Bated Breaths
(2020 – ongoing)

Bated Breaths is an ongoing series of embroidered handkerchiefs that are forming a stitched archive, with twenty two completed works and new ones in making. Each works presents a different proverb, saying or a quote citing a family, friend, lover or a stranger. This series archives current and historical moments and is considering how the formation of these phrases reveal intersections of personal histories, collective memory and cultural etiquette.

This ongoing work is part of Perlak’s ‘Tender Crafts’ methodology, which revisits and reimagines history from contemporary diasporic, feminist and queer perspectives. It explores how crafts can be used as an empathic and compassionate tool for intimacy, connection and care.

The handkerchief holds many symbolic meanings relating to both personal and communal codes. Often seen as a tool for containing bodily fluids and emotion, it has also been used through history as a method of communication, ritualistically in traditional folk dances, and as a code for sexual preference in the LGBTQ community.


Survey II for which the Bated Breaths were commissined is a major touring exhibition led by Jerwood Arts that presents new commissions by ten of the most outstanding early-career artists in the UK. It spans a breadth of disciplines including photography, sculpture, sound, textile, film and installation, providing a distinctive snapshot of current artistic concerns and approaches.

Originally established in 2018, this second edition continues to take a non-institutional approach to selection by inviting over 30 leading artists from across the UK to nominate who they think are the most exciting and dynamic early-career artists making work today.

Nominators include Jonathan Baldock, Jamie Crewe, Sean Edwards, Jade Montserrat, Heather Phillipson, Joanna Piotrowska, Tai Shani, Emily Speed, Wood and Harrison, and Zadie Xa. The final selection was made by artist and Survey 2018 alumni Flo Brooks, together with curators Harriet Cooper (Jerwood Arts), Anthony Shapland (g39) and Angelica Sule (Site Gallery).

The exhibition explores a wide range of subjects, but at its core is a common preoccupation with how we relate to each other and the world around us. The artists consider the balance of control between humans and nature; the representation of queer and marginalised bodies; and the possibility of transformation for both materials and beings. Many works reflect on our relationships with those closest to us, asking where we find points of connection, when we are performing for each other and how we can capture moments of vulnerability and love. Others look at the formation of memory; how we archive and record to create collective touchpoints, or how we can explore diasporic memory through surface, sound and absence.

Exhibiting artists are Saelia Aparicio, Tereza Cervenova, Sadé Mica, Rebecca Moss, Cinzia Mutigli, Shenece Oretha, Katarzyna Perlak, Tako Taal, Nicolaas van de Lande and Angharad Williams.

The exhibition launched at g39 in Cardiff (3 July – 11 September 2021) before travelling to Jerwood Arts in London (1 October – 11 December 2021) and Site Gallery in Sheffield (12 March – 5 June 2022).

Katarzyna Perlak
Bated Breaths
2020 – ongoing
Embroidered handkerchiefs
Nominated by Zadie Xa

© 2021, Katarzyna Perlak