Breadth of Life | Exhibition
Our next exhibition, Breath of Life, is a portfolio of 16 limited edition silkscreen prints by a group of Britain’s leading contemporary artists, published by CCA Galleries. However, this is no ordinary portfolio; it is part of the Mending Broken Hearts Art Appeal: an ongoing effort to raise awareness and funds for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) through the use of contemporary art. These images have become icons used by the BHF to promote their activities across the country, harnessing the unique power of art to grab our attention and to move us. We are delighted to be showing all 16 prints in our exhibition which runs from Friday 27th March to 12th April 2015.
The group of artists taking part in this project is a cross-section of all that’s best about British contemporary art: Sir Peter Blake, Maurice Cockrill RA, Brad Faine, Duggie Fields, the late Donald Hamilton Fraser RA, Gerard Hemsworth, Maggi Hambling CBE, the late John Hoyland RA, Patrick Hughes, Bruce McLean, Antony Micallef, Brendan Neiland, Tom Phillips CBE RA, Barbara Rae CBE RA, and the late Storm Thorgerson. Breath of Life is unique in bringing together this particular set of artists for the first time. That they have all taken inspiration from the same theme gives a very rare opportunity to compare their concepts, making the portfolio very collectable.
Each of the artists was asked to create an original artwork based on the theme ‘mending broken hearts’: a universal theme with endless possibilities that sums up the work of the BHF. As you can see, each artist’s interpretation is completely unique and the images as a group are as diverse as they are beautiful. This diversity is essential to what the BHF is trying to achieve: to put contemporary art into the mainstream public view and to use its power to make people think. Everybody will see different things in a work of art and have a different emotional response to it; this is the beauty of the Mending Broken Hearts Art Appeal. Of these 16 images there will be one or two for everyone that particularly appeal or relate to an experience. In the end, Breath of Life is about the redemptive power of love, about triumph over adversity, about hope and science combining to conquer heart disease. This positive message encapsulates what the BHF are trying to achieve; to find a way to repair damaged hearts and save millions of lives.
All publishers’ profits from sales of the Breath of Life portfolio will be donated to the BHF. This money will be used to help fund a programme of medical research into regenerative medicine. The BHF’s long term goal is to enable the heart to repair itself once it has been damaged; having a heart attack would therefore become no more serious than breaking an arm. The development of regenerative techniques will help to save millions of lives. Nadja Hale of the BHF explains the importance of the Mending Broken Hearts Art Appeal:
‘The proceeds of the Art Project will go to the Mending Broken Hearts Appeal. This is the British Heart Foundation’s biggest fundraising appeal ever, launched to celebrate the charity’s 50th anniversary in 2011. The BHF decided to mark 50 years of saving lives through cutting edge research by raising £50million to fund a specific programme of regenerative medicine that will include stem cell research. Unfortunately, the heart is unable to repair itself so for example, when a heart attack occurs and a portion of the heart dies, this damage is currently irreversible and leads to debilitating symptoms and premature death. This appeal could change all that.
The BHF has been overwhelmed by the response of the artists who have contributed to this project, lending their limited time and considerable talents to produce incredible works of art for the Appeal. Beyond simple fundraising, this project has presented the work of the BHF to an entirely new audience through the medium of art. It has been inspirational to see how the artists have translated the ‘Mending Broken Hearts’ concept in such diverse and beautiful ways.’
For the artists that have contributed to Breath of Life helping the BHF to achieve this amazing goal was at the heart of their work. As Brendan Neiland says, ‘Using contemporary art to raise awareness of the BHF is a brilliant idea. It is an absolute step forward. What we have in Britain is the foremost artistic talent in the world, for the BHF to use this creative talent as well as standard advertising methods allows a completely different approach. Artists use their creative freedom to respond to their own idea of ‘mending broken hearts’ and therefore bring endless possibilities to the table. I have been incredibly impressed by the breadth of vision and interpretation.’
For many of the artists involved with the project, the work of the BHF has personal significance. Duggie Fields explains why he had taken part; ‘ I was very happy to be given the opportunity. My Father died of heart disease in the late 1960s, so I am very aware of the devastating effect of it on peoples’ lives. To make a contribution towards lessening its impact on others was irresistible, and it was also a great group of artists to be included with.’ Duggie’s statement of the private impact of heart disease on his own life reinforces the fact that all of us have been affected by it in some way, whether directly or indirectly. That is why helping the BHF is so important.
Breath of Life ranges from the child-like innocence and joy of Patrick Hughes’ ‘Cloudy’, to the dark melancholic emotional power of Antony Micallef’s ‘I Brake Everything’, to the witty word play of Tom Phillips’ ‘Take Art for the Heart’ and the abstract exuberance of John Hoyland’s ‘Soulless Stars Cascade’.
Each image has a story behind it and each has personal resonance for the artist. One of the loveliest stories is that behind Donald Hamilton Fraser’s ‘Valentine’. Fraser sadly passed away in September 2009, but had been keen to take part in the Mending Broken Hearts Art Appeal. Honouring his wishes, his widow Judith provided access to a Valentines card that Fraser had made for her, feeling that the image would be particularly appropriate. Every year Fraser made his wife a Valentines card, which Judy would then keep in a collection that spanned their sixty-year marriage. ‘Valentine’ is one of those precious testaments of his love that perfectly captures the power of art to mend the heart.
One of the youngest artists to contribute to Breath of Life is Antony Micallef whose image ‘I Brake Everything’ has caused a huge buzz from excited collectors. Micallef, whose work has been exhibited all over the world, including the Royal Academy and National Portrait Gallery combines exquisite draughtsmanship with raw emotion in this study of the power of love.
‘Mending Broken Hearts’ by Sir Peter Blake is the lead image in the BHF’s appeal, and has become instantly recognisable nationwide. Blake (a patron of the Mending Broken Hearts Appeal) has created classic pop art composition that is reminiscent of his iconic works ‘I Love You’ and ‘Q is for Quarters’. His bold colours and geometric forms create a sophisticated balance of form.
The late Storm Thorgerson adapted his iconic album cover artwork for Dark Side of the Moon to create ‘Teardrop’, a softer and more emotional rendering of this classic image.
The theme of healing is brilliantly taken up by Bruce McLean in ‘Healing Garden’, a vibrant collaged piece with the bold compositional elements that we have come to expect from McLean.
Both Gerard Hemsworth and Duggie Fields use cartoon-like linear images that subvert viewers’ expectations in ‘Brief Encounter’ and ‘Madonna and Heart’. Alternatively, works such as ‘Clare’s Inspiration’ by Maurice Cockrill and ‘Sunrise Heart’ by Maggi Hambling are much more transparent in the joy and optimism they convey, both artists choose to base their composition around a heart-shape, suffusing the paper with colour and movement.
Brendan Neiland and Barbara Rae have taken inspiration from the urban environment; in ‘Calypso’ Neiland uses the neon lights of Las Vegas to create a ‘sign’ reminding us to take care of our hearts.
Finally Brad Faine uses visual and textual wit to encapsulate mending broken hearts. He juxtaposes the popular sweets ‘Love-Heart’s’ with their phrases such as ‘kiss me’ etc, with a grid of text made up of scientific words relating to heart health.
The Breadth of Life exhibition runs from Friday 27th March until Sunday 12th April in The Gallery Downstairs at For Arts Sake.