Artists Carlo Brandelli and Ewa Wilczynski have turned breath into gold. In their new work, the pair record the exhalation of 1000 breaths with a single stroke of gold paint on a canvas so that, over time, a three-dimensional sculpture is created out of the layered strokes. 

Aptly titled 1000 Breaths, the work transforms a mundane action into a form of creative expression, a subconscious reflex into a laborious ritual. ‘We breathe 20,000 times a day,’ says Brandelli, ‘that time that passes is not often recorded visually [but] these strokes made something invisible tangible.’ 

Brandelli and Wilczynski conceived 1000 Breaths during lockdown when the intensity of isolation compelled them to pay closer attention to their everyday actions. One day, Wilczynski picked up a brush, took a breath in and, on the exhale, painted a stroke. It was then that the pair ‘realised that our breath is where most important creative moments happen.’ 

‘The intention of this work is to show the transference of creative energy into a physical ‘passing of time’, says Brandelli. ‘Breath is every person’s fundamental life force, and the exhalation of breath has long been associated with many forms of ‘spirit’ practised with meditation and physical exercise.’ 

The pair have documented the work in a series of short videos that show Wilczynski and Brandelli in a 400-year-old church inside of which they have created a modernist, geometric set. In this minimal white space, they slowly paint their stokes in a manner that emphasises the ceremonial nature of the project. 

When the painting is complete, the thick gold pike that has formed on the canvas is broken off and transformed into a sculpture that can be held. As Brandelli puts it, ‘viewers can hold the breath of the artist in their own hands. People who saw the work told us they felt a connection and that is something very personal and important between people after all this isolation and lockdown: connectivity.’ §