Memento Mori

By Emma Roberts

Welcome to my thesis project, I appreciate your interest. I majored in Illustration at the Ontario Collage of Art and Design, so my final project was my illustration thesis. My final thesis is similar to any other academic thesis, except mine is obviously visual. I was tasked to create 10 illustrations all centred around the subject of my choosing.

The title of my thesis is Memento Mori, which is a Latin phrase meaning, "remember you must die". I first heard this phrase in one of my art history lectures when we were learning about renaissance art. Memento Mori art was largely popular in the renaissance and baroque periods. It is designed to remind the viewer of their own mortality by using subject matter such as skulls, hour glasses or clocks, dead animals and flowers.

Understandably this sounds like a rather grim topic, but I found this concept fascinating. Particularly some memento mori artworks that I found to be quite ironic, such as Van Gogh's Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette. There's a certain disregard to the seriousness of death, or maybe a nihilistic quality that inspired me.

It made me think of things in our every day lives that could be considered reminders of death. Particular events, things, or common phrases that suggest the inevitable oncoming of death, yet we actively ignore it. The message of these illustrations is not to suggest that life is meaningless because we're all going to die anyway. Instead I want to draw attention to how the idea of death creeps into our daily lives more than we think, and to take that as a reminder that life should be enjoyed while it lasts.