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.


Have a look at our 3D virtual tour of the exhibition at

Chrisél Attewell

“The prints in this body of work is created on metal sheets that I work on at different construction sites in and around the city of Johannesburg. Having limited control over the creating process, I place the plates in certain areas on the sites for specific periods of time to allow the plates to spontaneously capture and document the activities of the sites. The transformed plate becomes a memory of the construction of the city in that specific time and place. Through observing the goal-directed movements, scratches and damage of the plate transferred to a print, I aim to utilize the mirror neuron system of the viewer to allow for an empathetic engagement with the work.”

Stefan Blom

Sculptor Stefan Blom has his own visual language and is as closed as a tight fist and as impenetrable as the sealed off hideaway in between the bedroom cupboard and the roof of his childhood home. He explains that he “cut a little lid in such a way that when you opened it, you could not see it”. There he could be without any disturbances.
Blom is dyslexic, and the effects of dyslexia may have marked his psyche like his secret pictogram language tattooed on his forearm and run under the skin of his figure sculptures. At 8 years old he started drawing little symbols that described events “just to remind myself –because there was nowhere else I could tell a story”

Ingrid Bolton

“By working in close consultation with marine scientists I hope to draw attention to the little-known issue of ocean acidification through creative means. Through the consideration of materials and processes I aim to bring attention to where billions of microorganisms called phytoplankton live. The project is concerned with the idea of the edge: boundary or border as a conceptual notion, as well as through my art making practice, its interdiscplinarity and subject matter.”

Marian Hester

“The process of making this work is fascinating –it’s called investment casting –and in that process the original completely disappears -when the molten bronze, at over 1000 degrees Celsius, is poured directly onto the wood, and because the bronze is so hot, it vaporises the wood –the wood burns instantly and disappears in a gas, a kind of a smoke, and its place is taken by the molten bronze which then solidifies into the space left by the wood inside the cement slurry.”


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