Friday, 27 April 2012

Creativity and Grief

"Dost thou love life? 

Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff that life is made of."

 Benjamin Franklin.

"I am a child whose teacher is love" Rumi

As is part of  the cycle of life my mother died in  March. She lived a long and full life during which she  was dearly loved by her family and friends. Una  was known for  her warmth, charm, beauty , sense of mischief, intelligence , an infectious giggle and her sharp wit. Of Irish descent she had a Celtic poetic soul that always looked to see the beauty in the world around her. Una's  father died when she was only three so she and her brother were brought up by her mother with the help of an aunt in straightened circumstances.Then in contrast she became a colonial wife in West Africa and later enjoyed the honorary title of ' Lady' after my father's investiture as a Knight of the realm in the 1960s.

Over the last few years I was closely involved in my mother's  care as she lived nearby. She was troubled by bouts of depression and anxiety which caused her a lot of mental anguish and distress. Ours became a close relationship and I feel very blessed that there was the opportunity to get to know her so well through the good and even the less happy times.

Throughout this period creativity has been a central part of my existence  as a  means of  personal expression .Painting and reestablishing my self as an artist  after a long period of creative drought  has brought such a sense of meaning  and joy to life. This sustained creative output continued as my mother got older and frailer. She always took an interest in my work and enjoyed seeing its progression even though at times she did not fully understand what I was depicting in my characteristic  bright richly coloured abstract pieces! 

During her final illness I noticed that on one hand while all creative activity ceased equally on the other that I was observing colours. patterns and shapes with heightened awareness - mentally composing poems and  drafting ideas for  paintings.This duality continued after her death the poems were written though far too  personal to be shown to anyone and notes have been made for future projects.

Grief comes in waves sometimes it is all consuming and the simplest of tasks  can feel insurmountable and at others daily life continues easily and smoothly.The same applies to creativity there are days when ideas flow and I feel energized and productive while there are also times when the opposite happens so nothing seems to spark any creative thought. These fluxes are observed and I let the waves of emotion wash over. Strengthened  by my own deep seated personal spiritual beliefs  I know that this is all part of life's experience and the soul's journey.

Being creative has also helped during this period of transition to build momentum and regain a sense of inner joy. Soon after my mother's funeral I traveled to Italy to stay for a few days  with my daughter who is studying in Padua near Venice for a year.Walking around with my camera and taking countless photographs of the Italian sights  was  a welcome  diversion from the gamut of emotions - it led to feeling more centered and aware. Photography requires time to stop, to observe, to compose and to be present. I feel  excited when taking photographs engaging fully in the process which in turn  furthers a sense of aliveness. On returning from Italy  I have had a couple of one to one photographic workshops with a friend who is a professional photographer and her company 
 Look Again encourages people to explore looking at their world from a fresh perspective . These sessions not only help hone my  skills but also have deepened the ongoing renewed passion in photography .

I have inherited my mother's love of clothes, pattern colours and texture but her most enduring gift is that of rich appreciation of all the beauty to be in even the simplest of things. We as a family all remember her sitting in the front of the car exclaiming "oh look at the colour of those trees, isn't that sky beautiful or I  love  that bright yellow in the field over there ." and so on. This almost childlike delight in observing the world  brings a freshness and awareness  that transcends the mundane. With gratitude I increasing  find myself observing with the same enthusiasm of my mother - what a wonderful creative legacy to have!

The artist is a receptacle for the emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web" -
 Pablo Picasso

 To see more photographs from the trip to Italy look in the 
Padua, Venice & Verona  collection on Flickr and there are also selected photographs from the two Look Again sessions in my  Facebook Art Page