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Breathing Space – how art helps us to revive this spring

It's no accident that Spencer House Gallery's launch exhibition is called Breathing Space. Yes, it refers to our need, as survivors, to escape the hardships of the last two-three years of a global pandemic. We're coming up for air, in more ways than one: the virus targeted our respiratory systems and it forced us to stay indoors, stifled, suffocated and socially isolated.

Yet the title is really intended to be life-affirming, focusing on how we've emerged at the other side of this dreadful trial, beginning to spread our wings, enjoy new experiences and rediscover things we always loved to do. It's also about this new gallery setting - an interesting space, full of two centuries of Cotswold history, in which we hope our curated art will offer inspiration, a sense of well-being and enjoyment for art lovers of many kinds.

Dictionary definitions of 'breathing space' talk about 'time in which to recover, get organised or get going' and 'a period of rest or reflection in order to increase strength'. Heaven knows we all need this after the world's recent troubles. And, even at the best of times, art gives us that same chance to move away from daily cares and pressures; to take time off to find a new perspective, a new appreciation of what it means to express our humanity in a visual form.

Many of our debut exhibition artists' work has long been influenced by the joy of depicting natural open spaces, full of light and air – a landscape, a sea shore, a wooded spot they love. For instance, featured artist, Caroline Chappell, paints her Cotswold scenery with exuberant flourishes of colour that reflect her delight in wide vistas and ancient terrains.

Fellow Featured Artist, printmaker Alexandra Buckle, finds restorative joy in walking in local woodland and capturing, en plein air, in her sketchbook, patterns made by tree trunks and dappled light and shade on branches and leaves.

Meanwhile, other artists in this show find solace and pleasure in painting or sculpting their own favourite subjects, often inspired by large-scale nature or smaller natural forms, like fruit, flowers and foliage. For instance, our third Featured Artist, Marian Jazmik, uses textiles and recycled materials to invent amazing spheres and textured pieces based on her observations of living structures.

This unusual gallery space is for art to be enjoyed and holds many exciting possibilities. So, when you visit, we hope you take time to slow down and breathe deeply, share your reactions to artworks with friends and family - and remind yourself how restorative and uplifting the making and viewing of excellent fine art can be.

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