Dementia - a personal view using art.

Dementia and Doreen.

I am sitting, looking at a picture of Doreen.

It is an abstract painting,
acrylic on canvas
and represents how
I see Doreen at the moment.
It reflects her state of confusion,
of being lost.

Doreen has advanced dementia.

I produced a quick pencil sketch of Doreen when she was in her special chair,
a wonderful,
padded chair,
her head was laid back,
her hair had become untied and it was resting on her shoulders.
Around her neck I had placed a small
knitted blanket that friends had made for her.
It is made from some multi-coloured yarn and is a great comfort for Doreen, 
it is warm, and tactile.

Heavenly thoughts of
Stained glass.
God's illumination.
Ecclesiastical Windows.
Fractured memories.
Spirits and meaning lost.

The picture, which has been painted as an abstract, has taken me back to when I was a young school student. I remember producing some abstract paintings of peoples' faces, I had used angular forms to build up the faces, creating facets, envelopes, looking at the essential contours and reflecting them as flat planes.

So, here we are 50 plus years later.

In the past, I had produced conventional pictures of Doreen, watercolour, pencil etc but until now not tried to do an abstract painting,
so this way of working has been a trip for me,
going way back into my past, my memory,
it seems appropriate now,
to revisit that style for
producing this representation
of my angel

The finished picture needs to be explained.

Doreen is shown lying back, an element of perspective emphasizes her down-turned mouth. Her mouth is open, a large area of blackness,
a repeating darkness.
The faceted face is asymmetrical yet balanced.
Her head is tilted slightly,
indicating that her lack of equilibrium.

The face is faceted the eyes open,
yet unseeing,
her hair falls onto tilted shoulders with another perspective element emphasising a slight diminution to the left hand side.
There is something about the hair.
It looks a little like... wings,
a wing either side of her head.

The Left hand wing is damaged,
again a metaphor,
yet also there is a finality about this,
the damaged wing ultimately dooming the ability to fly,
to struggle to survive,
to sleep

Stepping back you can see the wings provoke a suggestion of an angel.
An angel flying away,
flying higher,
though the damaged wing may mean
that it cannot climb quickly,
it needs to struggle to get away.

To fight to keep alive.

To the left of the head there is a linear conjunction of shapes making a line which touches and enters the upper forehead, here it stops, though there is evidence of continuity past the head to the right hand side.

The head has been hit, it has been damaged?

A compounded bar has hit the head,
and caused damage to the brain.

Below this bar, either side of the head
larger shapes represent partial recall,
memories of people who may be
 recognised as familiar,

though not necessarily recognisable.
Something about them is familiar,
but what?

Now, some time after the painting,
even these memories seem to have gone.
She sleeps more,
Talks less,

"You have a wobegone face"
as nuerons line up
and she fights
for expression.

Tha carer asks me
what does 'wobegone' mean,
I just say
through oncoming tears that
"You have a sad face"

Is the flesh coloured triangle on the right hand side me,
the husband for over
40 years.
40 years of memories
and joy
and love
and support

Doreen certainly
and urgently
calls my name,
John, John....
to make some kind of sense
in this blackness
of confusion
and loss
for comforting her
or for reassurance?

Above the 'bar' we see smaller triangular shapes, smaller memories, some are family members, parents are seen as touching triangles, sisters and others are adrift, beloved yet distant now, memories of our dogs. But they are fading, they are in focus and organised but the next second the are discordant and confused. Some of the triangles lie adjacent to ones of a similar colour making it difficult at first glance to identify where one stops and the other starts.

Dark shapes,
black holes?
Memory voids?

Occasionally there are flashes of much more distant memories, of people, of words, mountains and lakes.

The images, mainly triangular, can be seen as delta shapes,
symbols of change,
of her,
representing her change,
her deterioration and ultimately her ending.
Standing back again some of these delta shapes
 combine to produce arrow heads flying away,
taking away,
memories away.

The shapes coalesce and some form slip planes,
areas of structural failure,
of memory weaknesses.
Memories become darker
and are disappearing
off the edge of
the picture.

Below the head Doreen is enshrouded by her comforter.

She is wearing her striped top which can be seen below her head.

The whole picture is made up of colours found in the face. The person and the surrounding memories are thus linked,
are shared
are one.


Shattered memories



Stained thoughts

Leaving reality

These are some ideas for the title of the cubist picture of Doreen.
This took some time to do, and proved very painful and difficult to finish.

I still seek a suitable title.

To leave it there would be too horrid and I wanted to do another painting.
Essentially the same message but it would be more conventional,
less "hard" hitting.
With this in mind here is a picture of a walk home,
from the town centre,
which we often did
marvelling at the
season's changes
of new beginnings
and which
at this autumnal
seemed appropriate.

Here we see Doreen walking through the light,
the bright light of life,
dark shadows are passed over,
it is not time yet.

The perspective of the picture encourages the subliminal notion of walking to the light.
But also towards the blackness below the light,
 both so close together.
The autumn colours also indicate a seasonal change possibly the end of one life cycle.
The picture shows the back of Doreen, we cannot see her face.
She is distant,
disappearing from view
soon to be gone.

To finish the three pictures here is a conventional portrait.
It illustrates the vitality and intelligence of Doreen.
Her caring and generous nature,
her kindness.
This is how I remember her.
Her dementia started 9 years ago and I have managed until this time,
to care for Doreen,
the last year being particularly difficult.
Doreen is still at home.

John Geekie
Doreen died on March12th 2018 about two months after I completed the abstract painting.

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