On the weekend I met Emma: a buoyant and effervescent character with an infectious zest for life. We had a beautiful conversation all about Where Art & Grief Meet and she very much established herself as friend to the project, as well as to me.
Emma lives in the middle bit of England, where the landscape is lush and picturesque. With both parents being artists there was a tug for her to follow in their footsteps but as she finished school and considered her passions she opted for languages and has subsequently enjoyed a happy and satisfying corporate career which is continuing to this day.
Emma's foray into art-making began immediately following the death of her father. He died during Covid lockdowns, in hospital and alone. There is a great, haunting sorrow attached purely to that detail, although Emma is very philosophical about how her father would have viewed it, and therefore how she manages its reality.
Before he got sick Emma described her dad as a striking and athletic figure at six feet two, but in no way stereotypical, as his academic pursuits focussed on Fine Art, with a major in Decorative Embroidery! (I loved him the instant she described him thus.)
The loss of him happened in January 2021. These are her words:
On Christmas Eve of 2020, my Dad walked into hospital feeling poorly. 22 sleeps later he went to live in his sky home. I had bought him art materials for Christmas. He never got to open his pressies, because he never came home. He knew what they were though and he had said how much he was looking forward to ‘doing art’ when he was back. ‘Doing art’ - a funny term for someone with a 1st class honours degree from Goldsmiths College in the 60s, where he met my Mum. He was a brilliant artist, as is my Mum.
...I’ve been ‘doing art’ for you [Dad] and I’ve been ‘doing art’ for me. And my grief, and I think it has helped.
With a childhood full of sensitivity and art and with an entrenched awareness of nature's beauty and wonder, Emma "doing art" has become a new form of communication with someone deeply loved and now lost. It is also her means of honouring her dad's life and legacy. Importantly the rewarding byproduct is a realisation that the process she warmly and naturally embraces has brought out of her something visceral and necessary, hard to describe in words but apparent in her zealous approach to artmaking and to what she creates.
Emma's father's artwork adorns the walls of her home. She has found she engages with it in a different way, with altered perspective and understanding, now she is making art herself. This furthers and deepens her engagement with the her dad which is a joyous thing to recognise.
My feeling is that Emma will, as her adventure down this artistic road continues, make real, positive and unexpected connections with other artists and curious souls. In my experience the mere presence of creative activity begets a safe and welcoming environment, inviting people to share their stories and thus rub their souls together.
I want to thank Emma for becoming part of the Where Art & Grief Meet community and for being open and generous with her time and her tale. My eye is now fixed to her IG feed to see what she makes next.
You can find and follow Emma at @squirreluptheivytree on Instagram (that's a link).