him and for me. The third is called "Goodbye Michael, Goodbye Old Friend" which is what my father is bending over his old friend of nearly 50 years and saying. This was the last time my father saw Michael, who died a few hours later. My father, despite having had some pretty bad strokes and not always finding remembering things very easy, came on the train weekly from London to sit with Michael here in Bognor. This was an intensely personal moment, and it was very hard for my father to have to leave to catch his train.

I am expecting some more people today, and will carry on with the tea drinking and the listening and talking.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

It Is Going Well! Wow. So Much To Talk About

www.antoniarolls.co.uk for my website
www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com for an account of being a Serious Artist and Mother from the Studio (Ha!)
antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com to email me for the venue address and any comments you may wish to make

So Much To Talk About

The radio interview went very well. Here is a link to it posted by Alan

"You can hear this morning's great interview by Antonia on A Graceful Death on http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p005cjbp/Gavin_Ashenden_06_12_2009/

Then move the line under the interviewers picture til the time shows 2.39.21 ( its a three hour programme and she is on just before the end, so don't listen to it all!)"

The Exhibition is going well. I have had some very caring and interesting people in to see the paintings and to talk. It seems we all do want to talk, and to discuss things of real importance to us. This exhibition enables the conversation to begin on Death, Dying, and now Religion and our own beliefs. It is very good indeed to engage with these people.

There is talk of the paintings being helpful for Church Ministers in training and for Bereavement Counsellors in training. I am glad and if it comes about, then good.

I have to be very quick as I am due to open the doors in a minute. Today I will take some photos and put them up, and you can all see how good it all looks.

Steve is really making people talk. Not argue or fight, but just talk. This is good, he didn't like to fight. He was a good and peaceful man.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Today We Start

http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ for an account of being an Artist and Mother from the studio
http://www.antoniarolls.co.uk/ for my websiteantonia.rolls1@btinternet.com if you want to contact me

We are all ready. The paintings look good and the atmosphere is good. I will post pictures later to show the exhibition.
The radio interview went very well yesterday, and I am very heartened by the response. Thank you all. I loved talking about the A Graceful Death, and it was good to have an interviewer who had really understood what I was doing and what it meant to do this.
Come and see this week. As it is being held in my home I feel it best you email for the address.
Here is the better picture of Steve well, Eileen Rafferty took it so it is very much better than my effort a few days ago.

Friday, 4 December 2009

A Quiet Day. Thinking Of Next Week

http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ for a nail biting account of being an Artist and Mother, from my studio
http://www.antoniarolls.co.uk/ for my website
antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com to email me

I am very quiet today. I finished the poems by Maddy and A Pook that had to be painted onto wood, and they look dignified and good. The large Christ Head (not sure if that is the correct title) is mostly done but needs some touches in gold on the dark blue. It needs to dry a bit before I can do that, this blue takes time and has a life of its own. The head is very beautiful and very striking. Maybe because it is so much bigger than life size, and any head bigger than life size is unnerving. The gold on the halo is lovely though.

The wine for the Opening Night is bought. The people to help are sorted. There is not much else to do. Except of course to paint. I could go next door (my studio has an office attached and this is where I do all my computer and PR work) to the studio, smelling as it does of white spirit and oils, and paint another image to go into the exhibition. I had thought of something along the lines of "The Final Angel" and it is working quietly in my mind so that I can make something of it.

The exhibition is about the final journey to the end of life. It is based on my experience. It has not been easy to paint, but so worth while. I am proud of the paintings. I am proud that I have done what was so hard to do, and to have begun a debate that, it seems, is rumbling below the surface of most peoples' lives. Those who dedicate their lives to Palliative care and End of Life care, have so much to offer us. Death will happen to us all, you will die and I will die. That is when those who are called to work in this area are ready to help. This is why I asked for you to donate to the two hospices that are supporting me. St Barnabas House Hospice danced Steve out of his life. St Wilfrids Hospice is the local hospice in this area and have lent me the most wonderful cd of an interview with one of their patients, describing how afraid he was when he came into the hospice. He called the nurses and carers Practice Angels. And how now he is not afraid, but so peaceful. This man has since died, and it is very brave and kind of his partner to allow the interview to be heard in my exhibition.

Some people are extremely uncomfortable with these paintings, and others have been inspired. My friends include journalists and writers and there is much to debate and discuss with the paintings of a real person as they end their life, with the dignity and peace and wonder that has no explanation. One of my writer friends is keen to write about the process of approaching death for her newspaper, and that is what I want to see happen. Discussion, talk, conversation, debate, opinions. I have had huge experiences with the loss of Steve, with the painting of the pictures, and the reactions to them. I wouldn't have done it differently even if I had had the opportunity. What I have learned has been invaluable and life affirming. So even though I am quiet today, I am happy.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Loneliness Triptych. Or Where Did You Go.

http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ for an account of being an Artist and Mother, from my studio
http://www.antoniarolls.co.uk/ for my website
antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com to email me

Loneliness Triptych (Where Did You Go)

This is part of the exhibition. It is quite universal, I think. The blue slippers are all that are left, ridiculously familiar and hopelessly poignant too.

Exhibition opens from 10am to 4pm daily from Monday 7 December to Sunday 13 December.

Email me on antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com for details.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Life Goes On

http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ for life as an Artist and Mother

I suppose that is the theme of my work. That Life Goes On. Here is Steve well and happy. The photo is not very good, and when my photographer comes back with the good photo I shall put it up on the blog. Steve wears his blue slippers here, which appear in three other paintings. I wonder what happened to them. The writing at the top of this painting says "I am not going anywhere" which is what he kept saying. Sad, because he did go somewhere. Where exactly, would take a whole lifetime of discussion.

