British artist's work is a matter of life and death

Thu Apr 2, 2009 1:30pm EDT
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By Natasha Elkington

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Dust to dust, ashes to paint -- a British artist is using people's cremated remains to make works of art that act as a lasting memory.

Former care worker, Val Thompson, 54, always wanted to make art a full-time career. She was enrolled in art college as a youngster, but ended up working in healthcare instead.

But her passion for art never left her.

Thompson said the idea of using people's ashes in paintings came to her after an unusual request from her brother, whose sister-in-law's husband had died of a heart attack.

"Most of his ashes went into their garden but there were some left. Anne (the sister-in-law) did not want to part with the rest of the ashes but did not know what to do with them," Thompson said.

So Thompson's brother suggested taking the remaining ashes to make a painting of their favorite scene: The beach.

"John loved holidays, so we put him in a beach scene because that's how Anne wanted to remember him -- on a beach," Thompson said.

She painted three pictures, one for Anne and one for her two sons "and really that was going to be it," Thompson said.   Continued...