Breathing is breaking

Becky Sutton


The thread folds and pulls apart,

A breath



When I initially considered the underlying theme of my work, I thought of journeys, the natural world and certain climate issues. It seems obvious, when considered closely, that the subject tying all of my extensive work together is the study of lines. It is something so ingrained in my work that I don’t always realise. The line, inherently seen as a simple structure, moulds together to form the intricately complex subject matter that my work explores.

The world is made up of lines. Every object and being has an edge, a border with something else. Whilst roaming several areas of Scotland, I’ve focused on these borderlines, reducing these elemental boundaries to their simplest linear form. The screen print series, THREAD, wholly focusses on this theme. The prints focus on the curvature of the line, each minuscule fraction differing from the next. The unpredictability of process and subject is reflected in my working practice. By manipulating this control, intervening in the standard printing process, I allow the work to create itself within the given variables; nothing is predictable. This self-creation reflects the organic subject matter I focus on.

IMG_E7536                    THREAD I, 2019

In modern life, we are constantly bombarded with information. As with the repetitive printing process that I employ, a mass of intriguing unforeseen qualities come from complex layering, pushing the work to a point of abstraction. This abstraction allows the viewer a moment to reconsider their perspective of the natural world. Furthermore, by presenting the work in spatial installation form, we no longer look at the subject from a higher position, but are equal with it. The viewers become an integral part of the piece, a living object within the constructed environment. This all-encompassing quality of the work stays true to the subject; we are embedded within this environment, as we would be in the natural landscape[1]. Ronald Hepburn discusses a viewer’s presence within the natural world in his text, Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature. He discusses the creation of work that is true to the natural world, demanding more of the viewer than an artwork on a wall that ‘[controls] the spectator’s response’[2]. The viewer no longer observes, but becomes a permanent object within the fabricated environment. By offering a new perspective of the natural world, we are reminded the value of our undeniable interconnection with all living beings[3].

Timothy Morton explores this theme of interdependence in his text, The Ecological Thought. Morton persuades us that all living beings are within the ‘mesh’[4], interwoven without choice. We do not exist independently. A work that explores this interconnection is my relief print installation, THEY BREAK. This work draws on research made whilst exploring the waters of Loch na Cartach, the Isle of Lewis. Sitting next to the water, isolated linear patterns emerge, each one a separate entity from the next. Unpredictable and ever-changing. THEY BREAK asks the viewer to give value to the smallest of details in this piece. All of these minuscule fragments are connected, every object affecting the next. The installation aspect of the work begs the viewer to come closer and explore the many hidden details within the piece. They break: line, water, connections we see, feel and hear.


IMG_4434 copy

IMG_4348                   THEY BREAK, 2019

Another work that specifically studies this state of immersion is the video piece BETWEEN STILLNESS AND MOTION. This work presents a minuscule part of a stream, filmed in Uig, the Isle of Lewis. A singular line, oscillating back and forth. What drew me to this specific detail was intrigue. When isolated, the line is no longer a reflection, but a compelling object. As Tim Ingold reflects in his writing, Lines: A brief history: ‘it is in the very nature of lines that they always seem to wiggle free of any classification one might seek to impose on them’[5]. The line, as an object, has the ability to be, become and have been anything it may choose, reflected in the ambiguous nature of this film. The layered projection is cast upon an architectural installation, the organic subject matter colliding with an angular urban setting. The viewers are asked to step into the space, walk within the objects and intervene with the piece. The creation of this installation encourages me to question: does the abstraction that my work puts forward distance us further from the truth, the works origin? Or, perhaps it gives the viewers an invaluable opportunity to explore their connection with these distant parts of the natural world.


Searching for these captivating fragments in the natural world drives my whole practice. Using mindfulness as a tool, I allow myself the most important factor: time. I sit by the water, and wait. Waiting for, as Barry Lopez perfectly states in Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (as cited by Andrew Patrizio in Out of Ice): ‘that moment when something secret reveals itself within the mundane’.[6] A piece that reflects this time-based working method is WATERLINE. The video piece presents the curving edge of water meeting rock, in the waters of Loch Eigheach Gaur Hydro Power Station, Scotland. The creation of this piece was one of the first instances that I applied this mindfulness, looking deeper into the scene before me, allowing the living scene to reveal unexpected details. By avoiding the standard cinematic frame, WATERLINE asks the viewer to employ a new way of seeing the subject. The film presents raw unedited footage, revealing the true wonder of this overlooked detail.

A0 1                   WATERLINE, 2018

My most recent work, BREATHING IS BREAKING, questions a human’s place within the natural world: where do we fit in? The installation distances these fragile details from the common gallery ‘frame’. Viewers walk amongst the fragments, their reflection upon and presence within the work integral to its completion.

The screen printed wall installation encompasses us within the elemental border of water and land. The piece encourages the viewer to look up close, revealing the countless minuscule details within. By transferring the subject matter from paper to wall, the lines and shapes become free objects, separate entities in their own right.


Around the corner, a darkness looms. Entering this space we are confronted by two obscure living fragments. The animated details have a presence, ominous pillars in the dark space. The dominating forms show us that these organic fragments are more powerful than we may have once thought. Plunging into the black floor are reflections, giving us a sense that the ‘real’ world lies beneath our feet, making us to question the alternative existence we live in.

49f87501-7f7f-43b3-937e-ee999ab8eef2b7d0e498-0ad7-4244-b935-336ceb1456a8.jpgBREATHING IS BREAKING, 2019

Is it ever possible to create work that is true to its origin?And if so, why is it important to create work that is true? Art is always a recreation of something, a way to engender a new way of seeing. Therefore, I believe that it is this alternative perspective that will offer humans the reason for our existence amongst all sentient beings. After all, as Morton states, ‘existence is always coexistence,’[7], reminding us of our complete interdependence with these countless living fragments.




Hepburn, R. (July 1963)‘Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature’, The British Journal of Aesthetics, Volume 3, Issue 3, p.195-209.

Morton, T. (2012) The Ecological Thought. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Ingold, T. (2007) Lines: A brief history. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ogilvie, E. (2017) Out of Ice. London: Black Dog Publishing.

Lopez, B. (2001) Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. New York: Vintage Books.



[1]Hepburn, 1963, p.197

[2]Hepburn, 1963, p.196

[3]Morton, 2012, p.28

[4]Morton, 2012, p.28

[5]Ingold, 2007, p.50

[6]Patrizio, 2018, p.12

[7]Morton, 2012, p.4

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