Today I want to say that sometimes, the oddest things make us sit up and take stock of ourselves. Here I am, having had the experience of loving a good man, and taking the journey to the end of his life with him. There I stopped, and he went on. There was never a cross word between us, and he posed happily for the photos I took of him as he declined. Further along the line, I have painted a whole exhibition of powerful and raw images of him as he was at the end of his life. All the time I was painting, I felt keenly aware that I was still living, and what was this thing called death that had happened to Steve? It was as if every time I started a new painting, I tried to get closer to an answer. I don't think this will ever happen, but I needed to try.

When I took the paintings to the Hospices, when I took them to other significant people, when those in religious organisations saw them, I was surprised at their reactions. It seemed that these paintings were a spring board for a discussion on how we die and what we all as a society do about it. Visitors to my studio ask to see the works and instead of being horrified, said Oh, That Happened To Me Too. Even a newspaper photographer who took some photos said That Was Like My Grandfather. It seems we all carry around an experience inside, of the loss of someone close. I get so many requests to see the paintings, even in my studio.

So I began to raise money for the Hospices through my publicity about the A Graceful Death Exhibition. Cheques come in here, and I send them off. I am asked about the two Hospices that I was working with, and I am glad to give as much information as possible. I have made some good contacts at St Barnabas House and St Wilfrids. We all understood the power of the paintings and the fact that they could touch so many who needed to talk and tell us their story.

The Quakers too were full of understanding; they have a sound and realistic attitude to death and dying and were pleased to offer their Meeting House to host what was, and is, an important exhibition. I have alerted hundreds of people, there are so many coming, that I am sure there is much to talk about here - why are they coming and what will they say? It will be a kind exhibition, and if people become upset about their own stories, then we can understand and give them a cup of tea and take time with them.

Finally, though the exhibition venue has changed, and email me if you would like to come on antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com , I am ready for the paintings to be seen. They are being hung right now, and there is a rota of assistants to welcome in the visitors. I will be in charge of tea, because we all know that I love my tea. My friends, my family, my clients, those who have shown an interest in the subject of How We Die, all of these people will come and some will love the experience, some will not. And so we come back to the oddest things that make us sit up and take notice. I am back in control of my exhibition. Not everyone will like what I do, even apart from this A Graceful Death. There is a kind of relief that I am back in control, it is really time to move on.

Dancing Steve Out Of Life

Email me if you are interested in coming to the exhibition on antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com and I will send you details.

Monday, 30 November 2009

The Power Of Pain

http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ for my blog on being an Artist and Mother, from my Studio

The Power Of Pain

This is not my pain, it belongs to a few of Steves relatives who have mounted a sudden campaign to close down this exhibition. I am sorry that they feel so bad, and hope that they may begin to feel better one day.

The Hospices have had to withdraw their support officially for this A Graceful Death exhibition, because they quite rightly cannot be seen to be involved in any kind of conflict. I understand this, and thank both hospices for their excellent and kind involvement until they had to make their decision. I am keeping them informed of progress and responses, and donations and money is flowing in for them. This makes us all very happy! I am of course, still collecting donations for them both, and am so grateful for the generosity you have all shown.

The Quakers have also withdrawn their offer of a venue for the exhibition, which is understandable as they too cannot cope with disagreements as an organisation. There is much love and kindness there, and I have made some very good friends.

However I have found a new venue and the exhibition will go ahead. All of you on the mailing list have received your invitation, and so far all those who were coming to the Quakers are coming to the new venue. I am very surprised that despite these last minute changes and withdrawals, I am receiving more support than ever. It is amazing how many people are touched by the paintings and the need to add their own story, and to recognise the importance of End Of Life Care.

Yesterday was the second anniversary of Steve's death. We had a gentle day and my Quaker friends came and gave me a hug. It is also wonderful that both the Quakers and people from the Hospices may decide to come to the exhibition, completely in a private capacity and with no attachement to the Hospices at all. They are very welcome.

For details of the new venue, please email me on antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com . See you all there.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Some Wonderful Poems and Kind Contributions


I have been sent the following two poems in remembrance of Lynne Tattum, who died of breast cancer in 2005. The first is by her husband, Alastair Pook. The second is by her close friend Maddy.

Half Only

out to lunch
you told me
you loved me
as the rain from your hair
kissed our lips

and later
in your bed
you whispered
"let's stay here
gone to earth

your cold hand
in mine now
with nothing
to forgive
not a thing

to regret

how could we
have known then
the storm was
coming to
collect you

A H Pook

"This poem was written in 2005, a year after my wife Lynne died of breast cancer. Lynne lived very much i the moment and I wanted to recapture some of the intensity of those happy and sad epiphanies. "Half only" refers to how I felt for a long time after Lynne's death, as one parted from a lover"

The Last Dance

Through a morphine mist you smiled,nodding forgiveness
for our clumsy intrusiions on your sleep and dignity.

We marked each breath of your now ravaged brittle body
accepting this was our last girly sleep-over.

We gently filed the finger nails that your cancer had force fed into talons
then painted them a defiant purple.

Suddenly yu awoke in a fight or flight panic.
I held you up on your feet, with your head on my shoulder.

Together we swayed and quietly giggled
until fatigue stole you from my arms and life.

I kept my promises to wear red at your funeral
and read your favourite poem.

Your oldest girlfriends sobbed their identities
from their safer hiding places on the back row.

I can now forgive our selfish reluctance
to accept your dying as well as you did.

Slowly we have learned to enjoy
every dance as if it were our last.


"Lynne was my friend, a work colleague, a substitute big sister, a piss-pot, smoking party girl who loved to dance. As a diplomatic pragmatic survivor in life she retrained as a social worker and became an advocate for the Hospice movement and end of life care. Lynne would have loved Antonia's work and would have dragged us all to see her"

It is the force of creative work like this that makes sense of our bereavements and losses. Lynne died in 2004, and still she lives on in this wonderful poetry. I thank both Maddy and Alastair for their contributions.

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Boat Dream

A while before Steve was diagnosed with cancer in his liver, I had the following dream. He did not always feel well, and it is obvious now why, but this dream made an impact on me. I didn't for a moment think he would have anything to worry about. Here it is.

