The Drawing Breath project is a response to chronic illness and the changes in self-perception that this can cause. The journey aimed to maximize Jean's physical and mental health through exploring the body’s inbuilt adaptability in the face of major health changes. She also aimed to use the project to raise the profile of respiratory disease and combat the judgmental attitudes which often surround it. At the end of the journey Jean's breathing had improved and her daily medication had dropped by half, though this was partly due to the effect of seasonal variation.
Jean’s lung function was monitored by NHS respiratory teams at various points on her journey and she is now exploring ways to incorporate these test results within her artwork. She has become interested in the interaction of environmental conditions with the skin and organs of the body and in how surfaces of the landscape often seem to mirror the body’s aging processes.
Jean met different communities along her route and invited her audience to follow her journey through her blog.
This year, supported by funding from Arts Council England, Jean has been curating "Drawing Breath Recycled: maps and journeys", a group art exhibition of responses to her journey and its breathing themes. The exhibition opens on 2nd October - see Events page. Besides new work from Jean, other participants include the Canterbury Breathe Easy group, the Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care trust, Herne Bay Junior School and Betteshanger (ex-colliery) Brass Band with trombonist and composer Annie Whitehead. Artist Sue Ridge and multi-media artist Rosa Ainley, who both cycled part of the journey route with Jean, are contributing new work. This exhibition will tour to two hospitals in East Sussex next year.
Jean invites comments, queries, and your experiences, thoughts and imaginings about breath and breathing, on the website’s discussion forum.