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The Energies of Carolee Schneemann

It is with the greatest of Sadnesses that I learnt recently of the loss of the great inspiration and Artist Carolee Schneemann. I cannot understate what an effect Carolee’s work and her encouragement had on my own progression. Over the past ten years, my art has been evolving and becoming more about performance, evolving as it has from the synaesthetic sensory experience of colour via painting and towards involving my own body via performance and  more broadly speaking, exploring my own vulnerability and identity through my practice.

At around the time when I was starting collaborative improvisatory performances,  I became fascinated by avant grade developments in painting and performance especially by the Gutai movement and the Vienna Actionists and also with Carolee Schneemann who seemingly cut her own path. At the time there was very little written about any of these movements or artists. This thankfully has and is  changing.

The first time I saw Carolee Schneemann’s work up close was at a glorious exhibition about Dance and performance at the Pompidou Centre, called ‘Danser sa Vie’, which seems a very long time ago, but is actually relatively recent.

I had seen “Up to and Including her Limits” and had read about “Meat Joy” before, but at this particular time of my life, her work seemed to resonate so well with all that was happening and developing in my own work. I immediately bought “Beyond Meat Joy” and a wonderful book called “Correspondence Course” (Edited by Kristine Stiles) which revealed the huge depth of her work, and the endless energy and collaborations too. I became fascinated by all of her work spanning, assemblages, film, paintings, performances which spanned so many areas. Over the years  I was very surprised that despite being so well known amongst so many artists and so very influential, that her work at this time and especially in the UK seemed still largely unrepresented. For Instance In a show at the Tate Modern gallery  called ” A Bigger Splash”. A rare show about the ” Dynamic Relationship between Performance and Painting” Schneemann’s work is very lightly discussed if mentioned at all, whereas it should have taken centre stage without a doubt. I then saw more work at a (then small) gallery in London called Richard Saltoun gallery featuring work by neglected female artists.

I immediately wanted to try and connect with Carolee, and made it a priority,  and obtained her studio e.mail. I cannot recall what I wrote, but I received a quick response which was terse as I had foolishly spelt her name incorrectly! I wrote back and apologised, using the (truthful and honest ) excuse that my baby son had been keeping me up all night making me prone to spelling mistakes. That seemed to work as I received a warm response and that she was soon to come to London and perhaps to make contact when she was there.

At this time I was also trying  with the Centre of Visual Music to get together some film showings organised with the University of Oxford of which I am affiliated, and at this time I became aware that Carolee was finishing a film (Breaking the Frame) and so I made enquiries about her perhaps giving a talk about this . Unfortunately and much to my frustration this did not eventuate.

However, partly due to this , the Hales Gallery put Carolee and myself in touch . I will always remember the evening when I excitedly picked up the phone and took that call in my studio, as by now she had become an almost mythical and heroic figure to me. It was arranged that I would meet her for Lunch the next week between interviews. Amazingly, and incredulously to me,  it was to be the first solo show of hers in a London Gallery. A small show of her performance and film “Water Light/Water Needle” (a choreographed performance and film), which I particularly love, not only for its imagery, but for the unusual way it mixed music and sound, which I have since found out was in collaboration with the great composer James Tenney. Her collaboration with Tenney  I became greatly interested in, and I always felt that her sensitivity and knowledge of Music played an important part of a lot of her work. This is something I believe could be researched and written about.

Some People often say that meeting your heroes is often disappointing, but in this case, it was just a pure delight. Carolee was gentle, kind and supportive,  sharp, greatly intelligent and clearly had such a broad knowledge and voracious interest in all areas of culture and politics and life. It was easy to talk to her, and I felt we connected on a great many levels.  We talked of all sorts of things and I got a real sense of not only her love of life but also the great struggle she had experienced through her life and Art interwoven. She was an inspiration.

In the following years after this memorable, lovely meeting, ( a moment of which I now treasure) –  in a sunlit restaurant on top of a hotel,  in the city of London…. we kept in touch. Carolee became a kind of mentor and I showed her the first cuts of my latest films and images and she in turn showed me her ideas too, and then a few years ago  I helped with a show of hers,  and staged a performance in part a homage to her work at Reykjavik.  I was delighted to be invited to and to see the PS1 MOMA show only last year. I found it an especially moving experience, to see all her work finally together in one place and especially in New York. To see all that work was both exciting and

Her last message (Only a matter of months ago ) to me was heart warming and typically encouraging and inspiring …I love these works very much….Go Further, follow your energies……. Keep in touch…..( with a lovely picture of her Cat dancing with coloured Ribbons.)

