All alone in a crowded room is a solo exhibition by Ant Carver. It contains a series of works all influenced by the artists own experience of loss. It’s a topic that he has been exploring for the past three years as a means of dealing with his own grief following the sad passing of a friend.
It’s that sense of loss which permeates the exhibition. One powerful painting shows the simple image of a chair. Smaller than many of the others it has a wall to itself. A painting dedicated to the memory of Oli Hilsdon. The artists best friend he died in 2019 after being diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour aged just 26.
Response to Grief
Ant Carver’s response to the passing of his friend first revealed itself in a mural on Hanbury Street in East London. Known already for his work as a street artist, the mural showed a different side to his practice. More subtle, with layers of emotion and meaning. The technique too presented a distinct change from previous works. Choosing to paint the whole wall with only paintbrushes. It took weeks to complete. It would be the start of a series of street works created on the subject across a variety of locations.
Reflections of Loss
All Alone in a Crowded Room is the culmination of this work. Ant Carver has created a powerful series of paintings each of which prompt the viewer to place their own meaning upon them. Everyone of the images being able to generate a conversation as visitors might make there way through the multiple rooms.
Dotted around are written reflections of loss and how people might define it. Carver’s own thoughts too are revealed. He explains how he first felt his grief to be on pause. How he struggled to deal with the loss of someone from outside the family, the first time that he had to manage this emotion.
Ant describes the day of the funeral as being devastating. “Simultaneously objectively as lovely as a funeral can be; tailored to my friend in every way, with some truly emotive eulogies, inspired music choices and an incredible outpouring of love. But I couldn’t help shake the feeling that today, and only today, was my day to grieve”.
He describes how then “just like that, it was over”. People going their separate ways and continuing to experience their personal grief. Feeling like more time was needed to share and support. Wanting to be there for longer to be with friends and family who were still hurting. “But I couldn’t be and that still hurts me”.
Ultimately how we grieve and and how we respond to loss is tied up in our culture and shared rituals. There is “no one true way to grieve” says Ant. Reflecting that there can be no judgement on how we mourn. Noting that you don’t need to be physically there for someone to show you care. Recognising that loss is something that everyone experiences but “how it is experienced is unique to us”. The only universal thing we can agree on says Ant is that it “fucking sucks”.
It’s impossible not to think of Oli and the impact that his life had and continues to have when visiting the exhibition. The images inspired by him tell their own story but they are not unique to Ant’s experience alone. In many ways they allow anyone viewing to project their own experiences onto them. Each person no doubt having a different reaction. Each artwork allowing for a different story to be told or to be remembered.
All Alone in a Crowded Room is an exhibition by Ant Carver. It is showing at the Copeland Gallery in Peckham from 8-11 September 2022. Inspiring City visited the exhibition on the opening evening on 7 September 2022. The Oli Hilsdon foundation funds brain tumour research and can be found here.