Thursday, 28 October 2010

Dublin AGD A Spiritual, Emotional And Physical Journey for my website  for my other website for an account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis

A Graceful Death Exhibition in Dublin.  Emotional, Spiritual and Important

Steve over the fire, and me on the easle.  This is the main room where the A Graceful Death paintings were shown.  Visitors were welcomed into the house, and guided to this room and when they were ready, left to wander at their ease and in their own time amongst the images and words.  When they were finished, they came through into the kitchen and had tea, cake, wine and the warmth of other people.

I am home from Dublin, having left the paintings stored in Dublin before they are taken to the next exhibition in Manchester in February 2011.  I am very tired and need to reflect on how the exhibition went, and what to do from here.  It is good to be home, it gives me the distance I need to think over the past 6 days in Ireland, and the experience of showing the paintings to a new audience in a new country.

It was a very profound few days.  To recap, my dear kind friends in Dublin offered to show the exhibition in their house.  They live in a large house they designed and had built themselves, in a leafy and quiet area of Dublin.  It was to be an invitation only exhibition.  My Dublin Friends had never done anything like this before, and were keen to make the exhibition and the experience work to the best of their abilities and to the A Graceful Death's benefit.  We opened on the Thursday, and packed up on the following Monday afternoon.  My Dublin Friends put their hearts and souls into making it work, and created one of the most successful exhibitions I have yet had.

My Hosts had worked tirelessly to contact the people they thought would appreciate an exhibition concerned with death and dying, of life and bereavement and love and hope and how we survive our losses.  They designed the invitations, they designed the brochures and they organised the wine, the teas, the cakes.  They contacted everyone that they could and followed up each call, they spent time and effort on making sure they covered all avenues to the people they thought needed to come and see the exhibition.  They even arranged, through a lovely PR friend of theirs, for a radio interview for me to speak about the exhibition to Alan Stanford on 4fm on the Saturday morning Culture Club programme.

The Jesus on the Tube exhibition was under the stairs, in this space.  This shows how light and peaceful the house is and how gentle the experience of visiting A Graceful Death was in this setting.

The exhibition worked so very well because most of those who came were expected.  We were extremely busy, and I found working as a team with my Dublin Hosts was absolutely wonderful.  We had put up three exhibitions. Alongside the A Graceful Death was a small display of Jesus on the Tubes, which went down very well.  And in the kitchen, there were displays of the Every Day Angels paintings that were light hearted and fun.  It was important to have something lively and colourful when coming out of experiencing the A Graceful Death paintings, and to sit in the kitchen having tea and cakes next to gentle,bright and every day Angels, because that is the time to talk and tell one's story.  In the safety and calm of the kitchen, crying can be a more comforting experience, with the gentle reassurance of every day life around you.  And people do need to talk after seeing the paintings.  Some need to cry, some need to be listened to, some need to say things that they could not say before.  The time to be with someone who cares is in the kitchen after the exhibition.  My Dublin hosts knew this and prepared tea, sat with their guests, offered wine, listened and welcomed everyone to their home.

 Jesus on the Tube under the Stairs.

My Dublin Friend has married a very good and kind man, and they were my Hosts.  My Dublin Friend has a remarkable Mother in Law, whom I want to mention here.  Mother in Law is a trained bereavement counsellor, and is well known for her kindness, insight and patience.  My Dublin Hosts live at the bottom of the Parents-in-Law's garden where they have built this gracious, light and spacious home.  So Dublin Friend's Mother in Law spent her time caring gently for people at the exhibition, and bringing down lunches and suppers for all of us in the house in her spare time, and generally being the most wonderful support.  It is worth mentioning that most of the people who came to the exhibition either knew or knew of Mother in Law, so well respected is she for her work and kindess.

The kitchen, where we sat amongst the Every Day Angels and ate amazing cake and drank tea, talking if we needed to, just thinking if that was what we wanted.  

The Angels sold well, and this is what is left of them on the pink wall.  Note the red and white spotty table cloth and the cake stand with cup cakes.  A work of art in itself.  

I met very good people.  I met members of the clergy.  Our first guest was a local priest, a very sensitive and kind man.  We had members from such organisations as the Bethany Bereavement Support Group, the Cancer Society, Local Hospices, the Irish Hospice Foundation, bereavement counsellors, doctors, nurses, a very likeable director of an Undertaking firm, members of the Glasnevin Trust, a lovely author and psychologist from the De Mello Institute who very kindly gave me a copy of his book which I am enjoying and appreciating greatly.

