Carterton-born video artist Denise Batchelor can stop holding her breath now that her exhibition, inspired by freediving, has opened at Aratoi.

Batchelor spent a year and a half on the road gathering underwater video footage for the exhibition, which features the Vertical Blue diving competition and Deep Anatomy symposium she attended in the Bahamas last year.

Her work is inspired by her older brother, Vaughan Robertson , who spent more than 40 years freediving off the Wairarapa coast for paua.

"My vision for the exhibition was to create something as immersive as I could," she said.


"I've got a large still piece in the exhibition, which is an image I took at Palliser, then there's video-works on screens, too, things that people will find quite meditative, contemplative, and reflective because they're very slow works."

The exhibition, called just one breath, focuses on breath and the holding of breath, which is fundamental to freediving.

"I hope that it inspires people to spend more time experiencing the water in their own way," she said.

"Not all of us can get in the water or under the water, but I hope to give some kind of experience to everyone."

The just one breath exhibition opened last night in the Wesley Wing of Aratoi, "that's the actual church that's attached," Batchelor said. "When I first walked into there some years ago, I always hoped that they might show some of my work there one day because I loved the space.

"I have a real feel for being inside churches. I just love the atmosphere. So to see my work in that space is a privilege, and I think the space works well with just one breath."

This is the first solo exhibition Batchelor has produced on the road in her campervan, which she said has had its challenges.

"It meant that I was looking at all my work on a small screen, my laptop, as opposed to in a studio, so it was hard to tell how effective each piece of footage would really be on the big screen," she said.

But living as a nomad also meant she didn't have to work around the confines of a strict daily routine.

"When I take my home with me I'm always out in the field, wherever that is, and that gives me an enormous amount of flexibility to capture footage."

Batchelor will present an artist talk at 2pm today at Aratoi, accompanied by performance designer Sam Trubridge of the Deep Anatomy symposium.

His brother, William Trubridge, is a freediving world champion and double world record holder from New Zealand.

Batchelor's works will be at Aratoi until May 22.