Welcome to my fourth blog post in this series of ‘Memories from home’ this blog follows on the ideas of blog 3, in using art and creativity after a bereavement in navigating grief. My previous blog explored the concept of Flow – being totally absorbed in a creative process in exploring and making meaning. I used photography as a way of creatively exploring and connecting with memories of my Dad.
Artists have used paintings, photographs, and writing as a way of exploring and presenting ideas and reactions to death, grief and bereavement for many years. As well being interested in modern artists using art in exploring and sharing feelings around grief and loss, I am becoming drawn to those who used forms of art in creativity but didn’t necessarily consider themselves an artist, appreciating that you don’t have to be an artist to be creative.
Thinking around this theme was explored at an online death cafe I recently attended, some sharing that they didn’t identify as an artist but used art and creativity in exploring their feelings of grief, and in a loss of ways of being, of which we are, it feels, all experiencing currently due to the global pandemic. It was hoped that sharing their poetry, paintings and through other artistic media, helped them individually to explore feelings and make sense of the world, as well as a hope that it reached out and helped others.
Participants of my Masters Research were a mixture of those who identified as being an artist, and others who used creativity and art that emerged organically after a family members death. One participant said following the death of their Mother, that ‘I think I have to write, I don’t write because of her and I don’t paint because of her. It’s like I do it and i’m incredibly fortunate that I found it, or it found me, whatever it is’. Another used the art of writing as a way of imagining and writing a different connection after the death of their Mother, ‘ I didn’t start writing until after…….I felt I could write what I liked, I wrote myself a better mother’.
I photograph a lot everyday, documenting my life, either through my DSLR or a quick snap on my I-phone. Photography has often helped me work through a thought process, difficult task or for pure pleasure, and when having to organise my Dad, Nan and Grandad’s homes after they died, documenting how me and my family were doing this, was second nature to me. It gave me, as well as a documentary of that time, which on occasions was a blur, a snapshot on which to reflect and remember as part of my, and my families legacy. It allowed me to see all the house trinkets and objects that contained memories, some of which weren’t possible to keep. Recently my Mum told me that she was ‘happy that I had taken those photos’ as they (my family) may not have thought to do, so and was an important thing to have.
Did you feel the need to create art after the death of a loved one?
If you want to join me on my journey through my PhD research; my focus is expanding towards creativity and how artists and others use creative expression as a way of navigating and exploring grief. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved as a participant in my research.
I look forward to seeing your shares and stories with me through my Facebook page.
Wow! It’s been such a while dearest readers since my last blog, plenty of things keeping me busy. Medway Open Studios and Arts Festival (MOSAF) 2018 was a great platform for me at the start of my Masters, working through my initial ideas for the photo part of it and getting some fantastic feedback and critique from my visitors.
MOSAF 2019 was a ‘taster platform’ of my final batch of photographs to exhibit before choosing the final 4 for submission in September (formats have been chosen, more of this to come!). I had some great conversations with visitors around my research subject of exploring Personal Loss, Memory and Family, with photographs and objects after a bereavement (more info about it here). I am interested to see if there are any common themes shared that reflected my own experiences of loss in the family, and if there were any similarities in which objects and photographs we keep and the memories we share. My research has helped me navigate my own grief and the whole process has been, (as my research participants have told me), a good thing to ‘Hold space’ for others to also have that time for dedicated conversations.
The exhibition included 10 photos of both my family photos and others from my research participants, accompanied by their written memory about each object or photograph. Here is a taster of one of my exhibited photos:
Vase with wilting Flowers
A Vase sitting on the sideboard that was bought as a Wedding Gift for my Grandparents. The flowers wilting, losing their glorious bloom, the room lays silent, soon to be empty, a whisper in the echo of a memory.
[Grandparents home 2016]
I am also pleased that visitors to my MOSAF19 exhibition felt able to share their memories if they wished they could leave their thoughts on my memories corkboard. I loved chatting with all my visitors about this subject as I had done interviewing the participants for my research. A big thank you to all my MOSAF19 visitors and participants. If you would like to get involved in my future research, or just want to get in touch to share your views then contact me here.
In the week of MOSAF19 I was interviewed on BBC Radio Kent as part of their ‘Phone Tracker’, (2.28 in) this gave me a great platform not only to promote my exhibition but to also talk about my research. It’s amazing what points you can get across in 4-5 minutes!
So, what’s next?
I have the summer to write up my research and prepare for my MA exhibition, and very happy to have the ‘time off’ I’m quite enjoying this final stage. I don’t think I’ve had this much time off in summer since I was 14 years old, so I’m going to make sure this happens with much self-care as well as study. I’m also going to be enjoying taking more photographs, joining up with a few like-minded ‘togs for some photo walks, and may treat myself to a new lens or two!
I am, as ever, passionate about living well and ensuring that we have great photographs to keep along-side our memories, this is what our loved ones will cherish, I know I do.
On reflecting my research which I have really enjoyed doing and so passionate about someone said to me recently ‘Nikki you won’t get time like this again, so make the most of it’, and I plan to do just that.
Thanks to one of my visitors for this photograph: