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Death: Through The Eyes Of An Artist And Palliative Care Worker


Death: Through The Eyes Of An Artist And Palliative Care Worker

Rachel Darling

It is a sombre thought, and in truth, not one that anyone really likes to think about, but death is a part of all our lives. Even before we meet our own, we usually have to endure the grief of losing someone close to us at the hand of death. It is something that affects all of us, no matter what walk of life we are on. So, why is it that we are often uncomfortable when it comes to talking about it? Margaret Ambridge’s exhibition 'Til Death is a reflection of the process of dying and opens up the otherwise hushed conversation surrounding death.

margaret ambridge adelaide artist

With a background in Palliative Care, Ambridge has come into contact with death on both a professional and emotional level. She uses flowers to symbolise the process of dying and how this reflects in our everyday lives.

‘I was asked to assess a patient a few years ago. When I went into the bay I was surprised to see a ‘florist shop’. There were so many flowers and visitors around this beautiful looking lady. When all the visitors had gone she asked me if some of the dead flowers could be taken away. In the process I found a bunch of bud roses which had never seen water. And although they were quite shrivelled they were still beautiful. We both remarked on their beauty and I asked if she would mind if I took them home to draw instead of throwing them in the bin. She thought that was a lovely idea. When I returned to work to see her, I was saddened to she was dying and alone. Everyone had left, and I still had her flowers. I have never forgotten her...’

margaret ambridge adelaide artist

Ambridge says she saw the flowers as a visual, potent symbol of the process of dying, and the flowers as our life companions. ‘The exhibition started from there,’ she says. Her latest exhibition, ‘Til Death explores the process of dying and the effect it has on the people who work in palliative care.

'Palliative care is a very special and private world,’ says Ambridge, ‘health professionals are deeply affected by what they do and there is often little opportunity to show or discuss it with the community.’ Ambridge says she hopes to provide the public with a window into the world of palliative care, and additionally, to provide a space for other health practitioners to discuss their experiences.

Ambridge originally studied at The Adelaide Central School Of Art, but says she took a long break from art following the death of her parents and the arrival of two children. She picked up her passion again a couple of years ago and now works in a shared studio with her partner’s grand piano. ‘The piano is covered by an old rug, protecting it from charcoal dust,’ she says, ‘unfortunately the cats aren’t so lucky!’ Ambridge works mainly in charcoal, but also has some pigment ink on silk pieces featuring in the ‘Til Death exhibition.

margaret ambridge adelaide artist

'Til Death opened on the 3rd September and will be held at the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery until the 13th September. Ambridge will be in the gallery 3pm-7pm this Thursday 7th September to chat openly about her works.

For more information and examples of her work, visit her website, Facebook or Instagram, @margaretambridgeart.

Exhibition details:

3rd – 13th September 2017

Kerry Packer Civic Gallery

Level 3, Hawke Building

University of South Australia