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Exhibition Review: The Air That I Breathe

The Air That I Breathe is a new exhibition at HIVEArts that finds the Blackpool collective partnering with The Aspergillosis Trust. The opening on world Lung Day proved an inspiring and emotional event.

“We aim to celebrate and comtemplate the intangible yet essential element that surrounds our lives and in doing so raise awareness and support for the Aspergillosis Trust,” explained organiser Dawn Mander about this latest exhibition at HIVEArts, which explores the fundamental connectivity between breath, air and life itself.

Aspergillosis is a hidden lung disease that can be fatal. It is incurable but if diagnosed early and with the right treatment it can be managed. The diseases is caused by the fungus aspergillus and the charity advocates for clean, fresh air to support good lung health. Air pollution remains the top risk to health in Europe and everybody is vulnerable.

The exhibition was opened by Tina Rothery of the Nanas Against Fracking campaign and alongside the exhibition there’s an events programme including a nurse practitioner offering free health checks, advice and help on stopping smoking, and a talk from one of the country’s leading experts on damp proofing your home.

Work by Elizabeth Ward.

All works exhibited are for sale with 25 per cent of sales going to support the work that the Aspergillosis Trust do.

Ian and Amanda hanging the pieces to best effect.

I was privileged to witness some of the preparation for this show as I attended the weekly HIVE Jive gathering the Saturday before its opening. It was fascinating to watch as the art pieces were switched around in search of logic and the best effect.

Work by Alex Jacobs (centre).

I contributed a piece of my own to this exhibition and it was sited near to those of the excellent Peter Hughes whose Tea Amantes exhibition I reviewed for this site, so I was happy with that. There was also the opportunity to try out Monika Mrozowska’s silk painted portal, which Amanda did with some gusto.

Amanda tests Monika’s painted silk portal, which works fine.

The HIVEArts events are always well attended and happy affairs, but there was a definite extra buzz about this one and a tangible joy about the pieces. The selection of art work was of an extremely high standard and of course as a submission exhibition, was varied. Artists had really homed in on the theme: some had brought pieces from collections, some had painted anew. There were a total of 38 submissions.

Lisa McNeill with exhibition viewers.

As usual we were well looked after by the HIVE Cafe staff and we were treated to an inspirational address from Tina Rothery who remarked on her experiences while combating fracking on Preston New Road and discussed the role that art played in that.

Tina makes her presentation.

“It was during the anti-fracking protests here in Blackpool, that I began to see art in a different light – in awe of the sheer power of it to make the unbearable tolerable and even joyous,” she said.

“When local residents and campaigners stepped-up and endured 1,000 days of continuous protest at the side of Preston New Road it was to protect the air, water and soil from methane emissions, seismic events and the toxic risk to water that shale gas extraction brings.

Without the art, the shadow of the gloom would have darkened everywhere we looked. We drew a power from our art that is more than words can explain.

“It was such a horrid thing to have to do and hugely demanding. Then the art began to emerge – ribbons tied to the fences, dancing in the wind – somehow made the ugly, soul-destroying sight of the growing fracking rig on the horizon look that much less of a monster.

“The art was like a buffer of human spirit and creativity and an artistic expression of what we truly were… not hooligans or reprobates, but chemists and teachers, mothers and students, grandpas and musicians, gathering to put ourselves between the dangers and the health of our community.

“Without the art, the shadow of the gloom would have darkened everywhere we looked. We drew a power from our art that is more than words can explain. Our ribbons still fly on those gates – fresh air breezing through the strands like prayer flags and over and over a ribbon-word repeats: ‘bye – bye – bye’.”

Everybody hearing them was very moved by Tina’s words.

Kate Yates wins the max colour prize with actually two excellent shots of hot air balloons.
Work by Helen Kay.

In the midst of the hubbub and Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd playing in the background, I managed a chat with Lisa McNeill of the Aspergillosis Trust who explained that the link with Hive came about through her good friends Ann and Steve Worsnip. Ann is an artist and has a couple of pieces in the show.

“It was Ann’s suggestion to help raise the Trust’s profile on today’s World Lung Day that we open an art exhibition exploring the concept of the air around us and what it’s actually doing to us.

“I’m absolutely blown away by the exhibition and it leaves me feeling really emotional actually. Everybody’s interpretation of the theme is really quite mind blowing – the variety. People have definitely put a lot into it, highlighting pollution effects on lungs, including cars and smoking. The HIVEArts team are amazing. It would be excellent to come back soon and repeat this exercise. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m so glad to see the support and welcome all these people to the show.”

The first works you see.

The opening heralds a programme of advice sessions throughout the show’s time up to the 9th October 2023, well worth a visit if you can get into town.

Doggies also welcome.

Things were still buzzing as I checked my bus app and found I had a good time to catch the service 6 bus from Cookson Street, so I slipped off to catch that, pleased to see the start of a true community arts event with the added cachet of a truly worthy cause.

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    I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

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