old woman sitting on chair and smiling
‘Who are you’ is a retrospective exhibit of Penny’s life. Credits: Kiranmmayie Suryanarayana

Breathe. Such a simple expression for our complete existence. I never really dealt with understanding it.

Until one day, when suddenly this phrase ceases to be simple anymore. Some things are meant to be granted and not to be grateful for.

I think I have lost sight of the last time I truly owned the notion of this blissful expression.
The pandemic and what followed felt exactly like this. I just graduated from art school at the age of 58, and little did I know that I was on borrowed time.

Maybe a circumstance, a voice in the head, or reliving every moment a thousand times. I don’t know.

The constant prick in the head to overthink every spec of life. Sometimes I just wonder, what if we were to have a clear cache like computers? I would click on it every day.

I was hospitalized for jaundice only to realize it was cancer that was tiring me down. It was my pancreas.

Statistics said only 10% of them get 5 years. I could have sulked through it, but instead took to art.

Art to most might seem like a part of life, but art is what gets me through the day. It gives me life.

I began painting abstract art about different aspects of my life. Some about my dark, distressing thoughts, others about good memories.

This piece of work explores the conscious and subconscious understanding of our bodies. Credits: Penelope Fiona Efstathiou

I feel like a sinking diver tied to a rock that has already reached the abyss. It seems impossible to thrive up or sink below.

I need a break or maybe a start over, whatever makes me let go of the rock.

I wish we could choose the days we want to be awake and the days we want to sleep it all away.

I believed I had a second chance at life after my first chemotherapy and surgery, but the cancer eventually caught up.

This time there has been a sense of acceptance from within. I know my time here is limited and so I want to make the most of it.

My younger self always wished to pursue art as a career, but given that I had responsibilities as a mother and wife, I got carried away in the hamster wheel.

My daughter persuaded me to pursue art in my fifties and I went on to get my fine art degree from Nottingham Trent University at age 58.

I graduated in June 2021, and in August I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Sometimes I wonder if my younger self should have taken that step earlier, would things have turned out differently? But then, I would have missed running the kitchen as a head chef for more than three decades.

There is always something you will miss, but is it worth it?

I painted “Nails” during the first lockdown. I wanted to recall the real sense of fear that surrounded the pandemic. Credits: Penelope Fiona Efstathiou

‘Who are you’– is a retrospective for the city of Nottingham to look at the world through my eyes.

Penelope’s work is on display at the Nottingham Society of Artists from June 2 to June 7