And I have the next lady to paint as a Survivor.  The most energetic and inspiring lady arrived at the exhibition, with a similar story to mine, though she was married for 20 years before she lost her husband.  She too is hoping to make a positive contribution to the world following her husband's death.  She is very much the Survivor, and I hope to goodness she lets me paint her.  We did speak of it, and she would make a wonderful picture.  There was too, another very inspirational lady who wrote a small book of poetry and diary entries and mixed media art work after her husband of 48 years died.  I was given this book which was heartfelt and wonderful and pognant to read, by the Bethany Bereavement Support Group (a very remarkable organisation, some of whom I was delighted to meet).  I have not yet asked this lady, but gosh, she would make a fantastic portrait of a Survivor too.  Two new paintings, if I get the go-ahead to paint them, for Manchester next February.

After this showing of A Graceful Death,  I absolutely realise that I can't do this alone any more.  I simply could not have done anything if it wasn't for my Dublin Hosts, and the effect of having them work with me and understand the whole reason for showing the paintings, makes me see I will always need this kind of input for the A Graceful Death exhibitions.  I can't do this alone.  Thinking back, I never have had to do it alone.  Clarissa de Wend Fenton did her utmost for the exhibition when she showed it in February in Wimbledon.  Eileen Rafferty, the photographer,  has recorded the images and helped out wherever she can.  I have had donations from many people for the AGD Fund to help with costs and expenses.  My cousin Maddy has always helped, and got her whole family to make my house into an exhibition space for the first showing ever, here, last year.  Alan Bedford has given me a strong arm to lean on when I needed nothing but strength.  So many others have, and do, help.  So many people make this a success.  And now, because of its growing success, I need help more than ever.  I absolutely need donations and sponsorship to cover the costs of maintaining, growing and producing A Graceful Death.  I need like minded people to help set this exhibition up in places where there is strength, undersanding, help, love, kindness and life, so that we can talk of our experiences of Death, and how it is to Go On, to Survive. This exhibition of A Graceful Death deals with how we approach Dying, and then - how we approach Living.  We who are left.  Email me if you can help on

There is so much to do. 

Sunshine on the Exhibition.

Thank You Dublin.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Dublin's Response To A Graceful Death Exhibition So Far... for my website for my other website for an account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis

A Graceful Death In Dublin.  So Far...

So far, Dublin has responded to the exhibition with grace and recognition.  I am wondering what the difference is from reactions I have had in the UK, and I think there is no difference.  The reactions in the UK perhaps were more tearful, maybe there were recent bereavements that came to the surface when the exhibition showed there.  Here, in Dublin, the people who have come to see the A Graceful Death exhibition, have been wise, thoughtful and responsive. 

The exhibition as you know, is a private exhibition, attended by invite only.  This is because my wonderful Dublin friends are making their house over into a gallery for A Graceful Death paintings and poetry to be shown.  They have created the most glorious gallery, as did Clarissa de Wend Fenton in Wimbledon when she transformed her home into a gallery for A Graceful Death in February last year.  Here in Dublin, the house is very open plan and feels a little Japanese.  It is  large and light, and so the paintings hang in light, space and warmth.  The  pale wooden floors and window frames add a freshness to the environment in which the paintings hang and work very well indeed with the subject of dying, bereavement, love, life and hope.

We have hung a small exhibition of Jesus on the Tube paintings under the stairs here, which looks fun and upbeat, and in the kitchen we have made an exhibition of Every Day Angels, which is full of humour and lightness.  It is important to mention that one of the walls in this large and friendly kitchen is deep rose pink.  That is exactly my kind of wall colour, and the Angels hang with great jollity against such a vibrant and warm colour.  My Dublin Hosts have set out tables and chairs and have provided cake stands full of cakes and cup cakes and provide round the clock pots of tea, glasses of wine and soft drinks.  They have made this A Graceful Death exhibition into the A Graceful Death Experience of the Best Kind.  Guests have been arriving in huge numbers, and have been welcomed into the house, and guided to the main exhibition where they take their time on their own, to make of the paintings and the exhibition what they will.   My Dublin Hosts tell them to make their way round and end in the kitchen where tea and cakes or a glass of wine is waiting for them.  And so, in the kitchen, there is a wonderful gathering of all sorts of people, chatting, talking, discussing, some wanting to talk of their experiences, some wanting to talk of ideas for the A Graceful Death to go to its next destination, some just chatting.  And alongside the guests in the kitchen drinking their teas and coffees, eating the most amazing cakes, are paintings of Angels Having Tea, Angels Flying Into the Sky and Angels Chatting With Their Friends.  The A Graceful Death exhibition works best alongside life, love and kindness.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by a very interesting Alan Stanford on 4fm radio here, about A Graceful Death.  It made me think that a whole hour would not begin to cover the subject of this exhibition.  It made me think that there is so much to talk of and so much to discuss, and there is such a huge place for Art and Creativity in the experience of Bereavement, Grief, Dying, End of Life.  Goodness, there is so much Art can do here.  Somehow, words in a conversation, words alone, are not enough to touch the places where we feel so deeply and often so very badly, our pain and loss and madness when we are bereaved.  Oh goodness, there is such a place for art to help deal with those times.

