The Art Of Impermanence - Cemeteries

I love cemeteries. The peace I feel when I walk through them is rejuvenating and artistically they provide so much inspiration, especially the Magnificent Seven. The age of these cemeteries provides a smorgasbord of monuments in varied levels of ruin to inspect and digest. They are places of condensed time, of life and death, endings and renewals, levellers of class, race and popularity. No matter what your wealth or social standing, with the passing of time, your monument will decay, you will be forgotten and returned to the elements and earth.


I found myself today in West Norwood Cemetery, one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries that ring London. Built to house its increasingly burgeoning dead from overcrowded parish burial grounds, they sit and bear witness to the passing of time. Nature invades their mausoleums, pigeons’ nest above lead lined coffins, the ground subsiding, disturbed by roots and rot plays host to bramble and moss. Spiders webs line the rusting rails around the Greek Necropolis, globes of glassy dew strung along them like pearls on threads of silk.


Surrounded by the interred remains of hundreds, thousands even, I felt utterly alive. That’s the thing about cemeteries, they are full of life. Squirrels leap from tree to tree scurrying across gravestone and grass, crows, parakeets, pigeons and all manner of fowl rest and nest and breed above the broken and weathered tombs. Cemeteries are monuments to impermanence, to change and the incessant movements of time, but they are also cradles of renewal, rebirth and the return of atoms to the earth. 

I completed the quick sketch and watercolour above upon returning home. Do you find cemeteries inspiring places of interest or do they fill you with dread and fear? Let me know below.

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1 Comment

  • Very interesting article, live the sketch, next time more photos please 😊

    Karen on

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