I will continue to follow, be inspired and keep in touch always with the tremendous inspirational energy of Carolee Schneemann which will remain alive to me.

Water Light/Water Needle, at the PS1 MOMA show in 2018/19

POSTED: 04/2/19 6:01 PM

Correspondences in Performance Painting.

In recent months I have been looking at filmic documentation of Painting performances and interventions,  considering one in particular which took place at the Sequences Real Time Art Festival in Reykjavik a few years ago. The performance itself was site specific and a both a simple painting and a Space Painting and was in responce  to the nature of the environment. The performance was in part a homage to the rich tradition of painting as performance,in

but also followed the course of a meditation exercise, a form of ritual in self help and awareness of which I often practice . I also wanted to reflect on the fundemental connections between the sensory act of  painting, sound and the body, and like some other performances I was using and controlling my own breath to dictate the movement and actions, reflecting on my own Identity within space and in the landscape as a whole.

The music I use in this film is  “Concerto for improvising Soloist and Two Ensembles” by composer Roger Redgate, whose work I have always felt a great connection to. His process was very much collaborative with the other musicians and says that “I give them some freedom to work with given materials, so I can control the overall form and some of the content, but they can make decisions as individuals and collectively to influence the result.”The soloist is Christopher Redgate with whom I have also performed with for over 10 years. The music  contains a sound world that I feel connects strongly with the actions of the performance.  The resulting film which can now be seen on this Website contains moments of Correspondence, when sound, movement, gesture and material all seem to join and fit together as as a whole.

Correspondences (Film Clip)

Film Still from "Correspondences."

POSTED: 11/23/18 12:30 PM

Performance Painting “Plein Air”

A few years ago I staged a performance outside and within the landscape. For this I was responding to the music of composer/artist Mira Calix, whose musical approach resonates with my own practice, I feel it uniquely collages electronic and acoustic instrumentation, and I finally sent Mira some stills of film that I was working on, which were  mainly shot outside in the woodland where I live. I know that he compositions also often refers to, or reflects upon the landscape.

The performance outdoors had an unpredictable quality of which I enjoy and wish to take further. In the performance I was thinking of some of the Gutai artists’ experimentations with surface and the ephemeral. I was also thinking of some of the great work that Carolee Schneemann did with the composer James Tenney and I had this work at the back of my mind when setting up the piece.

Plein Air Performance Painting

This led to me to utilise this music for the performance,  and the film can be seen now on this website and here. It was premiered at a Centre for Visual Music Salon evening, held by myself and the Director of the Centre Cindy Keefer.

November 2018

POSTED: 11/8/18 4:14 PM

Transparence of the Place.

Many years ago a lovely old friend of mine introduced me to the work of the great  Australian Pianist and composer Andrea Keller. I had just recently painted in performance in response to some music by Bartok and very much related to the improvisations her group had then done around Bartok’s Mikrokosmos.  I have strong links with Australia. My wife is Australian and all my Children hold Australian passports. I have a great  love for the landscape in particular, and relate strongly to the profound and spiritual connection the indigenous people of Australia have to the Land.  When starting out as an artist, I was inspired by artists such as Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan and poet Les Murray . More recently I have found that some of the most exciting art today is happening in Australia. In particular I enjoy the film and installation  work of Angelica Mesiti, the work addressing issues around Australian Aboriginal history by Danniel Boyd and Shaun Gladwell’s iconic video work  too.

Returning to Sound, A few years ago I did some paintings in response to a piece from a fascinating album called “Three Lanes”. I found the sounds transported me to Australia, and at the time I was working in my studio in the woodland around my home in Oxfordshire UK. Finally, this year I assembled the films I made at this time and made a film with a piece of Andrea Keller’s music aptly titled “Far away, Here” which seemed also to resonate strongly to ongoing concerns in my work about Place and Time, the action and immediacy of performance and the stillness of contemplation and also a sense of completion.  By Coincidence, Andrea Keller also needed some film for a new piece called “Hills of Nectar”which worked well too.

The Film is titled “Transparence of the Place” which comes from a poem that fascinates me called “Asides on an Oboe” by Wallace Stevens with whose work has had a great impact on my thinking and whose work I have been working closely with lately. The piece intends to show the connections between Colour, light passing and the contemplation of space and time come across and connect strongly sound and visual work done across different time zones.

The Film “Transparence of the Place” can be seen from this month on this Website.

Mark Rowan-Hull-December 2018

POSTED: 11/7/18 2:04 PM

Horse Hospital Performance/ Newcastle University.

This Collaborative Performances took place at the Horse Hospital and formed the second part of an evening exploring visual music. In the first half, Cindy Keefer (director of the Centre of visual Music ) introduced a series films (some rare) by filmakers such as Oskar Fischinger and Jordan Belsen. In the second half we explored this theme further with a visceral performance of performance painting on translucent cellophane with sound from Professors Roger Redgate and  Matt Wright (Goldsmiths and Canterbury) and regular collaborator Portia Winters singing. It was an exciting and intense performance.Performance Painting, Centre for Visual Music Salon Performance

Center for Visual Music Salon

Center for Visual Music Salon

Live Painting with Light Performance

Centre for Visual Music Salon (Film Still)

Performance Painting

Centre for Visual Music Salon 10/16

Performance Painting with Light

Performance Painting (Film Still)

Centre for Visual Music Salon (10/16)

Performance Painting in Light

March 2017. Film Stills by Haavard Helle

POSTED: 03/9/17 2:01 PM

House Of St Barnabas (Performance Stills)

This performance came about from when I saw Cleveland at the meltdown festival some years ago performing a re envsioning of John Coltrane’s Love Supreme. His solo was incredible, and like other moments when I have heard music that I can see so clearly, I went about making contact to see if I could work with him. Luckily we connected and understood what each other were doing. I would love to work with him again. This performance was in the lovely chapel at the House of St Barnabas in Soho, London.

I wrapped the inside of the chapel (Christo like) in Cellophane , so that it appeared that the colour was happening all around him spatially. It was dramatic and looked and sounded great. The palette constantly changed with Cleveland’s versatility of colour and texture. However, I used white a lot, which seemed to reflect the purple light, and also worked as a kind of unspoken script casting a shadow against the lights. The performance was completely improvised, but I had set the space up so that I could surround the audience, and create a feeling of informality (slightly ruined by the seating arrangement, just prior to the performance) . I also invlolved my own body within the performance, painting myself, and also using two miked up canvas’s to provide sound. I have since been looking at the exciting work of Donna Huanca who uses the body with paint as a kind of skin within installations, which resonates with what I was trying to achieve within this performance.

Painting Performance with Cleveland Watkiss (Film Still)

Film Still of Performance with Cleveland Watkiss

Performance Painting (Film Still)

Performance Painting with Cleveland Watkiss

Film Still of Painting Performance with Cleveland Watkiss

Painting Performance (Film Still)

Painting Performance with Cleveland Watkiss

Singing Colour Performance with Cleveland Watkiss (Film Still)

Painting with Cleveland

Cleveland Watkiss Singing Colour

March 2017. Film Stills by Haavard Helle.

POSTED: 03/9/17 1:38 PM

“Correspondences” Performance. 15th December 2016.

Performance Painting at South Bank

Performance Painting at South Bank

Next Week I shall be Painting in a Collaborative Performance with Professor Roger Redgate and Dr Emmanuel Lorien  Spinelli and singer Portia Winters on Thursday 15th December (1pm) at Kings Hall, Newcastle University.

POSTED: 12/7/16 1:11 PM

Singing Colour, Action and Performance.

In my most recent collaborative Painting performances  interventions and actions I  have been utilising both moving light and transparent materials, such as  celaphane and polyeurathene which is  transparent, immersive and disposable, and discarded at the end of the performance. Initially I used these materials for their sound, as a  means for percussion (miked up on occasions) and I was thinking visually also of some of the history of paint in performance and in particular the Gutai artists work, and pioneers like Hermann Nitsch , some of the Vienna Actionists work and of course Carolee Schneeman’s  , where  gestural abstraction becomes interwoven with the body, movement and material. Painting becomes both spatial and durational. This fascinating history contains strong and fundamental links with sound and music too. Hermann Nitsch uses his own  music. Carollee Schneeman’s work I feel has a deep connection with music and some of my favourite work of her’s features collaborations with the composer James Tenney. More Recently I have also been looking at the work of Jean Debuffet and Asager Jorn’s fascinating collaboration and their uniquely transformative experiments with sound.

Performance with Singer Cleveland Watkiss

Singing Colour Collaborative Performance

Singing Colour

Collaborative Performance with Singer Cleveland Watkiss

It is this transformative and yet ephemeral quality of painting which continues to form a large part of performances. I  am less interested in the historical arguments which continue revolving around abstraction but rather I am engaged in it’s continued fluidity, its continued influence on society and media and it’s sensory nature, it’s  visceral power and ability via collaborative performance and action to transform experiences. Working with paint and with moving light, explores this further.

