Mrs Harris’ Shop, Torrensville – February 2023

SOLACE is a collaborative project between award winning performance poet, Caroline Reid and visual artist, Donna Gordge. Over the course of 18 months, Reid and Gordge shared work and responded to each other’s creative practice in an exploration of grief, and the loss of a parent.

All photographs by Catherine Leo unless noted.

Artist’s Statement

The only story of bereavement anyone can tell is their own, and no one can guess how a death makes another person feel. When I learnt at 41 that my dad had a terminal illness and a year of life left, I wasn’t sure how to cope. I spent as much time with him as I could, but then he died exactly twelve months later and I found myself in a much deeper hole than I’d anticipated.

The loss of a parent is not what you think it will be; it’s unimaginable until you are in the midst of it. I didn’t realise so many things about myself until Dad died. I had no idea how much I relied on him to orientate myself in the world. It did not occur to me that his death would bring on an identity crisis.

Grief is a sneaky bugger. Nearly nine years later, you’d think I’d have a handle on this, but out of the blue I’ll have a dream about him, or need his insights into changing the blade on his old circular saw, or wish I could tell him something my son had said, or see his handwriting somewhere. And all of it comes back.

Working on this project with Caroline Reid has been expansive in so many ways.  Discussing, but also witnessing, her experience of loss has presented new ways of seeing my own. We exist in a grief-illiterate society – where words have failed me, luckily art has held its own.