A little over 10 months ago, just 3 days before Christmas in fact, my brother-in-law was killed in a tragic road traffic accident. It was a tragedy whose catastrophic effects were augmented by the life-changing effect on his three little boys – 2 year old twins and a 4 year old – who in that sudden cataclysmic moment of disaster lost a father, and by the deep heartbreak of his wife, my sister, who lost her husband after only 8 years of marriage. They say that time is a healer – although there are some things which time can never truly mend. It’s as though time acts as a sticking plaster or band aid, only for its thin protection to be unceremoniously ripped away at certain instances of remembrance, one such being the inquest into his death, which we, as his closest family, attended two weeks ago.
I don’t intend to talk about the inquest – it’s details are too sad for sharing; too grave for the lighter side of the blogosphere in which I like to roam. Yet what I did want to share with you is a painting I made, in immediate response to the hearing, a work which for me sums up the sadness of this death. There may be some who believe that to paint a vision of tragedy somehow lessens or trivialises its impact, but I, like many others, would disagree. For just as some of the world’s most famous paintings have been created in a direct response to, and as catharsis for some of history’s worst obscenities (take for example Picasso’s Guernica, or Goya’s 3rd May 1808), so the process of painting has helped me to respond to the horrors of this family loss, in the same way that painting also enabled me to work through the after-effects of my very serious accident 5 years ago.
The painting I am sharing today, Return Journey, is a simple but poignant image, and one which I could not get out of my head once it had formed in response to the testimony of one of the witnesses at my brother-in-law’s inquest. She described how she and the passengers in her car had seen my brother-in-law out on the roadside, alive, but in great peril and, worried for his safety, had taken the first turning round a roundabout, driven back up the opposite carriageway, and then retraced the route where they had first seen him alive. But on their return journey, they could see him no longer – all that visibly remained of my brother-in-law was a single shoe lying in the middle of the carriageway. He was no longer to be found. What we now know is that in the short time between seeing him alive and returning to the scene, he had been struck by a car, and killed.
It’s for that reason that I could not get the image of that lone shoe out of my head, and in creating this work, I felt some sense of catharsis in reaction to that dreadful, but necessary inquest. It’s an image imbued with the heavy shadow of tragedy, but a painting of which I am proud as an artist, and as a family member, in dedication to my brother-in-law’s memory.
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