Steve and I were on his boat. He loved his boat and felt most at home out on the water somewhere. He had an empathy with the sea, and was obviously happy on the boat, out to sea, fishing.

We were silent and in the boat, in a brown muddy estuary. Steve was dressed in his fishing gear and hat, and I had to turn away from him and climb over the side of the boat. I was distraught that I had to go out of the boat and leave him, and run away from him, leaving him standing there smiling and still. I ran away in bare feet on the sands through the puddles of sea water with such dreadful misery, crying as I went. Suddenly I knew I had to stop and sleep and dropped onto the sand, with a heaviness that felt as if I had been felled like a tree. I thought in the dream, I can sleep here and fell with a thud. Almost instantly I rose from the sand, with the most exquisite joy. I knew I was running back to Steve and I would see him again. I don't remember if I actually ran back in the dream, but the feeling was one of utter love and peace, and a deeper silence than I can describe. I was going home and I was going to climb back over the boat. I didn't actually get there in the dream. When I woke I was confused by the extremes of feeling in the dream, the first half when I was in total despair, and the second half when I was suffused with love and joy. The dream was very short.

I still don't know why I had such a strong dream, in that I find it very hard to accept that they are prophetic. I don't think this was, but I do think I knew more instinctively than I was prepared to admit. I think this was myself telling myself that things were not good, and that Steve was iller than I had imagined.

I wonder how many of us have had dreams which point out to us things we can't see or accept.

Friday, 20 November 2009

A Small Progress

http://www.antoniarolls.co.uk/ for my website
http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ for and account of life, from the studio, of a busy Artist and Mother
antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com if you want to contact me

A Small Progress

I have had a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury today. Funnily enough he can't make the exhibition, but the letter was very personal and encouraging. I wonder what would have happened if I had asked the Pope.

I have now two beautiful poems to add to the exhibition, from a couple of people lovingly remembering someone important in their lives. There is the possibility of a song I can print, on the memory of a loved one and a possible taped interview of a man contemplating his last days with a terminal illness. All of the things I want to show are about hope, love, strength and a spiritual power that seems to come from those accepting their lives will end soon.

I have a Memory Tree now, to bring and place in the exhbition so that people can tie a ribbon with the name of someone they want to commemorate on it, and remember.

Painting? Well, I have not had time recently for that, but next week I will dedicate to finishing painting my last image of how I felt.

Inside? Well, I am sure of Steve's support. He loved the paintings I showed him before he died, and kept some of them in his room in the hospital. I hope he is really at rest, and sometimes I think he is with me and sometimes not. It is all very interesting, and when I feel he is here, if I start to concentrate and analyse it, the feeling goes. It seems I have to be as simple as possible for him to come.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Outside News And Inside News

www.justgiving.com/agracefuldeath for donations to the Hospice the Danced Steve Out Of This Life
antonia.rolls@btinternet.com if you want to contact me

Outside News First

I am meeting St Wilfrid's Hospice today, to introduce myself to them and to ask if they can provide me with boxes to collect for them during this exhibition. St Barnabas House has been in contact with them and they are up to date and happy about the exhibition, but I have not yet met them and would love to do so. Today is that day.

I have been offered exhibition space in London, in Wimbledon and it is very interesting where the offers of help come from. A friend living in a large and lovely house in Wimbledon has offered to host the exhibition in her home. This will make the exhibition visible to a different kind of visitor, it will be neighbours and friends and those who may not go specifically to a gallery. We will link the exhibition in with the local hospice, and that will I hope, start a process of this exhibition showing around the UK (and I hope, beyond) in conjunction with local hospices. I would like to do that in January. We have a meeting coming up next week about it, and I can't wait.

A contact from the Friends of East Sussex Hospices has been very supportive and has suggested the Graceful Death exhibition be shown in East Sussex. She has offered to sound out a couple of venues, and I am delighted with that too. I look forward to meeting this lady during the exhibition here, and hope that we can do this East Sussex thing.

I am hopeful too of putting the show on in Worthing, linked to St Barnabas House Hospice. I was fortunate to meet the Artist in Residence from St Barnabas yesterday, and he gave me to understand the idea was being followed up.

So, if all this works out, the Graceful Death exhibition will go to Wimbledon London, to Worthing, to East Sussex (Bexhill and/or Eastbourne), to Birmingham (the dates for that are March 21st to tie in with Lent), and to Bremmen in Germany. Steve would have loved it.

Inside News

Even the photographer who came to photograph the studio for our local paper said on seeing the paintings Ah yes, that was like my Grandfather. Steve is like so many others who have died of cancer. So many others who die of a killing disease. I look at him sometimes in these paintings and think the images of him, which seem so terribly personal to me, are in fact universal. The paintings are only the tip of the iceburg. There is so much to say and talk about concerning the End Of Life. Hospice workers, Palliative Care workers, MacMillan nurses, Doctors, Relatives, Patients, all have so much to say about their experiences. I just don't know where to begin with it all, I would like to know more. The one thing I would like to know above all else, however, and will never know, is Where Did Steve Go. I think this is what all of us left behind would like to know after the death of someone they knew and loved. Where do they go?

Monday, 16 November 2009

End Of Life Experiences

www.justgiving.com/agracefuldeath to donate to the lovely hospice that danced Steve out of this life. And does so daily, hourly, for countless others.
www.antoniarolls.co.uk for my general website
antonia.rolls1@btinternet if you want to contact me

I wonder did anyone else experience extraordinary dreams when someone they knew and loved died? At the time of Steve's death, nothing was out of the ordinary. The world had turned upside down and nothing made sense to me. I remember thinking that only if he walked into the room and said something, would I recognize an end of life visitation. I was disappointed that he didn't walk into our bedroom and say something profound. I was scornful of dreams because the absence of Steve at home deserved more than a mere dream. I expected a bit more of him, and a proper show would have been more to my taste. I was angry. No doubt about that. So an appearence in full fishing gear, and a proper conversation where he explained himself to me, with flashing lights and thunder for effect, was the very least I wanted.

