We have all dealt with loss, in some form or other and this series of paintings all deal with a very personal loss, first of my mother, Patricia Anne Cole in 2016 and then my father, Barry John Cole, less than a year later in 2017. As with everyone else, my parents were probably the single most important factor in me becoming the person who I am today. For a long time after their loss, and even with the passing of time, finding the words to express the feelings after they died felt, and still feels, next to impossible. The paintings all try to express this sense of loss, albeit in slightly differing ways. Some of the paintings were fundamentally cathartic, an attempt at trying to capture and work through the sense of unreality I felt, the sense of something fundamental gone from my life and the world not being the same as it was before.
The three paintings below were attempts at coming to terms with my feelings in the months immediately after my mother died. ‘A Block of Muted Sensation’ was an attempt to express the numbness I felt in the immediate aftermath – the sensation of nothing being quite real, a world where colour and life seemed to only break through in small amounts and quite randomly at that. ‘Your Ghost’ was inspired by the Kristin Hersh song of the same name, and relates to the idea of being haunted by the dead, by the patterns and traces they leave in our minds and dreams. ‘For Everything That Was Lost’ was my attempt at capturing my feelings less than a month after my mother had died, and is also linked to a song by Korean post-rock group Jambinai.
‘A Mourning Air’ was created from a similar impulse in the months after my father died. The flashes of colour are there but so is the darkness and discomfort. The sacking and dark colour relate to the idea of sackcloth and ashes, of intense mourning. Likewise the small sculpture titled ‘Last Call’
Others of the paintings are also meant to function as a monument and memorial for my parents. ‘In the Company of Ghosts’ was painted not long after my mother died and, in a sense, is a cenotaph – a memorial for someone who died far away. ‘In a Silent Place’ has a similar impulse, although mixed with the same sackcloth and ashes idea previously mentioned, as well as hinting at a way I started to cope – the law of conservation of energy, which states that energy can never be destroyed, only changed in form.
This idea, this taking comfort from science was expressed in the following painting, ‘Between the Tides’. I’m an atheist, so rather than turning to religion for comfort, I turned to things that mattered to me and my family: art and science. My father was a scientist, so thinking about him in the months after his death led me to thinking about science and the conversations we’d had about it. This painting is meant to be a quite literal visualisation of the conservation of energy: the yellow shapes may break down into chaos, but, by the ‘end’ of the painting, they have reformed into something else.
There is the idea that art lives on long after we're gone, and that's what I wanted to do - create a legacy for them, in the only way I know how, so that some of who they were, what they did and what they meant to me will live on and never be forgotten.