More recently I have been filming actions, which further a painterly dialogue but via Objects and places and are memory based,  being poetic and sensory  in nature. I will be disseminating this over the coming months and then showing this new body of work. A new film can be seen on the front page of this website featuring an ongoing collaboration with Norwegian filmaker Haavard Helle and composer Mira Calix. It is the beginning of some exciting work to come.

December 2016

Listning to:

Aphex Twin- Cheetah

Epicoytl- Portia Winters

Vijay Iyer /Wadada Leo Smith- A Cosmic Rhythmn with Each Stroke.

Roger Redgate and Matt Wright- Single Combat.


Samuel Beckett: Collected Poems.

Bernard O Donoghue: Cullen Church.

POSTED: 12/2/16 2:58 PM

“Live, Light Performance Painting.”

In a few weeks time I am embarking some exciting collaborative and intimate performances in London, Oxford and Newcastle. Some of these will be an exciting  collaboration with the Centre of Visual Music on some Salon evenings . These performances will focus on light and the ephemeral quality of paint, and the capturing of time and resonate with the collection of films being shown, including a rare film by Jordan Belson.

Paint, coloured light and Shadow

Performance Light Painting

Performance in Coloured Light

Electro Party Performance

Painting Performance in Coloured Light

Live Light Painting

My recent performances have  concentrated upon the voice together with painting, and upon the raw visceral vulnerability and the element of power created through this. A while ago now I met the Philosopher and writer Jonathan Ree who wrote a great book while ago now called “I See a Voice” which looked at the many layered phenomenon of the voice. It is a great book and I have been re reading this in connection with this upcoming work. There have been some great exhibitions of late, my personal favourite lately being a showing at the Barbican of Ragnar Kjartansson who  heroically navigated a dodgy connection Skype talk with Carollee Schneeman I experienced at a showing of her work in Reykjavik of which I was involved with last year.


Carollee Schneeman- Kinetic Painting.

Wallace Stevens-Collected Poetry.

Hans Ulrich Obrist – A Brief History of New Music.

Jonathan Ree- I See a Voice.

Listning to:

Cleveland Watkiss. All material.

Sonny Sharrock- Black Woman

Shabaka and the Ancestors- Wisdom of The Elders.

Mark Clive de Lowe- Blue Note remix.

Quantic-Flowering Inferno.

Portia Winters-Epicotyl

POSTED: 09/23/16 4:46 PM

Real Time Sensory Art Performance in Iceland.

I recently staged a performance as part of the Sequences (Real Time Art) Festival in Reykjavik in Iceland . Here are some stills from a forthcoming film by Haarvard Helle of that performance, in which I used blue on a white background , a reversal of another performance for film which used blue on Black and featured a black cube (a recurring theme featuring in my new work) . The whole site specific performance was a meditation on time and the act of painting as a form of excersise and movement and perhaps an act of devotion within the moment.

Dripping Blue Paint.

Dripping Blue Paint in Iceland

There seemed to be a certain potency with the intervention within the incredible Icelandic landscape and hoping to perform there again soon. When I saw the space that I was to perform in, I assumed it would be freezing, and prepared myself for the worst, however when I opened the door to the building it was pumping warm, heated naturally and geothermally via large heated pipes underground. The only props I had was Paint, a miked up Canvas and a wall behind, the sounds of paint occasionally surreally interspersed by clicking tyres of cars passing by with snow tyres.

Recently, I have recently been listening to the wonderful 18 Microtonal Ragas by John Cage by the Dhrupad and experimental singer Amelia Cuni which I find very visual and am working visually with some of these pieces at the moment. A few Years ago now I performed with the Hindustani singer and writer Amit Chaudhuri and I am continuing re reading and layering the work that I did in that 2 hour performance. John Cage created some beautiful art too, and I was pleased to find that there is now a John Cage page dedicated to his art

June 2015

Listning to- Kamasi Washington – The Epic.

Kendrick Lamar-To Pimp a Butterfly.

Vijay Iyer- Break Stuff.

Andrea Keller-Wave Rider.

Blue on White Performance Painting in Iceland

Blue on White Performance Painting

Performance Film Still

Performance Film Still

Pouring/Painting Performance

Pouring/Painting Performance

Paint Performance

Paint Performance

Performance Painting In Iceland

Performance/Film Still.

POSTED: 06/2/15 3:38 PM