What I got was sweet and kind and beautiful. I came home and my mother and daughter gave me lunch. My brother came to look after the kids and I lay on the sofa where he spent his last night with me, and cried and cried and cried. My daughter, then only 17, made her bed up for me and told me I was sleeping with her for the while. In the night, I dreamt we were in the Hospice by his bed. He had just died and I was standing bemused at the end of his bed. In through the ward door walked my healthy Steve in his fishing gear, his lovely face full and healthy, his body strong and energetic as he walked to me and took me in his arms. He gave me a hug and turned without speaking and walked back out of the door. I wanted him to stay and turned round to a figure next to me that I knew was not Steve but looked like him and this figure folded me in its arms. I was filled with the most wonderful peace and joy and love. In the dream I felt this love was more than the human body could stand, it was so much deeper than anything I could experience in my life. I knew this was not the Steve that had walked back out of the Hospice ward door. I was something that looked like Steve but in my dream I knew it was not him. That embrace was the most powerful expression of love that I have ever known.

When I look back on this dream, it is everthing I wanted and needed. At the time, I took it in my stride as just another Thing, which could not touch me then, or so I thought. But I take huge comfort now. I am so glad it was not a Bells Ringing Bolt From The Sky experience. That would have been inappropriate and dramatic simply because I was in turmoil myself. This was a gentle and typically kind goodbye from a wonderful man, in his own way.

There was one more time when I felt him. I spoke to our local Arts Jounalist, a very good and clever man, about putting on this exhibition. It was a risk, it meant I was going public with these paintings, and what I was doing, and I was very nervous. I didn't know when the article would be published either, and was checking each week to see if it was in the paper. One Wednesday night, I was puzzled and very happy, to have spent the night with Steves hands holding my head. Later that day I began to hear from people shocked and interested at the local newspaper article, describing the exhibition I was hoping to mount on the End Of A Life with Cancer. The article had come out the morning I woke with the impression that Steve had been holding my head all night in his hands.

There is, I hope, another article coming out on 30 November about this Graceful Death exhibition by the same journalist. I wonder if I will dream of Steve again. He is the star of the show.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

One More Painting To Do

www.justgiving.com/agracefuldeath to donate to the wonderful St Barnabas House Hospice that is helping me with this exhibition and who danced Steve out of this life
www.antonarolls.co.uk for my painting website
antonia.rolls1@btinternet if you want to contact me

One more painting to go. I have only time to do a final one, which is going to link the image of the dead Steve to the crucified Christ. What better image have we in our Western culture, of grief and death, than Christ Crucified? I shall concentrate on only Steve's face and will find a way of making this final painting work. I have in mind many of the old masters who used dead criminals as models for their post crucifixion paintings. I have no interest in making Steve into Jesus, I don't want the cross, the nails, the pose. I want the face, the dead man. I feel my grief, looking at my beautiful man, was as powerful as any who followed Jesus and saw him dead. Grief is grief. I want the power of the old masters to be displayed in my paintings. I respond deeply to the dreadful images of Christ in Bosch's , "Christ Carrying the Cross" and Mantegna's "Dead Christ" and Holbein's "Body of Dead Christ". It is the grief and the power and the reality of death that I want to show, it is the rawness I felt. Hopelessness. He had gone and that was desparately final. Of course, Jesus resurrected, so that was one step further than us lot. Steve didn't resurrect, and I don't think I know of anyone who knows anyone who did.

I have the wood prepared. I don't know what form the painting will take, it is forming in my mind and I am very much looking forward to starting (and finishing) it.

Keep you posted.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Oh Things Are Moving And I Am Amazed

http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ for my other blog on being an artist and a mother
www.justgiving.com/agracefuldeath for the donations page for St Barnabas House Hospice

I am aware that the exhibition date is looming. I have taken on a huge subject and spent two years painting my story. I have thought and pondered and mulled over what happened and have come up with this small exhibition of about 20 paintings.

The paintings are stark. They are images of a man before his death folding in on himself and each image is painted by the person who loved him and had to accept his going. I do intrude on the pictures, I have painted Steve as he died but I have presented him to you as I saw him and in some of them, there is a real atmosphere of my distress.

Today I spoke to the Chichester Guardian Arts Reporter, Phil Hewitt. He is a deeply perceptive man who seems to understand the importance of the exhibition. I hope that article will come out by the 30 November. I have dates for A Graceful Death going to Birmingham for Lent. It is being hosted by Queens Theological College and I am very excited. I hope to say a few words to the college about the paintings, and look forward to it. A very kind friend in London has offered me her house to show the Graceful Death there, and that will work well. Not only has she a very nice house, but she knew Steve and is a very efficient and kind lady. I hope to link each showing with a local hospice so that hospices in general get as much publicity ( and funds, I hope) as possible.

On the Sunday 6 December at 8.40 am I will be talking to Gavin Ashenden on the Faith programme on BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey

I am waiting to hear from Bremmen in Germany, who want the exhibition over Easter. That will work well, because it will be shown next to the Cathedral in the most lovely German town.

All this is good. I am beginning to see results to the seemingly endless time I have spent trying to paint, explain and promote this exhibition. I do think it is still only the beginning. There is much ahead. I hope I can make some difference. We will see. And I still have one more painting to do, the last and possibly most important one yet.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Two More Paintings To Do

I have two more paintings in my head to do for the exhibition. I have done a couple of Steve on the morning he died and he was beautiful. My images of him are very stark and unlovely. I am intruding into the paintings with my feelings, and I don't want the final image I produce of him to be like that.

He was ill, he was thin, he was jaundiced, but he was so well cared for and so still and seemed so calm when all the pain had gone. I want to represent the End of Suffering for him. A wonderful lady from St Barnabas House Hospice came to the studio and said it was the same for her father. He looked like Steve but there was that beauty in him, that is so difficult to describe.

