The Joyful Art of Grieving

Joy? Grief? Huh? How do these fit together?

Let’s look at Hiromi Tango’s work.

Hiromi Tango

Nature/Nurture (Green) 2015
Hiromi Tango
neon and mixed media

This wondrous, brave artist threads together

loss, wool and plastic

to create vivid sculptural installations.

Her current Sydney exhibition, Fluorescence, encapsulates Tango’s grief for her

father’s decline.

And yet, her art made from a place of sorrow appears joyful.

Hiromi Tango art

Where is my father’s crazy heart?
Hiromi Tango 2015
perspex and mixed media

An excerpt from her artist statement:

I grieve over how brain deterioration in my own father has resulted in a profound loss of cognitive and physical function. Now I am seeking new ways of using fluorescence to try to bring him comfort, and perhaps even spark joy in the dimly lit places where he seems to have retreated.


As I work through a multitude of unprocessed emotions around the loss of the relationship with the father I knew, and my changing role in trying to create comfort for him, Fluorescence has become a metaphorical search for the heart and brain. I am hoping that Fluorescence will help me to illuminate what I have lost, to begin the journey of articulating those things I cannot yet see.

– Hiromi Tango, 2015


Hiromi Tango art

detail from ‘Lost Memory (Tears)’ 2015
Hiromi Tango
neon and mixed media

Here’s the link to Hiromi Tango’s exhibition, which is open for another week.

Fluorescence at Sullivan + Strumpf

and the link to her website.

Now I (Sally) wonder….if you are willing to step off the jetty of the known into the waters of authentic expression, might you too be surprised by the work that emerges?

Art-making is a terrific way to work with matters of the heart.
Of course I would say that. I love art therapy.

But truly. Grief and art are a perfect match.

Painting, sculpting, writing your feelings of bewilderment, despair, anger, or even numbness can be powerful and ultimately life-affirming. You let your feelings out onto the welcoming page or canvas. Something shifts, releases, clarifies. Through the process, your mood and the creation itself might transform into something vibrant.

Below is Grieving Pod. I created this around a year after my father’s death. It’s a place of delicate, tender holding of real live human sadness.


Grieving Pod one of many painted responses to sorrow and loss. This one is made of paint, calico, embroidery thread and beads. Sally Swain © original art

Grieving Pod
one of many expressive responses to sorrow and loss.
It’s made of paint, calico, embroidery thread and beads. And tears. Plenty of tears of the salty kind.
Sally Swain © original art

Have YOU found yourself making art in response to grief and sorrow? Please tell. You are welcome to say a few words in the Reply box below
or the Speech Balloon above…


To share or not to share?

This blog prompted an Art and Soulie to tell me her negative experience sharing her grief-induced art with another.

What I’d like to say to you right here right now is this:

See if you can bring careful awareness to the matter of who you share your work with. Art made from your inner depths can be raw, vulnerable.
One approach is to treat the creation as if it is a living entity. Ask THE PICTURE what it feels comfortable with.

Actually, hmm, this whole private/public thing is a Big Topic…amongst artists, art therapists, creators of many stripes. A blog for another day?



8 thoughts on “The Joyful Art of Grieving

  1. Beautiful work. Thank you so much for sharing. I particularly resonate with “Lost Memory”. I love the way the tears draw one in to see what lies in the depths. Brought tears to my eyes, remembering my dad. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a beautiful way to express this, Patricia. ‘the way the tears draw one in to see what lies in the depths’. Ah. Sorrow. Ah. Art. Important to let it flow and BE, don’t you think?


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