Monday, 30 November 2009

The Power Of Pain 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The Quakers have also withdrawn their offer of a venue for the exhibition, which is understandable as they too cannot cope with disagreements as an organisation.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 . 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 for my website for and account of life, from the studio, of a busy Artist and Mother 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 for donations to the Hospice the Danced Steve Out Of This Life 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 to donate to the lovely hospice that danced Steve out of this life. And does so daily, hourly, for countless others. 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 to donate to the wonderful St Barnabas House Hospice that is helping me with this exhibition and who danced Steve out of this life 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 for my other blog on being an artist and a mother 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, .

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 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.