I have met representatives from the Irish Cancer Society here at the exhibition, from the Irish Hospice Movement, from the Bethany Group who visit and are there for the bereaved, I have met representatives from the Glasnevin Trust, and a lovely kind and very experienced young director of an Undertaker Business here in Dublin.  There have been many visitors who work in hospices as volunteers, there have been neighbours and friends of the Dublin Hosts, there have been nurses, doctors and the clergy.  I will mention our first visitor, the local priest, whom I liked very much.  He is a busy man, all priests are, and he took the trouble to come and be our first visitor.  I didn't know that he had had to deal with his own bereavements until after he left and my Dublin Hosts told me.  Not only was I delighted that he came, I was really touched that he should come while things were not so easy for him.  And as he left, he gave me a donation to the A Graceful Death exhibition.  An amazing start to the Dublin showing of A Graceful Death exhibition.

Today is our last day.  The exhibition is scheduled to close at 6pm, but we are keeping it going for one extra day for those who can't make it during the weekend.  I pack up and am off home to Bognor Regis on Tuesday.

The exhibition stays here in Dublin, and will go direct from Dublin to Manchester for its next showing in Februrary next year, at the Amazing Rev Rachel Mann's church, St Nicholas in Burnage, Manchester.   That will happen because of the kindness of the Dublin Hosts' friend who drove all the way to Bognor from Dublin a few weeks ago to collect the paintings to bring them here, as his contribution to the exhibition.  He has offered to take them from Dublin to Rachel's church so that it is easier to set up there.  A big and heartfelt thank you to him.

When I get home, I will post pictures of the exhibition.  The newest painting is the Self Portrait as a Survivor, and I met yesterday my next Survivor portrait.  A lady who has lost a husband of 20 years, months before Steve died, who has carried on their wish to provide a place of rest and peace for those who are termally ill and need spiritual help.  This lady is the next Survivor, and I hope to goodness we can put her into the next exhibition.  With, too, her husband if she wishes.  I would love it.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Emptiness Before The Event for my website for my other website for an account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis

Emptiness Before The Event, Gathering Of Strength And Resources

The Emptiness is about having mental space before the start of the exhibition.  There is Emptiness in my studio too since all the paintings, including the Every Day Angels and the Jesus on the Tubes that accompany A Graceful Death have gone to Dublin with the main exhibition, but there is a necessary Emptiness in my mind before I go over and see what happens for this showing.
This Dublin Exhibition is a private showing and is invitation only.  That is because the Dublin Hosts are giving the exhibition in their own home and not a public exhibition space.  They have a home that will show the paintings extremely well, and are both extremely creative and very well connected.  They have a guest list that would be the envy of any gallery - and they have given up their time and energy to making this A Graceful Death take its first steps in Ireland a good experience.

Before A Graceful Death shows anywhere I need to gather my energies and marshall my thoughts.  This is not a static exhibition.  It grows and changes with each time it goes public.  It has started with  my story, but what keeps it going is that my story is the same as everyone else that has been bereaved.  The manner of death is Steve's own, but the fact that he died and I was left to live on is the same as everyone else who has lost someone.  We are on a journey to then end of our own lives and life is never the same again.  I have painted myself for this Dublin exhibition as a survivor.  I am interested in painting other survivors, and all of us left to live on are survivors, whether we like it or not.  I am interested in painting people at the end of their lives and those of us with lives still left to live.  The big self portrait that I have done for this Dublin exhibition - which can be seen on the entry before this one - was my first attempt at this idea.  I had envisaged a glorious painting of yellows and oranges, and of me with a calm, peaceful expression and my eyes benign and full of hope.  What I got was glorious yellow and orange and a much tighter expression than I had expected.  The serenity I hoped to capture is not completely there yet.  A lesson to me, what I think and what I feel may be a little different.  

