Life Embraced - an expressive art exhibition by those affected by terminal illness

Marie Curie and Royal Academy Schools are collaborating on an insightful exhibition, highlighting the use of art therapy for those affected by terminal illness. Life Embraced, a free exhibition running from Tuesday 15 until Friday 18 July, is bringing an important form of self-expression into the frame.  

Daffodils by Sarah Ezekiel
Daffodils by Sarah Ezekiel

Artwork from Marie Curie Nurses, volunteers, carers and patients is being displayed free at the Royal Academy, Burlington Gardens, bringing to life how cathartic creativity can be at difficult times in a person’s life.

The value of art therapy

So often we hear about the clinical side of care and the extremely important work our nurses and medical professionals do on a daily basis. By showing this very personal artwork, the collaboration hopes to promote conversation about the vitality of art as exploration and transformation at challenging moments. It also endeavors to highlight the value of art therapy in conjunction with other services Marie Curie offers to both those with all terminal illness and their families. Some works were produced in art therapy sessions and all provide an insight into the role art plays for those affected by terminal illness. Curated by Eliza Bonham Carter, Curator of the Royal Academy Schools, artworks include pieces by patients from Marie Curie hospices in Bradford and Hampstead. “Art can help people who are seriously ill discover a new lease of life by using their bodies creatively and finding new ways to communicate,” says Michele Wood, Art Therapist at the Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead. “The title of the exhibition says it all. It’s about embracing life and feeling embraced by the compassion and care we offer here. The idea for the name came from a sculpture by the wife of a patient, which is about holding someone and being held.”

Dawne Solomons (1946-2008)

Large Strokes by Dawne Solomons
Large Strokes by Dawne Solomons

Amongst others, works by Dawne Solomons will feature. She documented her experiences of art therapy at Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead in a book called An Art Therapy Journey. “I have been in art therapy during three courses of chemotherapy, and I can see the progression, the journey if you like, starting with pain, then the struggle, the despair when it returned and I needed more chemotherapy, always the worry that it might return. I have been able to release my feelings with the drawings, never knowing what would appear on the paper, but after each sketch, with my therapist’s help, able to discern some hidden feeling, or discuss some real issue that often would only become apparent after the drawing was finished. Art therapy isn’t about being able to draw.” Her description of how art therapy increased her self-awareness and enabled her to recognise difficult emotions reflects how many people feel about art therapy.

Digital art enables self-expression

The exhibition will also raise awareness of the issues terminally ill people face. Artworks include digital pieces from patients who are unable to use their hands, introducing a new medium and means of self-expression. Artist Sarah Ezekiel, who has motor neurone disease, is a patient at the Hampstead Hospice. She creates her work digitally, on a Tobii eyegaze computer, using her eyes to paint. “When I lost the use of my hands I thought that I would never create again,” says Sarah. “I still can't believe that I can paint with my eyes and I'm looking forward to bringing eyegaze art to The Royal Academy. I love my hospice and feel very honoured to be included in this Marie Curie exhibition.” The exhibition is open to the public from Tuesday 15 to Friday 18 July. By appointment only. Email to book your place. Opening times: 16 and 18 July Morning 10am - 1pm 15 and 17 July Afternoon 1pm - 4pm Location: Royal Academy Schools, Burlington Gardens. Nearest tubes: Green Park, Piccadilly Circus.

Art Gallery

A selection of images which will be exhibited at Life Embraced.