In fact, I think that is the only painting I have time for.

I have another exhibition in the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester called Every Day Angels from 22 November to 5 December. I am painting for that too, and I love that I have Angels on one side of Chichester and Death on the other.

Today I will talk to my dear friend in Birmingham, who has arranged for this exhibition to go to the Theological College there and for me to give a talk. I am nervous in case, as usual, I am not good enough, but excited too because this friend is such an encouraging and wise lady.

So, back to work. Today I am on my own all day with no other appointments and am so delighted. I love these days when I can just melt into the studio and not come out again till dark.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Less time To Think, More Time To Do

The exhibition is next month. It is coming ever closer and I think I have enough paintings to show. I still have moments of doubt that maybe I have misjudged the effect my story will have on people. I think I fear that people will look at Steve at his most vulnerable and say Good God, that is Awful and not think of his humanity and the bravery he showed.

However, I am determined to show these paintings. They are more than paintings though. They are a window into how cancer affects those at the end of their lives. I have painted Steve, but others look at the images and see their fathers, their grandparents, their loved ones each of whom looked as thin and ill as Steve at that stage of his journey. It makes us remember. This weekend I had up to 20 people staying for various family birthdays, and I found some of my guests sitting in the studio here talking together of how the paintings reminded them of the last days of various people that had died, and the part they had played in their final moments. It touches everyone with a story to tell.

So onto practical matters. I have more invites and press releases to send out. I have to interest the local radio and to interest some local businesses in donating items for the opening night. St Barnabas House Hospice is supporting me so wonderfully in this exhibition, I am very grateful as it is an awful lot for one person to do. I hope all of you can donate to the Just Giving page I have set up to raise money for them. They are the hospice that danced Steve out of this life, and gave me such support when I needed it. Take a look, www.justgiving.com/agracefuldeath .

I am happy to take this exhibition wherever it can go. So far, I have venues in Worthing, Birmingham and Germany. If you can offer a space for the exhibition in your area please email me on antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com. The exhibition is raising funds for St Barnabas House Hospice, but is also raising awareness of End of Life and Palliative Care generally. The exhibition aims to grow with each showing, including more and more of your stories and poems and thoughts.

A reminder that the opening night is Monday 7 December, 6pm - 8pm. Please come and support, and the exhibition is open for the whole of the week following, until 13 December. Entrance is free, and the times will be probably 10am to 4pm. The venue, just to remind you, is the Friends Meeting House, Priory Road, Chichester, PO19 1NX.

Monday, 26 October 2009

More Developments

www.youtube.com/craftsmank I talk about the paintings I am going to do just 8 weeks after Steve died
www.justgiving.com/agracefuldeath for donations to St Barnabas House Hospice who are supporting this exhibition. St Barnabas House was where Steve died.
http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ is my other blog about my life as an artist and mother etc

Today - today I am taking everything a step further. I want the exhibition A Graceful Death to travel and tour wherever there is a space for it, and for it to grow with other peoples' experiences. This will take form in books which I will have available and encourage you to leave an account of, and your thoughts on, your own experiences. There will be pens and coloured pencils too if you wants to draw what happened. This is so exciting and I can't wait to see what comes of it. I am humbled by emails and stories I have received on the loss of a loved one. We are all carrying this experience with us as part of our lives. How exactly do we carry on? And yet we do. We do.

In order for the exhibition to travel I must apply for some kind of funding. The Arts Council is the first step. The road, they say, of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I am looking for a way to pay for the Graceful Death Tour to go wherever it is needed.

Here for the record is a painting of Steve well and healthy. This is shocking if compared with the frail, jaundiced and emaciated paintings of him I have from just before his death.

At the top I have written "I am not going anywhere" which is what Steve always said. Death is bigger than all of us. One of Steve's doctors said to me that when it is our time to go, then it is our time to go. There is nothing we can do about it. At the time, that struck me as very sensible. Everyone was doing all they could for Steve but his disease was greater than all of them. It could not be stopped.

The invites are ready. It will be time to send them out soon. I am nervous of this exhibition. What if I don't succeed and no one likes or understands the paintings? What if I can't finish in time? I think one can't guaruntee the outcome of anything, but one can both influence it and take the journey. I am taking the journey and hoping to influence the outcome. I am taking a risk, and I think I am putting on the best show of my life so far.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Preparation Preparation Preparation


I have been away for the last few days, and am back in the studio with a mountain of Things To Do. Before I can get to the exhibition preparation, it seems there is a huge amount of clutter to clear away on my desk.

I am doing this exhibition about the process of death of one man. One human, one person, just the one. It is an attempt to make some progress for my mind, my body and my soul to come to some terms with it. I have had one experience. I received an email from a lady who had lost two husbands to cancer, and she wrote with a simplicity and faith that made me feel she should be heard. There are so many like her, who have losses to deal with, and no exhibition to help her along her path.

Last night my 19 Year Old Daughter, doing her training as a nurse, laid out her first body. A 90 year old lady died on her ward, and Daughter was asked to wash and dress her. Daughter was taken with how small and frail the lady was. It was like washing and dressing a six year old, she said. The old lady's family had been with her and so she was not alone but Daughter felt the enormity of being the last person to care for this old lady, on this earth, though she had not known her. How is it, said Daughter, that her granddaughter was in the room and the same age as Daughter, and yet she, a stranger (comparitably) should do such an important final act of respect and love, and wash the Grandmother's body and put on her best nightie. How is it, that after 90 years of life, Daughter should be the one to do this final ritual for her. Daughter was moved by the passing of a life, someone who had loved, had children, had grandchildren, had a place on this earth and now it was all over. And Daughter was the last person to do anything for her.

I would like to expand the exhibition and make A Graceful Death about your story too. Come and write it down at the exhibition in the Graceful Death books provided. The exhibition is travelling and with each place it shows, there will be more stories and experiences to add to it.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Invites, Masses Of Paper, Dreams And Silence


I am designing the invites today. I have the Press Release, the paintings, the venue, the interest, the ideas. I now have to start putting them together.

