Posted 27 June 2019


Gina Fairley, ArtsHub’s National Visual Arts Editor discusses and expresses how we can find balance in our contemporary lifestyles through slowing down within our fast paced society.

In moments of anxiety or meditation we concentrate on our breath to find balance. A group of artists show that finding this focus can help our inner health and can allow us to become better practitioners.

Slowing down and being present in the moment is one of the greatest challenges facing contemporary society.

Rilka Oakley has curated an exhibition with every breath for Blue Mountains City Art Gallery. This exhibition showcases 15 artists who, through their work, encourage viewers to be still, breathe, reflect and listen. Most importantly, they ask us to take our time.

Oakley believes that committing to an annual digital detox is not enough. Rather, we need to focus on the small details, allowing our daily rituals to ward off the anxieties that percolate within us.

‘For practicing artists the idea of ritual is central for them; they have their process in the studio – the way they work, slow down and consider a series of moves,’ said Oakley. ‘In a nutshell, rituals make us slow down.’

Oakley confessed that she is a ‘quick exhibition viewer’, whizzing through and returning to works that catch her eye. Perhaps it has something to do with the way contemporary society has encouraged us to skim and scan?

Her aim with this exhibition is to remind people of the joy of stopping and slowing down. ‘I am often looking at themes that have a human connection, to ask

“How can we go a bit deeper and remain mentally well in today’s world?”

Oakley warned that many of our daily rituals have now become conjoined with our social media practices. ‘We are going through this massive movement of decluttering and wellness, but then we get on Facebook to read reflections on the day and read it in two seconds with little reflection – it’s a real contradiction,’ she said.

A poetic work by Pamela Pirovic is a great reminder of how to recalibrate and find joy in the moment. In this video diptych the artist undresses her frail grandmother, while in the second screen her grandmother undresses her.

‘Whether making food, washing or dressing we perform multiple ordinary actions on any given day. When we pay attention to these actions we become aware of that moment.’ Oakley said.

Re-learning how to breathe.

Rachael Wenona Guy & Leonie Van Eyk, The House, My body 2018, Image Courtesy of ArtsHub

Artists have long examined breath in their art as a way of centering themselves as human beings.

‘Breath is something we do without thinking about it. One of the fundamentals of meditation is to listen to one’s own breath – to hear and feel its physicality,’ said Oakley. ‘And when someone is panicking they are told to slow down, to “breathe naturally”. We also talk about cycles from our first breath to our last.’

She has used breath as an encouragement to slow down. It is beautifully captured in Julie Rrap’s suite of photographs, Blow Back 2018 (pictured top) where the artist has etched the breath of 33 female artists, friends and contemporaries on the frame’s glass.

A key part of the exhibition has involved working with local Aboriginal arts practitioners and Katoomba High School students to pass on learnings about honing one’s observations outside of their digital world; to embrace the ritual of storytelling and to re-find the ritual of just “hanging out”.

Budyarimaba, Make Good Future 2019, Music Video Still, Image Courtesy of ArtsHub

with every breath is an exhibition that cuts through the static and allows us to physically feel the moment – one breath at a time.

with every breath is showing at the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery from 6 July – 25 August 2019.


Participating artists: Sarah Breen Lovett, Cherine Fahd, Karen Golland, Anne Graham, Rachael Wenona Guy & Leonie Van Eyk, WeiZen Ho, Rachel Peachey & Paul Mosig, Pamela Pirovic, Julie Rrap, Honi Ryan, Abi Tariq, Marty Walker, Hayley West and Katoomba High School Students.


First published on Tuesday 25 June, 2019

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