This highly sensitive and beautifully written book looks closely at the way contemporary Western artists negotiate death, both as personal experience and in the wider community. Townsend discusses but moves beyond the 'spectacle of death' in work by artists such as Damien Hirst to see how mortality - in particular the experience of other people's death - brings us face to face with profound ethical and even political issues. He looks at personal responses to death in the work of artists as varied as Francis Bacon, Tracey Emin and Derek Jarman, whose film 'Blue' is discussed here in depth. Exploring the last body of work by the the Kentucky-based photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard, and Jewish American installation artist Shimon Attie's powerful memorial work for the community of Aberfan, Townsend considers death in light of the injunction to 'love they neighbour'.
Chris Townsend is Senior Lecturer in the Dept of Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of numerous books on modern and contemporary art including 'New Art from London' (Thames & Hudson) and, as editor, 'The Art of Rachel Whiteread' and 'The Art of Bill Viola'.