January 13, 2020

Death – what happened to the personal touch?

Eve Eunson, 39

This piece captures, candidly, the coming together of one small island to perform the practicalities of burial; the men dig the grave by hand, sharing a dram and a quiet moment of reflection, along with the physical work. Through the act of painting, I explored my own emotions and beliefs about the conventions and taboos that surround death. Poignantly, my return to Fair Isle, 25 years after my Dad died, coincided with another passing. A cold, bright Spring day drew me outside to paint between showers. The kirkyard was central to my view and, as I painted, men began to gather to dig the grave. Pushing aside questions of voyeurism, I used my unexpected vantage-point to consider how this personal touch is becoming unique. Typically, in the UK, we are removed from the practicalities of death and dying. Deaths are in hospital, not at home among loved ones; crematoriums provide a one-in, one-out conveyor belt system; and Council gravediggers hover at funerals, ready with a mini-digger to finish the dirty work. This separation from the practicalities of death does nothing to demystify the process or calm the fears and anxieties that surround what is a very natural part of life.

All the men gathered to dig - Fair Isle Kirkyard, 2018Household paint on boardApprox. 30x35 inch