I have put on hold all my commissions in order to do this exhibition. The aim is to highlight life as it ends, to tell my story and to raise awareness and funds for St Barnabas House Hospice where Steve died. I have been doing this for love. It was something I had to and wanted to do, and I am compelled to explore the subject of end of life. It did happen to me via someone I knew and loved, it happens to all of us. But I have painted and written my experience. I have painted what I saw, and painted how I felt. Goodness I have so much more to do with this subject.

The idea is that this exhibition tours. I want to take it to anywhere that will show it. I want the exhibition to grow with each showing. This will include all (or any) of the written contributions from the first exhibition in Chichester. I am including a Graceful Death book for all those who have a story to tell to write it or draw it. I would include any other images I may be allowed to paint, of other people at the end of their lives. I would love to include more paintings, which I would paint, of loved ones at the end of their days here, whether at home, in a hospice, a hospital, a home - this exhibition starts with my story and should continue with yours.

I have had interest from both Germany (yes!) and Birmingham. If you can host this exhibition in your area, or know somewhere that can, please contact me. antonia.rolls1@btinternet.com .

The Dream. Last night I dreamt of the back of Steve's head as he slept. It is interesting that I have never had a dream, except on the day he died, of his face. I knew it was the back of Steve's head and watched in my dream how his hair had not changed, and how the colour was the same. In the dream I felt tender, as if he were a sleeping child.

And the silence. Well. In the studio I can be very silent. Only the wind blowing outside and all my ideas blowing inside. I love this silence. Everyone is out, at work or school, the phone may ring, but silence falls again after each conversation. I can stop typing and the clicking of the keys is gone and I can chose to be utterly without noise

Invites coming soon. They will be up on the websites too. Be prepared to come.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Excitement And Progress


I have much to report today. I am very grateful and impressed by the response this exhibition is getting, and feel heartened about the whole venture. I do worry that I am showing paintings that are not easy to look at, and that may distress some. But on the other hand this is real, this is really how someone can look with advanced cancer. This is about the end of a life, and that in itself is a very uncomfortable topic. I may remind some of their own experience which is too hard for them. I may shock some who find all this disease and death too frightening to think about, I may make some angry because this seems so much indulgence.

Underneath all this is the respect and admiration I have for those who take on the task of easing the end of our lives. The Hospice Movement, Palliative Care Teams, all those who make it their business to make the process of dying and death as best as it can be. There are countless individuals who have nursed and cared for someone as they died. Goodness, this is such a big part of our lives.

And so. I want to take this exhibition around the country. I thought last night how good it would be for it to grow and include others who had stories to tell. I am inspired to paint the end of lives of other people for this exhibition, and to include written stories of experiences . My cousin Maddy had a very moving experience and is an expressive writer. My friend in London lost her father and took wonderful photos of their last time together at the hospital. Two other friends have stories to tell, one in a dvd video form as a play, and the other as a written story. There is so much scope for sharing this and honouring our dead.

A lovely friend in Germany has asked if the paintings can go there. The answer is Yes, if you can have them, Yes and Thank you. Another wonderful friend in Birmingham has suggested they may go there, and again Yes. Thank you. I have sent a few words and some images to the Palliative Care Conference for March 2010, that would be good.

And of course, the support and help and kindness of St Barnabas House Hospice (www.justgiving.com/agracefuldeath for donations to this wonderful place attached to this exhibition) who have opened wide so many possibilities for me. And I hope to meet with the equally wonderful St Wilfrids Hospice in Chichester, to see what we can do there.

On the 6 December I will be talking on the Faith Programme on BBC Radio Sussex about this exhibition. At about 8.40 am. Please listen, and please come to the exhibition and if you have a story to tell, please bring it.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A New Image

Here is an image of the last bath we gave Steve. We had a joke about plastic ducks, which is why they are in here.

I wanted to show the wasted body, the way the cancer had eaten him up and left him like this, skin and bone. And yet he kept breathing. He kept going, his life wasn't over yet. I wanted to show the bones showing through his shoulders and chest, the tendons in his neck and how the shape of his head was so perfect. In this picture, Steve had stopped being able to communicate and was confused and uncomfortable. This was the last bath he had, it had stopped giving him relief.

Today I am doing so much paper work. I am writing articles for this exhibition, writing emails and sending off all sorts of ideas to people.

A very very good development is that St Barnabas House, the hospice that took care of Steve and helped us all as he died, is backing this exhibition. I have set up a donations page for you all to donate to the hospice - www.justgiving.com/agracefuldeath . Please help another Steve and Antonia find their way through the end of a life.

More tomorrow. I am going now to visit some doctors and try and interest them in this exhibition.

Friday, 9 October 2009

A Few Thoughts On God

This is difficult. My first thought is that I have not got one. A thought, I mean. On this subject at least I have a paradox - I have no thoughts at all, and I have nothing but thoughts. Perhaps it is not Thoughts of which I have none, it is Conclusions. Maybe that is not right either, I have conclusions. I think what I have not got is An Answer.

Before Steve died, I accepted that there was a God. I thought that there was probably a parallel universe of angels and God-ness, and that I had access to it. It made sense that there was a greater plan and all of us were loved by A God Like Thing, and love really did make the world go round. Secretly I thought that God could talk to us and communicate with us; it was exciting working out how it would happen and whether positive coincidences were God at work or just happy accidents. I tended to believe the God At Work theory. My life had not been too difficult to cope with, I had not really been tested and dreadful things had not happened to me. Not really.

I had a wonderful comfortable and vague feeling that I was on the right path, miracles could happen, that we had huge untapped potential in our brains, consiousness and The Mind were the answer to most things. I think what I had was an untested leaning towards the intellectual, the fuzzy and the comforting. This is fine, it worked. There was no reason to be otherwise and there was no obvious challenge to make me change my mind. I really did feel I had a spiritual understanding and a link with the Divine.

