Colour & Music Links

Colour & Music Blog

“Landscape, and the Passage of a Time.”

In the past few months I have been travelling  in Arizona.

The Landscape there is absolutely extraordinary and I love it. Whilst there I travelled to a place called “Sunset Crater”. The landscape was so new, almost as if the the Volcano had just happened, only betrayed by some knarly old trees, dead amongst the black landscape. There amongst this landscape were these very beautiful, fragile red flowers swaying in the hot desert breeze. The colour reminded me of my own performance paintings, especially those on black. It also got me thinking again about time , and making my mark of colour on it and then colour upon blackness perhaps being highly symbolic of this passing of time.

The Incredible Volcanic Landscape of Sunset Crater.

Sunset Crater

flower in volcanic crater

A Flower inside a volcanic landscape in Arizona

I sense this at home also, when I am walking through the oak woods near to my studio. Looking at a hundred or two year old Oaks and thinking about what has happened and is happening in the lifetime of  a tree. Human life is a bit like a mushroom in comparison. This cyclical passing of time is mentioned quite a lot in the show on at the moment by Anselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy of Art. For myself, I was even more impressed by a show I saw of his in London in the 1980’s called High Priestess which eloquently made the point that time can be contained and unseen,  in a series of gigantic lead bookcases of which the viewer was completely dwarfed by.

Time is further  highlighted by the decay in my studio which is now starting to fall down. I am documenting this happening and will be filming some performances in the coming months as the winter descends. I feel a new era is dawning in my work as the Autumn begins and the light drops.

Decaying Studio

Studio Scene (Film Still)

POSTED: 10/1/14 6:01 PM

“Transformation and the Cube of Emotion.”

A few years ago I showed a documentary photograph of a performance of mine to a close friend  unfamiliar with my recent work. It was assumed that the image they were looking at was a painting of mine, whereas in actual fact it was a documentary photograph of me in the act of painting. This made me think of how my own body and the images produced are interconnected and how the image is perceived. It also made me think of how my own body can portray the subjectivity of performance in physical and metaphysical ways.

The body  is becoming more intrinsic to my work and practice recently, and I am continually working on a series of short films in the Studio exploring this theme. I am looking at the work of Carolee Schneemann, and Jack Smith in connection to this too, and of course the links to music. In particular concentrating on Shneemann’s work with composer James Tenney.

Performance Painting

Body and Performance

Here below are some stills from the films I am continuing to work on at the moment,  showing my own actions in the studio, in nature and in painting.

Selecting of Music and sound in the studio

Selecting Sound

En Plein Air Painting

En Plein Air Painting

Performance Painting En Plein Air

En Plein Air Painting

The collaborations I form in my work are what Ryan Trecartin in a recent talk with Hans Ulrich Obrist stated  ”opening up a landscape of possibilities, rather than a final vision”   and create transformations across the art-forms via performance. The paintings and the images produced are often destroyed, becoming a bi product of the whole experience in itself. I  enjoy this notion that Painting itself, becomes all encompassing and at yet at the same time inconsequential. In the first Gutai exhibition (the exhibition in the Sky),  paintings were submitted to be let off with balloons and watching  Jordan Belson, James Whitney’s and Len Lye’s magnificent films the eye captures beautiful images which last for fleeting seconds before moving on and into others. (Visual Music). All this feeds my thoughts and ideas about the capturing of time within my own work.

There is an interesting and relevant group show on at the ICA shortly on the premise of Painting being part of a multidisciplinary act, named “Beware Wet Paint”.

Many my ideas often start with a box, containing my ideas.  My Studio is in itself like a box, containing many of my projects. I made mention in an earlier blog to the work of Wally Hendrick,  whose performance box, “The War Room”  made such an impression on me. Since then, I have been looking at lots of boxes.  In the last few years, i’ve noticed in particular ones by Paul McCarthy and Mathew Day Jackson as well as older examples such as Joseph Cornell, of whose boxes I have always loved and was reminded slightly of when looking at Anselm Kiefer’s vitrines the other day. There is a good article just written about them Cornell’s boxes and film . I have also been reading about Hugo Lovheim’s cube of Emotion, which also seems to open a link between the cube and my own performances.

However it is really the idea of the concept of a performance and then that simply being packaged as a product (a cube) . I will be showing these works and films soon.

Listning to:

Andrea Keller: Wave Rider.

Gillian Weir: Messiaen Organ Music.

Mira Calix: Elephant in the Room.

Aphex Twin: Syro

Lost Midas: Off the Course.

Mark de Clive Lowe: Church and Take the Space Train.

Vinko Globkar: Improvisations.


Where The Heart Beats- John Cage and the inner Life of Artists-Kay Larson.

Telling Tales- Amit Chaudhuri.

Jan Fabre- The Years of the Hour Blue.

Hans Ulrich Obrist- A brief History of Modern Music.

September 23rd 2014.

POSTED: 09/22/14 12:22 PM

Beyond the Surface.

Here are some still images from filmwork I am working on with the Norwegian filmmaker Haavard Helle, with whom I am collaborating.

The filming is an extension and a progression of my work to date, which are all via performances and moments in time. This will focus on transformations that tale place with paint, music and sound,  and provide an essay to  facilitate a greater understanding of the practice and processes and time based nature beyond the surface of my work, and form part of displays and events over the coming year.

Painting and Spaciousness

Painting and Spaciousness

Lonely Painting

Lonely Painting in the Woods.

There are some good shows relating to the intersection of music and art, on at the moment,the magnificent Klee still at the Tate, and  Martin Creed at the Hayward.

