Tracey Payne Breathing Space Eastbourne


Thinking about sea air and escape from the metropolis I set off to find Tracey Paynes work in The Labyrinth in Eastbourne. The name of the venue should have been my first clue that, as always with Paynes work, all is not as it seems.
The Labyrinth is a little Victorian shopping arcade which has somehow survived development by secreting itself away and changing as little as possible since the last time a bustle was worn down it. The businesses occupying it have changed, but the commerce goes on, it is very much alive as a space.
Installed in a new truncated art space being explored by Curious Projects is a work which is also alive and breathing. Made from contemporary sail material in vibrant orange and sky blue, Breathing Space rises up at me from behind the glass bay shop front and catches me unawares. I had actually walked past it at first, though the colours didn’t go unnoticed. I turned back to peer in at the deflating form as it slowly slumped back below the windowsill.
Suddenly it sprang into life again, taking a deep motorised breath, filling out and rising above my head. This optimistic expansion, this deep intake of air was contained against the panes of glass. It climbed and climbed to no avail, displaying it’s cheerful colours pressed against the limits of the space. At last, as it occupied as much room as it could, it conceded, turned off, stopped trying.
The title and the location suggest optimism for space, and this is the commodity in most short supply here. This duality is often seen in Paynes work, most recently at Art Lacuna and at the Camberwell Salon at Unthank Artspace. The playful materials and installations have the joy of possibility in them, and manage to remain beautiful and enticing even as they exhale: they never do escape.
This determined attempt to occupy the space, the repeated thwarting of it, but ongoing tries nonetheless makes Breathing Space a work which I spent a good while with, ever hopeful of its success, ever entranced by its withdrawal.

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Tracey Payne, Breathing Space, 2014

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