When Steve first told me that a shadow had appeared on his liver I knew at once what it was. I came into my studio to be on my own and screamed and cried and could not find any way to lessen the anguish. On the internet I saw that he had about 3 months to live. I simply could not understand why Steve should have anything that made our happiness impossible. What on earth was this thing that was going to happen but couldn't really because I knew Steve and we loved each other and so we were immune to things that we couldn't control. I could touch Steve, I could look into his eyes and he mine, he was alive and so having this thing I knew was cancer was simply impossible. Steve would manage we would find out it was a mistake and somehow Steve would be with me for ever. We had a house to build. We had stuff to do, it was all very impossible.

I saw Steve shrivel and contract and fade before my eyes over the next few months. He would not accept his prognosis and so I didn't either. Unless I was on my own and then I knew it was not going to work. His body became diseased and emaciated. His eyes and skin turned yellow. He found it hard to think clearly and he could not stop sleeping. I watched this happen to a fellow human being, not just any fellow human being but Steve for goodness sake. It made no sense.

He couldn't eat. He couldn't walk. He was incontinent. He couldn't lift his skinny arms and head. His feet hurt him, his stomach hurt him, his stomach and ankles swelled. He was jaundiced and exhausted. He couldn't think straight. He used to go out fishing, he could build extensions, he could make working model aeroplanes, he could cook and he was very funny. All that potential to be the old Steve again was still here, in this wasted creature on my sofa in the sitting room.

Back to God. God sat with us in the hospice for the last week and made Steve comfortable. God showed me that to die was part of life and just one of those things. God also showed me that death is as much a miracle as life and that the two compliment each other with more power and awe than the human mind can cope with. I had the total absence of hope in watching Steve die. But Steve was also beyond me and beyond my limited experience. He was doing something so raw and incomprehensible that I was left far far behind. God had two jobs to do. To let this physical thing called cancer eat away Steve's lovely human body and let it run its course. And to allow me to watch and glimpse a process so alien to me and so much bigger than me that I could only admire it. So this is where God, if there is a God, was. God was in the process of relieving Steve of his physical body while the breath still breathed from it in spite of the disease. God was the force that made Steve not die sooner, God was there too when Steve eventually stopped breathing and stopped being alive. I can't describe the relief and anguish of watching the stillness and nothingness that was Steve once he had died.

Now, I think there is a God Like Thing somewhere. The miracle of death makes me think that it is too big for life to be just be nothing. I knew Steve, it was not as if the life that ended was an abstract thing belonging to someone else. I knew the man, he was my partner, and it happened to him. If he could have done so, he would have told me all about it. But he couldn't because he was dead and that was just ridiculous.

I am aware of my life now. I am not, at the moment, afraid to die. I think that there is an after life. I think that the word "Life" probably doesn't even come close to describe what happens to us after we die. My big question at the moment is "Where Did He Go?". I don't know.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Sometimes All I Have To Do Is Think

Sometimes when the day is hard to take in hand, all I can do is think. Today I showed some friends the paintings so far, and found it difficult to do. I was worried that the power and feeling I have about Death and Dying and Steve's last days, would not be there when someone else saw the pictures. I worry too that I will never get the paintings done, there is no end to the images I want to create. But my friends were kind and honest and thoughtful, their comments were very helpful. It is time I called my artist friend in Middleton, who is also very good at feedback that makes you see what you are doing more clearly.

Tomorrow I go to the Hospice where Steve died to talk to them about fundraising for them and their name being attached to the exhibition. I hope it will go well. I look forward to it, but I haven't been back to there since Steve died. If I can I want to see his bed.

My computer has gone to the PC Doctor today with virus that has messed it up completely. So I am without my documents and pictures; I am writing this on my son's laptop. Soon I will put more pictures up of the progress I am making with images.

And, I will write about God and Faith and what I am thinking of it all. I warn you, it will be a muddle. There is very little I can be sure of there. I will write about it soon. Today, all I could do is think.

Friday, 2 October 2009

All Going Well

The paintings are going well. They take over a bit, and have a life of their own. I start with a feeling, an idea, and put paint on the surface and am surprised at what happens. Sometimes the paint seems to lead and I follow. I have done the full length portrait of a healthy Steve, and it stands looking at me in the studio, and is lovely to see. I didn't find it too easy to paint, it was so ridiculous pianting a face I remember so well that simply did not exist any more. Which always leads to Where Did He Go?

The Loneliness Triptych is done, and has turned out differently to my original idea. The images evolved as I was painting it, and I am satisfied that it works.

I am going to speak about this exhibition on the day before it opens, on BBC Radio Sussex. It will be on the Faith Programme at about 8.40am on Sunday 6 December. I look forward to it, this is such an important exhibition and subject.

Next week I am going back to the wonderful Hospice, St Barnabas in Worthing, who helped Steve out of this life. I want to raise funds for St Barnabas, and they are going to help me with ideas and I hope, people to contact. I look forward to it very much, and it doesn't matter if I cry either. That's part of the beauty of a Hospice. They understand the way we who are left are vulnerable to tears and flashbacks. I will go and see Steve's bed if I have the strength. It will be a bit emotional but I want to do it.

I am thinking about where God is in this exhibition. Where Faith is. I want to consider this and will write on it in the next post. It is important and I am frequently asked about it concerning this exhibition and the subject of death and bereavement. Often I can't reply and need to work out what it is that I am thinking and feeling.

More pictures soon .

Monday, 28 September 2009

Painting Myself Today

In my other blog, http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/, I say today that I am without inspiration.

Often this is true, and the way forward is to just Keep Doing Something. Today I am painting for the triptych where I am sitting with an empty chair. I am happy enough today to do this, it helps to have a plan drawn up on a day when I could think clearly. Or at all. So I am not terribly involved in the painting. I know what I am doing, I know why I am doing it, it makes symbolic sense, but I am simply creating it today. It feels a relief.

