My Journey From Grief to Art

natalia millman my journey from grief to art

Two years ago my dad passed away from dementia. It was both sudden and continuous. Dementia crept onto him slowly, peeling off his personality. First taking away his rationality and memory, then completely robbing him of his physicality and speech. It was a painfully long and exhausting process especially for my mum who was his primary carer. The feelings of guilt and fear of the inevitable end were overwhelming. After he passed away, life stopped moving forward and ended up in a spiraling mess of emotions.

At that time my artistic process focused on tranquil abstract landscaped of still waters and grand mountains. Then almost immediately I could not paint a single vibrant image. My colour palette turned to grey and black and sleepless nights brought many new ideas. They were visions of my dad’s final days, how he must have tried to make sense of the world through confusion and realisation of the inevitable end. I started researching mortality and universal energy, the afterlife, and memory loss. I was appalled how in Ukraine, where I am from originally, old age is a nuisance, something unimportant. Dementia is a stigma. No one understands it and blames it on old age reassuring that at 83 life is outlived and one should not complain. The role of care is overlooked and unsupported.

Tender Stroke by Natalia Millman
Tender Stroke by Natalia Millman

My art was empowered by this sadness. I wanted to share my family’s story about this tragic disease. I now aim to raise awareness and support organisations that assist the elderly affected by this disease and my work will culminate in my solo show VANISHING POINT 6-10 October 2021 in the atmospheric Crypt Gallery, London.

My abstract paintings made of mixed media comment on physical decay and the connection with nature while my wire, ash, and fabric installation focus on the fear of mortality. I incorporate hair and shapes of body parts to draw attention to the beauty of the aging body and use video and photography to dwell on the importance of human connection in times of loss and the process of filtering memories.

Most of my work is constructed from material found on building sites. Walking through ruble is meditative and exciting because I never know what I find.  When I am drawn to a particular object, I want to own it. I wonder what life it had before ending at the dump and how I can modify its function to give it a new meaning in my work. What I find resonates with the feeling of care and support for disappearing and unwanted, those old people who are lonely and segregated from society.

Inevitable by Natalia Millman
Inevitable by Natalia Millman

If you would like to learn more about my creative process and my new body of work highlighting the impact of dementia visit my solo exhibition “VANISHING POINT” at the Crypt Gallery, London 6-10 October 2021.

Please email or call 07702945751.

More information on