Zarah Hussain: Breath
On view through April 10, 2022
Spiritual traditions around the world have long used the breath as a tool for transformation and awakening. In a series of paintings commissioned by PEM, British artist Zarah Hussain explores the universal sanctity and necessity of breathing. Mining her own reflections and experiences, she integrates the personal stories of members from our community who have, in some way, experienced the physical trauma of losing their breath or its transformative healing power.
Moving through inhalations and exhalations, as well as the silent spaces in between, Hussain’s work — produced in London while the artist was under lockdown due to COVID-19 — utilizes the universal principles of mathematics and geometry to guide us into moments of deep contemplation and stillness. The exhibition, located in the Jurrien Timmer Gallery, also features an animation and soundscape that slows visitors down to activate an awareness of and deeper connection to the breath.
Zarah Hussain: Breath is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum. Jurrien Timmer, Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation, Jennifer and Andrew Borggaard, James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes, Kate and Ford O'Neil, and Henry and Callie Brauer provided generous support. We also recognize the generosity of the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.
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TOP IMAGE: Photography by Stefan Lacandler
Points of view
We hope visitors will accept this exhibition’s invitation to slow down and activate a deeper awareness of, and connection with, breath.
— Siddhartha V. Shah, PEM’s Director of Education and Civic Engagement and Curator of South Asian Art
The exhibition is intimate in scale and immersive in nature. It features an evocative animation and soundscape that uses the same in and out breath count as the paintings and encourages visitors to follow along. “We live in a world where we are constantly on,” says Hussain. “There is such a benefit to just slowing down and being quiet. Taking time and focus to look inwards, to sit and breathe quietly, to meditate, to contemplate. There's a real power in reclaiming time for yourself.”
Zarah Hussain talks about her work, inspiration and process.