So now, I am wondering what will happen next week when we show the paintings and hear what people say.  I am looking forward to it, and hoping it will be as fascinating as the times before, when I have shown A Graceful Death.  This Emptiness before the event, in that the paintings are all somewhere else out of my studio and house, waiting to be hung and arranged,  will become the norm until at least March 2011.  They will be taken directly from Dublin to Manchester where they will wait for their next showing.  And by then, there should be at least one more painting to be shown.  There is at least one more painting at every exhibition.  And marshalling my thoughts?  That always takes time and is so hard to find time for.  A bit of space, silence and thinking time is essential before walking into the A Graceful Death arena.  The subject of the exhibition - paintings from the end of life - the passion, the importance of everything that goes with dying, need some time for me to gather strength to do it justice.  I do hope you come and see the exhibition when you can.  It is so full of love and hope.  You would be surprised.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Paintings Are In Dublin, I Follow Soon. for my website for my other website for an account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis

The Paintings Are In Dublin, The Studio Is Strangely Empty

This weekend, the paintings went to Ireland.  My Hosts, who are privately showing the A Graceful Death exhibition, have been offered  transport from a very longstanding family friend, to collect the paintings from Bognor to Dublin and return them after the exhibition.  One of the Host's oldest friends came over in his huge car on the Saturday, packed up all the exhibition and left on the Sunday to drop them off at the Venue.  I have known this extremely kind man for many years, but have never really talked to him.  It was a good opportunity to speak with him and take time to get to know him a little.  My dear Exhibition Host came too, and so my house was filled with jolly Irish men, something I could get used to.  The fact that they were here out of the kindness and support of the exhibition was wonderful.

I have a radio interview in Dublin on either this coming Saturday or next Saturday.  I will talk about A Graceful Death and what the exhibition is for, about how it came about and where it is going.  More on that nearer the time.

The exhibition is growing.  This time last year I was gearing up for my first showing of it here in West Sussex, and had no real idea of where it would go or what would happen to it.  That first showing did not go as planned, but it still got a huge response.  I was very nervous, it was the most important thing I had ever done in paint.  Now, I take the exhibition to Ireland.  I have no idea how it will be received, but I must be prepared for anything.  The good thing is that no one need come to see the paintings unless they want to.  One can't stumble on them by accident, they won't suddenly appear before you unless, you make the effort to come.  My Hosts are showing the A Graceful Death privately, and want an invitation only exhibition.  I am very happy with this, I am lucky to have the opportunity to come over and show the paintings.  If I get another venue in Ireland that is not so private, I will be happy to print the address and invite you all.  I do want you all to come and see them.  It is so important that we talk about dying.  I know so little about it, I have never done it, and this is only my first experience of it.  But it has been a miracle.  I will be shattered by every death I witness, I know there are more to come, and one day, my own will come.  But Steve gave me the most extraordinary gift, one that had I been prewarned I would have refused;  he gave me the experience of the end of life and the miracle of death.  And because I am a painter, I painted my way through it.  And I still am.

I will let know how it goes.  I will photo it and if I can, take a few video shots of it.  I will tape the interview and I hope I can put a link to it here too if I can. 

I won't be seeing the paintings in the studio for a good long while now, as the kind fellow who drove them to Dublin is returning them directly to Manchester, where they will be shown in February 2011.  They are showing in St Nicholas Church, Burnage, Manchester with the most marvellous Rev Rachel Mann.  I hope to take my film making friend to make a film of A Graceful Death, the paintings and the experience.  That, I think, would be absolutely wonderful. 

Opening night is on Thursday 21 October.  Not long now! 