I did my stick man diptych, and it looks very much like 2 stick men. Don't know what to make of it, but I will put it into the exhibition. See what you all say.

Below is Steve and me going off into the future together. I think it is interesting that I painted us pulling away, especially Steve. I didn't intend it. Steve kept this in his room at the hospital.

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.

"Alone" oil on wood.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

No Painting Today. Office Day

I have done the full size portrait of Steve and it looks good. I have put the words I removed from the large portrait of Steve in blue pyjamas just before he died, back. At the time I thought they were too much and they are. They are very sad indeed, they were too much for me at the time. So I removed them and kept them on a sheet of paper until it was safe to put them back.

Today I am putting out the press release and contacting people about the exhibition. I have two very separate functions with this exhibition. The office part is intellectual, it is about Organising and Doing. It isn't too hard to do, though I have to make myself do it. I always fear I won't be taken seriously and that the strength of my work and intentions will be either dismissed or misunderstood. But the painting side. I have to allow myself to take the day off from all other things and go and Just Do It. This exhibition means that I have to try to make clear something that is hard (painting) loss (emotional) a little bit uncomfortable (death) and utterly incomprehensible (end of life). I have to make clear something that is not and never will be clear. A paradox. So I have to explore it perhaps, to make sense of it in the only way I can, through painting. At the same time I am aware that it bonds and links so many of us. The experience of loss. This is how I can work it out, touch other people, and be touched by them. It is turning out to be life affirming, a huge statement on how Life Will Go On, this exhibition. No matter how bad I feel or have felt, in order to paint anything at all means time has passed and the experience is being made visible. Some kind of healing is taking place. The few that have seen the paintings say Ah. Yes. That happened to me. I knew someone who died. And human contact has been made, an important bond that affirms us as Still Alive, as Here and Connecting.

This is the prayer I wrote the day he died. I didn't like it at the time but now it is OK.

You are not my king I am not your daughter
You are not my father you are not my saviour
Not my redeemer not my lamb,
Not a person not a man,
You are not a Thee or Thou you didn't come to earth to save me and Steve
You are not my parent I am not an idiot
I don't have to be nice to you.
I don't have to obey you I can't hear you speaking
I can't listen because
You don't say anything

Monday, 21 September 2009

A Picture Of Steve From Worthing Hospital

As an image, I like this. I like the features becoming sharper and larger as the face gets thinner. I have painted the whites of the eyes yellow because of the jaundice, and his eyes were yellow. As was his skin. There are many more things to paint, I think, on a thin face. There is more evidence of bone structure and tendons and the skin clings to the structure of the head more, so I can see more shadow.

I remember this moment when Steve felt acutely aware, for this moment, of his fading looks. His dramatic weight loss was still only just beginning, and for a man who was used to health and robust good looks, these moments must have been very hard.

Here is one of me standing awkwardly. On the painting there is a big black cross marking where the cancer was in Steve's body.
I have no face, it is too much to paint my face.
Today I am finishing the full length portrait of the healthy Steve and starting on the tryptich that I want to use to describe alone-ness. I want to do these paintings, but I don't too. Today I have a knot in my stomach and it would be very nice to go on holiday and lie in the sun instead. But only I can do my own exhibition. Better just do it. The large portrait is lovely and it looks like Steve is looking at me, my only worry is that it may be empty. I seem to only go so far with these paintings, and still have not captured the experience enough. Maybe I never will, maybe no one can. However, I will go now into the studio and see what happens.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

You Tube Video And Today's Agenda

Today I am painting Steve healthy and well. As time goes on I can remember him more as well, I can recognise him in the painting I will do today. A large full figure portrait.

A Norweigan artist friend made a video of me 8 weeks after Steve died. Here is the link. I have only just begun the paintings. See what you think.

I have an exhibition of Every Day Angels to do too for the two weeks prior to the Graceful Death, and I have no wit in me at the moment at all. I could do gloomy droopy Angels, or Angels that stare out of the window with their mouths open. Gawd. Better not get my two exhibitions mixed up.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Introduction To This Blog

"A Graceful Death" Exhibition
by Antonia Rolls
Friends House Priory Road Chichester West Sussex
7 - 13 December 2009
"Chichester Quakers are pleased to host in their place of worship, The Friends' Meeting House in Priory Road, Chichester this exhibition from Antonia Rolls which centres on “A Graceful Death”, the story, in pictorial form, of the struggle of the human body against the final stages of liver cancer. The show is both a tribute to her partner, Steve Shaw, the subject of Antonia’s paintings, and a celebration of the life force inside us all, even so close to death."

The exhibition concentrates on the last three weeks of Steve’s life, and the day of his death. I show the change from the healthy outdoor man to the jaundiced and confused and skeletal figure that he became in only a few weeks.

I want to show the miracle of life and death, the power of our spirit to keep going and the majesty and awe of death which is beyond explanation. This exhibition will put us in touch with our mortality.

The exhibition will feature paintings of Steve’s final days and the day he died, with paintings too of how much I felt his loss. Death is a universal experience, and this will touch all those who have experienced cancer and the loss of a loved one whether from this disease or not. The exhibition is painted with sharp honesty and compassion, with touches of gentle wit.
One of the Chichester Quakers says, "Although Quakers give more attention to the way we live our lives, death is an inevitable fact of life and a subject that many people nowadays avoid confronting until they have to. As Quakers we are advised that "accepting the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully" (Quaker Faith & Practice 1.02.30). We hope that this brave exhibition may enable others to think about and gradually come to temrs with this experience and perhaps be able to discuss their feelings and wishes with their family and friends".

The Rev Rob Gillion of Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, London says of Antonia’s work -
“I know what patient care and prayerful thought goes into each painting by Antonia. She will spend time listening as the gifts and interests and personalities of the subjects are described. It is a real journey of delight accompanying her as she slowly unfolds a family and their stories.”

All proceeds to go to St Barnabas Hospice, Worthing and St Wilrids Hospice, Chichester