Charcoal on paper
Charcoal on paper
4 - 13 / 09 / 2017
Dying is a universal truth, an objective reality, it belongs to us all; it is as certain as the death of a cut flower. I am interested in the frailty of life, its poignancy, disturbing beauty and inevitabilities.
Flowers that enter hospice travel parallel paths with those to whom they belong. They are allegories for emotions so often hidden, but universally understood.
So many of our fragilities are tied to notions of belonging, and these simple portraits of the last things we may own seem to be echoes of much that has gone before.
My portrayals seek to avoid the constraints of language and connect directly with the emotions. This exhibition is my response to working in hospice and watching this cycle unfold every day. It is both a privilege and a burden.
The process of dying affects everyone near it. The visceral emotions of patients and their families may be writ large for all to see. As health care professionals we respond emotionally too, how could we not, but the conversations, the shared grieving is not so frequent.
Flowers are given at both ends of life and at most significant events in between. They are our life and death companions. I watch them daily with their companions, who sometimes out live them, and sometimes don’t.
In the context of this body of work flowers provide an opportunity to embark on a conversation. To celebrate our strengths and mourn our limitations, our regrets; to imagine our future selves. Sitting at bedsides they are a potent visual reminder of the process of change that dying is. Sometimes they die before, and sometimes after the occupant has gone from the room. Some are left for staff, or left for staff to throw out, or they are taken home to end their lives with family, to ‘die at home’.
I am very conscious that these are private moments I pass each day, glimpses half remembered, of life’s most intimate experiences. Long draughts of professional looking, standing at the end of ‘Rosie’s’ bed, picking up her failing flowers, feeling her failing strength in my hands; ours are parallel journeys.
Perhaps we all have our own Rosie and recognise something of ourselves in her; indeed, we shall all be Rosie one day.
The flowers, the names, the situations and the images do not represent specific individuals, but are a collage of experiences distilled over 20 years working in palliative care and hospice.