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Getting Packed For Dublin. Finished Self Portrait. Very Busy for my website for my other website  for an account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis

Paintings Go To Dublin This Weekend

So I am very busy packing and sorting and labelling.  Over this weekend, the Hosts of the A Graceful Death in Dublin are coming over in a large car to collect the paintings and take them back to Dublin.  They do this out of the kindness of their very large hearts, and it is a huge relief and help that they have offered to do this.  But I have to have all the paintings ready and wrapped and labelled etc.  The exhibition always runs with a small Jesus On The Tube exhibition and an Every Day Angel exhibition.  I have found that showing other light hearted works balances the AGD well.  
The Self Portrait now has a chair in it for me to sit on.  Have a look, there are earrings, my ring and longer hair -

This painting is about being out-the-other-end but still real.  I hope to paint others in stages of their journey too.  It is a large painting, to compliment the "I'm Not Going Anywhere" portrait of Steve when he had just received his diagnosis of cancer - Steve will be at the beginning of the exhibition and I will be at the end.

This will be a very new experience in Dublin.  The exhibition is not open to the general public, it will be invitation only.  If however, you are interested in coming, contact me and leave your details and I will get back to you.  The exhibition runs from Thursday 21 October till Monday 25 October.  It will be the first time I have exhibited this AGD outside the UK.  

There are so many different ways this exhibition could develop.  It is full of potential, it is about Us, Our story, yours and mine.  I am aware of so much unacknowledged need to talk about what happened to us, to our loved ones, to our lives when we lost someone.  I want to capture something of that experience in paint and keep it for everyone to see.  I want to make it visible, even if all I do is represent with no frills, the reality of the body as it dies.  The look in our eyes as we make the journey after the death of someone, into the rest of our lives.  

The A Graceful Death will be travelling next year.  In February it will go to St Nicholas Church, Burnham, Manchester and in November it goes to St Martin in the Bullring in Birmingham. In between, I want to take it to Edinburgh and there is now an offer to take it to Yorkshire, to a teeny and wonderful stately home there.  

If you are interested, leave a message on this blog with your email and I will get back to you.  Onwards and Upwards, got to get packing!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Dublin Date Is Nearing, Organising And Details Now for my website for my other website for an account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis

Much Still To Do For Dublin Dates

I have finished the paintings.  Yes, the ones that I needed to do for this Dublin showing are done and drying.  I still have some poetry to write up that was sent in by people who visited the exhibition and want to add something of their own.   Apart from that, it is all organisation and detail now.  The Hosts in Ireland wish to remain anonymous, as this particular show is a Private Showing in a Private House.  They are setting up an invitation only exhibition where they have been selecting and asking all those they think will be interested in the paintings.  I have an opening night on the Thursday 21 October, and over the next few days,  the exhibition is aiming to attract at least 200 people.  The Dublin Hosts know and are connected to a lot of people.

I am very impressed with the way the A Graceful Death is being organised in Dublin.  I think it will be a very targeted group of people and organisations that come, and I will need my wits about me, because as with all the AGD exhibitions, questions will be asked as to what exactly I am doing, and why.  Well, gosh, I have answered that so often and because I feel the exhibition is such a fluid and organic enterprise, the answers can get bigger and bigger.  I am doing this show because I can.  It is the only way I can share the depth of the experience of loss and of love.  I am not alone, all of you have a story to tell of love and loss, but for a while I thought I was the only one to suffer in the way I was suffering.  I tried to paint it to make sense of it.  And once I had done that, I found that I was just one of many to have had a bereavement.  I was just one of millions of ongoing bereavements, and all of us felt this bad.  

I will keep you all informed of the A Graceful Death in Dublin.  I will honour my Hosts wishes to remain anonymous, and I will tell you all how it went.  I will photo it and tell you how it was received, which I cannot for the life of me, predict.  

There are two more firm dates that you can come and visit, which are in February 2011 at the Rev Rachel Mann's church, St Nicholas in Burnage in Manchester. More details and publicity on that when nearer the time.  And in November 2011, AGD is going to St Martins in the Bullring in Birmingham.  That will be for about 3weeks, and will include workshops that I will be taking on bereavement and related feelings, with the very talented poet Penny Hewlet.  I have ideas for other workshops, some very unusual, but all very significant.  More too, on that, nearer the time.

Now I must go and Laminate.  All the painting descriptions and the write ups need to be prepared and make indestructable.  Laminate them, I thought, and so now I shall.  I must also send out all the invitations, the related publicity to the selected invitees, and the information that needs to accompany each invite.  The paintings are being collected by two wonderful and dedicated Irish Men In A Large Vehicle next weekend, out of the goodness of their hearts.  All they ask is a bed for the night.  They will get that and a large meal on the hour every hour and many many grateful thanks.  So now I must go and Pepare.  More later.