Wall upon wall of blank faces are staring at me, staring past me and staring through me. Some of the paintings are so life-like that if I wasn’t surrounded by people also admiring the many artists’ portraits I’d probably be a bit twitchy. A room full of faces, staring at a room full of faces – interesting concept.
The BP Portrait Awards will always be a poignant one for me. With mixed emotions I set off this morning to admire the paintings in the London gallery. A few years back I went with my father to the same exhibition, it was my last happy memory with him and only one of a handful of happy memories I have with him.
At the time he was battling cancer, in hindsight he was in pain but he never said. He walked slowly and was out of breath. I’m thankful I was patient and kind or the demons within me would be growling now. We had a difficult relationship, which I’ve touched on before. Alcohol and mental health issues were prominent and to ask my dad to join me at this exhibition was a big deal, a huge step I’m now so happy I took.
We explored the many faces together, asked questions and had some of the most interesting discussions we’ve ever had. United in our love of art, I wish we’d focused on our shared interests more. You see hindsight is wonderful and I’m questioning why I’m writing this as it’s bringing up a lot of pain. I think it’s because I know so many people with difficult family relationships. It’s far easier to turn your back on them, especially when your relationship is so full of anguish. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do, but I would always question that. Test and see, don’t totally give-up on them. Now I treasure this happy memory, I wish I’d had the strength to have at least a few more in the bank. My dad obviously enjoyed this day too as he signed us both up for Art Fund cards – in the hope we could do this more often. We never did.
I only saw him a handful of painful times after this happy day and a few days before he died I received my Art fund card in the post – sent by him. He must have known he was about to die and wanted me to pursue our mutual love of art. This breaks my heart.
Grab those happy memories whilst you can, one day you may be grateful for them too.