‘Dementia’ – exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery

Anna Dorrington’s solo show titled ‘Dementia’ explores her experience losing a husband to dementia. This exhibition is open to the public at the Serpentine Community Gallery until the 10th of September.

In Anna’s words :-

“This exhibition reflects a deeply personal experience. Anna Dorrington, a practicing artist based in Northern NSW, uses mixed media to describe, through visual means, the life of the carer of a partner, husband or wife with dementia. Anna is the wife who watches her loved one literally slip into the shadows, before disappearing all together. Much has been written about the life of a carer, but there are few visual representations.

Sadly, this exhibition will resonate with thousands of people across the world, as dementia knows no boundaries, respects no religion, favours no race or creed. Anna’s work reflects the changing moods that a carer experiences from love, compassion, through to anger, frustration, hopelessness and despair. Clearly reflected here, as the illness progresses, the person becomes less of himself, only a part of who he was. Gradually his partner also loses herself, as she takes on more and more of the caring role, until they realize she too have become someone else. She is a different person; she has become the carer of a person with dementia.

As the person with dementia literally fades away and becomes only a silhouette, the carer, the partner, the husband or wife, becomes larger and more prominent in the relationship. The caring role expands. The need to take on more and more responsibility increases. Planning and decisions become the role of the carer, no longer shared activities. Ultimately, the daily life of the carer is driven almost entirely by the disease.

Anna’s husband has a form of dementia called Pick’s Disease. Pick’s Disease progresses quickly from onset, and affects mostly younger adults. In Anna’s case, her husband was only 54 when he moved into residential aged care, having progressively lost most of his capacity and capability over the previous few years. Any of the couple’s plans for retirement, their dreams of travel to Canada, to the Snowy Mountains, to share in the development of grandchildren, to grow old together, have faded and now disappeared completely. The darkness of Anna’s work reflects the fact that this has happened feels almost unbelievable. It is hard to come to grips with, for Anna, her adult children, her extended family, and her close friends who all still love and deeply care about her husband. Everyone recognizes that, unbelievable as this is, this is no pleasant dream. It is more like a nightmare.

Anna’s husband, the successful organic farmer, the motorbike builder and rider, the baker, the gently spoken handyman, is gone. In his place is a man who needs reminders to wash, who wears a bib all day long, and who doesn’t know his own family. Caring questions from others about things have become a constant reminder of how things were.

Anna has created this exhibition as a way of finding peace with the disease, knowing it is futile to fight it, reconciling it has won, and accepting that living with it is the new norm. In building this exhibition, Anna reflects that, “As an artist I find great relief in expressing myself in tangible objects that will resonate with others. My aim through this work to is create a virtual community of those who care, to connect with unknown people. Their understanding and compassion will help me, and others in like situations, find peace.”

Exhibition is on show until the 10th of September 2018. The gallery is open Monday to Friday 10am till 4pm daily.

Can't get out
Can’t get out

Sorrow
Sorrow
The family grieves
The family grieves
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