Artists show how palliative care really is more than you think!

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Artists show how palliative care really is more than you think!

PCA Art Competition winning entry “Just One More Chocolate Éclair”, by Eve Jeffery.

Each year, Palliative Care Australia (PCA) opens the doors to its digital gallery, welcoming artists from across the country to participate in the annual art competition. Now in its fifth year, this competition aims to raise awareness in the community about palliative care, end-of-life care, death and bereavement.

This year’s theme “Palliative Care… It’s more than you think!” aimed to challenge common misconceptions about palliative care. Artists were encouraged to think beyond the care provided at the very end of life. They were instead asked to focus on how palliative care can improve quality of life, helping people participate in activities that are important to them, and creating opportunities for love, laughter, creativity, and fulfilment.

A powerful tool to engage

Speaking of the competition, PCA CEO Rohan Greenland remarked: “The art competition continues to be a powerful tool to engage with and to encourage Australians to begin thinking about death, dying and end of life issues.”

“We know that many people find it difficult to discuss these topics, but competitions like this provide people with a freedom to express themselves, and a space to process their feelings about difficult subjects, in ways they are most comfortable with,” Mr Greenland said.

An incredibly heartening experience

You need only look as far as the 288 inspiring entries from this year’s competition for proof of just how powerful and personal art can be. Competition judge Hanna Hoyne expressed how honoured she was to see the heartfelt responses and life experiences represented in this year’s entries.

“It was an incredibly levelling, humbling and heartening experience,” Ms Hoyne said.

Ms Hoyne, a renowned sculptor and performance artist herself, notes how immersion in any creative activity - be it painting, cooking, sculpting, gardening, building electronics or fixing a car - can be therapeutic for many people.

“That space, somewhere between problem solving, play and reflection, is where healing can take place,” said Ms Hoyne.

Celebrations of life

It appears artists from across the country agree, as participation in this year’s competition has been bigger than ever. Despite the unfamiliar subject matter for some artists, it was clear that most had taken the time to learn more about palliative care, resulting in some very thoughtful and vibrant interpretations of the theme “Palliative care… It’s more than you think.”

Competition judge Mike Sarah commented: “many of the pieces that spoke to me most clearly were not generally sad in essence. Rather they were celebrations of life and the way the powerful gift of palliative care can enable people to live their life to the fullest, right to the end of their journey.”

The overall winner of this year’s competition, “Just One More Chocolate Éclair” by Eve Jeffery, documents the story of palliative care patient Greg as he shared his final days with family, and enjoyed one last chocolaty treat.  Ms Jeffery, a photographer by trade and close friend of Greg, noted how much of a privilege it was to be with and document Greg and his family during his final days.

“I think a lot of what we see about death is what we see in movies and TV, but it's actually much more special than that… as unique as each person who flies away. We have a lot to learn about life from those who are leaving us” Ms Jeffery said.

Making the most of the time left

When asked about the winning entry, competition judge Mike Sarah noted how “this perfectly timed photograph of Greg partaking in one last simple but personal request, epitomises what palliative care is about – making the most of the time we have left, in a way we want, surrounded by our loved ones.”

Expanding on this, judges Behzad Alipour and Hanna Hoyne told of how the image simultaneously evoked emotions of joy and sadness. “It communicates a difficult topic naturally and genuinely, and beautifully highlights the significant impact of simple, joyful moments in life, especially for those in palliative care,” Mr Alipour said.

The art competition wrapped up at the end of October with the announcement of all five prize categories, but it will be back again in 2021 to build on the massive success of this year’s edition. All entries from the 2020 Art competition, including the prize winners, are available to view via the online gallery.