‘Facing Dementia in Lockdown.’ ‘Colourful changes.’ ‘Fragmented’. ‘The Royal Exchange through Lockdown’ by Suzanne Gibbs

Portrait in oil on canvas of my 84 year old Mum, facing dementia, alone, during lockdown.

Oil painting of Colourful changes as mum finds comfort in phone calls from loved ones to brighten and colour her day with memories.

Oil on canvas portrait to convey fragmented conversations and moments of frustration and confusion.

The Royal Exchange through lockdown

As a child, one of 4, with an unconventional single mum, my childhood was at best, colourful. Growing up in London, homeless, gave me an alternative view of life in the City. It’s my memories of this, which contribute to identifying London as a lonely place, where lack of a comfortable home or feeling of belonging, creates its own identity. Looking through windows into strangers’ homes, I used to dream and imagine being part of that comfortable environment.
London’s magnificent buildings have and always will be admired by most of us, from afar, as Monuments of affluence and prosperity. Obscured by the relentless hustle and bustle of city life. However, the 2020 Lockdown, gave us opportunities to really see the beauty of so many things and particularly, London’s architecture, free from the obstructive crowds and monotonous traffic. I was finally able to capture these unprecedented moments and with a new viewpoint, reverse my perspective, by looking out of the window.
As an artist, I felt compelled to create the following works to help process my own anxiety and state of mind. This creative release also gives me the opportunity to explore and share the awareness of mental illness and in particular, the experience of my mum, facing dementia.

In the portrait, ‘ Colourful Changes’, I focused on her colourful life of independence and how I know it is slowly changing and will completely vanish as the dementia takes over. The realistic and vivid colours of her face, symbolise the reality and horror of a future with dementia, juxtaposed with the fantasy world of childlike colour that she escapes to. It was painted during the conversations I had with my mum over the phone, unable to see her during lockdown. I later painted Fragmented as sometimes she would struggle with communication and express her frustrations as words would not only vanish from her mind, but sentences and conversations became fragmented, followed by confusion and frustration. Our mental state may temporarily be in tatters and cause us overwhelming distress, but nothing like dementia that takes away identity and destroys the mind, uncontrollably and permanently.


Posted in C19

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