Learning To Breathe Differently

Chrisél Attewell | Stefan Blom | Ingrid Bolton | Marian Hester
Curated by Els van Mourik


in a time of not knowing.

Curatorial statement by Els van Mourik

“A studio is a sacred place that you come to to do some reflection and thinking”,

El Anatsui, Nigeria-based sculptor


Studios are often an escape from outside distractions and can be profoundly creative environments that foster experimentation, problem-solving and personal growth for artists and non-artists alike, a place for pleasure as well as productivity. A space that enables you to seek ‘below the radar’, keep yourself on a single track and, yes, there’s something enjoyable about that journey of reflection, just as the caterpillar needs to transform within its cocoon before it emerges as a butterfly and starts its journey into the outside world. New art, tied to the memories of the lockdown period and COVID-19, will find its way into future exhibitions and will give us time to digest those uncertain moments that have arisen during this historic pandemic.

In the meantime, with half of humanity in some form of lockdown, we are truly living in strange times. There are many impossible paradoxes we need to face personally and as a society: physical and social distancing is required to prevent the spread of infection to our loved ones and strangers, especially the most vulnerable among us, but loneliness can cause social and emotional isolation and make us sick in its own way. Large gatherings such as music and art festivals, exhibition openings and food markets have been cancelled to prevent the transmission of the virus, but this is advancing the sense of isolation from one and another, making us forget that we’re in this together. Already we are beginning to see suspicion and paranoia play out in public spaces.

The creation of a purposeful exhibition as a space for personal thinking and reflection takes on a wider meaning and a greater weight in the current reality of the lockdown. In the present moment it is also a space of hope, affirmation, empowerment and healing. Conceived in the context of the continuing threat to the lives of many people, as well as the social trauma affecting the collective, the exhibition offers opportunities to explore conscious and unconscious perceptions and meanings, as well as unexpected visions of the future. Engaging with the works in this exhibition will hopefully spark your capacity for lateral thinking and human creativity.

For quite some time now, many have realised that we are living in an era of increasingly frequent and severe ecological crises, but this awareness has a peculiar characteristic – with each alarming report it flames up anew, only to subside back into a restless dozing soon after. This time, there are more than enough disquieting circumstances that are urging us to take a look at the uncertain future of humans. Not only does the earth provide us with everything we need to survive – like air to breathe and materials to build our shelters – it also provides us with inspiration for art.

The exhibition ‘Learning to Breathe Differently’ is a culmination of work from artists for whom the complex beauty of (human) nature has shaped and inspired their language, mark- and sense-making. All four artists included in this exhibition – Ingrid Bolton, Chrisél Attewell, Marian Hester and Stefan Blom – are considering different aspects of the undercurrent of life in their artmaking. Their work reveals unexpected, unforeseen and sometimes disturbing elements of destruction and are uncomfortable reminders reflecting the delicate balances between human nature and nature in general. They take the beauty and transpose it into an entirely new medium such as a canvas, sculpture or print.



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