LG original Jo Tedds recently collaborated with illustrator Olina Divisova, creating an original piece of poetry and illustration for display at the Art Macabre: Dying Matters Awareness Week exhibition.
The private view of Dying Matters, was so busy that the quirky gallery space was both intimate and uncomfortable, forcing the living to push up against each other to get a good look at death. The exhibition, curated for the Round Chapel Gallery by Nikki Shaill of Art Macabre, was a wonderfully illustrious affair and had one thinking that perhaps heaven is a corridor of exquisite shrines and portraits of death, a life-drawing salon, a sweet buffet, a bar and lots of friends.
In a beautiful sequence of synchronicity that sometimes follows or portends a death, I found myself with penned poem, willing illustrator, typesetter, printer, and gallery to exhibit all at once. The poem itself - a class exercise taken too seriously. The collaboration - born days later in Berlin. The call for submission - spotted in a post from the geniuses behind the delectable Art Macabre Drawing Salons just moments after sharing the post on Facebook.
I've been a fan of the collective for some time. Their tribe, a nice bunch of weirdo's and normal's are some of the friendliest I've met. Their drawing salons are relaxed but spectacularly composed. With mime artist duos, roller derby athletes, circus clowns, yoga practitioners and Morris dancers amongst the several hundred models, the events promise to be original.
When I made the bold move to submit, it was just before my talented friend and artist Olina Divisova said she would like some words to inspire her watercolours. Divisova, a sculptor and successful ceramicist selling online worldwide and in shops on the continent, lifted inspiration from the poem and death itself. Her work is beautifully dark and challenges what we know about death and the beauty in sadness.
At the private view, I found myself talking about the loss that hangs heavy around me. Confronting people who had also sailed in paper boats on rough seas and I remembered something once told to me by a bereavement midwife. There are villages in Africa who open the doors to their homes when they are grieving, word gets around and people join them; not to grieve their personal loss, but the universal experience of death, recognising that loss is different to everyone but death is always the same.
It was refreshing to be in space where morbid chat was expected, to be in a place where you didn't feel guilty for bringing death into the room, where we can honour and celebrate our defeats and our own survival - because nothing makes you think of your own mortality more than losing a loved one. Seeing death, changes how you live. We all respond differently to it. A friend found themselves incredibly horny when their mother passed. I accepted it but noted it strange until we attended Vouz ee Renees a beautiful literary café in Whitechapel, who hosted a Death cafe for people who craved sex after being bereft.
Death Cafes sound more eerie than they are. Really it is a gathering of strangers that talk openly like one might at therapy but without the stigma or the hefty £60 an hour charge. Cordelia Cembrovicz (another talented artist friend who in her most recent project created monuments for people who have lost relatives to suicide), had only told me about the Death Café's that week.
Coming to terms with death, you brace yourself and the waves of grief roll in gently, you relax your guard and they slap you in the face or drag you down. We all have to find our own way. Death cafes or even morbid sexual encounters aren't everyone's thing. For me, art - both drawing and writing have been invaluable. Not only creating space in my head but helping me map my progress, showing me where I am when I can't work it out.
It is possible to get close to death without experiencing it first hand, as exhibition's like Dying Matters prove and whether it is curiosity, catharsis, remembering, or shock that takes you to read some gently morbid poetry or a trip to a Death Drawing salon; one thing is for certain - learning to live with loss is a journey, one that many have made before. You have to engage with grief to change it and remember, that it never goes away.
Jo.Click here to visit the Art Macabre Drawing Salons site.Click here to see more of Jo's work.FRESH DEATH
When the faint heart stops...
When last breath leaves...
We turn our eyes too soon,
Not wanting to know whether scavengers
Or an angel will take them.
The knowing could kill us,
So we bury the dead,
Float them out to sea,
Set them on fire,
Surrender them to save them.
But before the knife drops,
The storm breaks,
The boat collapses...
There is a flash of silver,
A crash of wave,
Perfect - held in stillness.
Decay is ugly,
But fresh death is sublime.
Catching life on the edge,
We can see the before as flawless.
On the fringes,
Lines bleed, colours run.
Tail and foot become tissue and salt,
The beauty of the shock is surreal.
Though the snapshots fade, from memory,
The swells tighten around the empty,
We revisit them easily, if we want,
Conjure them in feelings and fictions,
Cast our eye inwards to find them,
Awake under a bright green sun.