The Art of Death, 'Mourner's Room' 2019

Organised by The Metropolitan Club, female artists each took over a room of Highwic House in Newmarket. Installations were created with themes relevant to each artist. The Mourner's Room was inspired by Victorian mourning practices, celebrating the grim sentimentality of the era.

The Mourner’s Room,

“Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence.”

-Nick Cave

 

I used to visit places such as these and feel dizzy upon entering. Sensitive to moods and atmospheres, I was overcome as though a fog full of the past set itself upon me. I would be a combination of curiosity and apprehension, as though I was entering someone else’s space who might walk in at any moment.

The atmosphere itself is a powerful device, particularly in contrast to the pristine white walls of a gallery space. There was little to do other than enhance what already exists there by creating a conceptual room where the past and present intermingle and become one.

Much of the Victorian way of life was marked by sentimentality and romanticism. Miniature Lover’s Eye paintings were commonly used as tools of remembrance, generally taking the form of lockets or trinkets to keep one’s lover close to the heart. Similarly, the propping up of passed loved ones for family portraiture was a common practice for those who did not get the opportunity to create a memento of the deceased through photography or painting, in life.

The slight space of The Boys Dormitory has turned into a cramped place of mourning. I considered what grief looks like through the lens of a Victorian woman. Perhaps burnt out candles, dried flowers, an unmade bed, a blackened mirror, the untidiness that comes with sorrow?