I am greatly excited at the moment, about the forthcoming Carolee Schneeman exhibition, and the film by Marielle Nitoslawska “Breaking the Frame” at Hales Gallery, and shown at the ICA in London both happening at the end of the month. Her groundbreaking work continues to strongly inspire me and I am looking forward to meeting with her.

Finally, the other week I witnessed the funk at close quarters with the incredible George Clinton, a truly legendary and extraordinary revolutionary figure in music. Whilst being transported to another dimension during an intimate performance in Metropolis Studio’s, I was amazed at the ability of this tight, beat driven music to just take over the body and mind. Its the same feeling I have sometimes when painting in performance, painting the music. The power of music.


Pat Metheny – Kin

Christopher Redgate- Electrifying Oboe.

George Clinton-Parliament Funkadelic. Lets Take it to the Stage/Cosmic Slop/Magot Brain.

Messiaen-St Francois d’Assise


Marylynne Robinson- ‘As a Child, I used to read books.’

Kristine Stiles/ Carolee Schneemann “Correspondence Course”

Wallace Stevens-Collected Poems.

Erin Soros- Short Stories.

POSTED: 02/7/14 6:00 PM

“It’s about that Time.”

My work at the moment explores in greater depth the concept of and the wider theme of time in painting via performance. In the coming months I shall be working on a film, and planning performances for next year exploring this theme of time, sound and the site specific nature of my painting. The use of the spaces, which I use and which surround me will be the focus of this. I will use it to enhance  performances.

With Bluebells in the Spring


A couple of months ago I attended a great viewing of some restored visual music films, As well as the wondrous Jordan Belson “Quartet” and Oskar Fischinger works, there was also a mesmerising piece by John Cage in collaboration with Richard Lippold, which documented a Kinetic art sculpture. Whilst viewing these films, especially the silent ones by Belson, I completely lost all sense of time. Though quite short works, In Belson’s work in particular I could see so many different paintings and references, it was amazingly rich and dense and timeless in all senses.

I also recently viewed the fascinating Psychedelia (Reflections from a damaged life) show at Raven Row, which made reference to time, where there were films drawn from a wide spectrum with more work from Jordan Belson, the Otolith Group amongst others and a great Pierre Huyghe light show. Apparently influenced by a Pink Floyd show, it reminded me of the dancefloor at Fabric nightclub, where I had been to the previous night though on a much smaller scale and with Erik Satie rather than throbbing beats. I am also looking at James Whitney’s work, and I have been looking at his groundbreaking early work linking music, senses, shape and colour, whose work is fractal like. Many years ago, I went to a fascinating talk by the composer Robert Sherlaw Johnson about Fractals in sound form and the music of which he wrote and composed. Speaking of composition, just this week, I received some notation of the pieces of Messiaen’s music to which I have worked closely with. I am looking at this notation and tying them with the passages of painting that I remember, looking at the colours, textures and seeing the written notation together is invigorating, and I feel will inspire a new body of works.

Quartet for the End of Time.

Quartet for the End of Time

I am also discovering the incredible groundbreaking and neglected work of the Gutai movement and particularly the work of Atsuko Tanaka and Shiraga Kazou, that continues to fascinate and inspire me at the moment. I see so many resonances from these areas of creating within my own work. Looking at the wonderful catalogue to the recent “Splendid Playground” exhibition, it is eye opening to see how influential and fruitful this work still looks, though much of it being produced so long ago. It is incredible to me that there is only one book translated to English on this amazing movement, and to my knowledge not one big show in Europe on the group….How come??  On a performance theme, I am excited also to hear about the forthcoming Gustav Metzger show, taking place next year at Kettles Yard in Cambridge. His work I believe continues to be greatly potent and relevant today.

One of my favourite Miles Davis works is a minimal piece called ‘It’s about that Time‘  and I was recently given gift the new book of Miles Davis’s paintings, which I had overlooked before, and how wonderful they are to discover as new. I have also been looking/listening to  Oliver Lake and his Trio 3, Lake  both paints and improvises. As always it is at the ‘cusp of improvisation’, where artforms join intersect and divide in that moment of performance, which continues to fascinate me, capturing those all important transitory moments in performance and time.  On what would have been Olivier Messiaen’s 105th birthday, I cant help but think of his great masterpiece Quartet for the End of Time, which I have worked with many times. In this piece its as if one time is created working within another notated time frame.


Trio 3 with Jason Moran.

Oliver Lake Complete recordings

Morton Feldman- Patterns in a Chromatic Field.


Visual Music-Brian Eno.

Gutai -Splendid Playground-

Image, Music Text-Roland Barthes.

Paul Klee Catalogue.

Misrolav Holub. Complete poems.

POSTED: 12/10/13 10:57 PM

The Lingering and Mourning of a Star

Just last month I went to see a terrific and exciting new show of Gilberto Zorio’s work in an elegant space in the centre of London. I found the work revelatory. I loved the participatory and the visionary nature of it and the way in which he uses material in a transformative way. In particular one of his his Star pieces sticks in my mind. It is a shiny aluminium star which has, what appears to be a splash or as I thought, an unwashed wall behind the immaculate and finely produced star.  I was in the midst of pondering on the possibility of lazy decorators in this fine new gallery space, when suddenly the lights went out, light being replaced with fizzing filaments and the sound of electricity. The atmosphere was tense and exciting. Suddenly there was an intense flash of light upon the star and then sudden darkness revealing that the splash was in fact a phosperscent shadow of the star, creating a beautiful afterglow. It reminded me of the Intermingled Afterglow in sound that Peter Hill refers to in the chords in the music of Messiaen.

The following night there was a meteor shower where a similar effect occurred. Spectacular flashes followed by darkness and a memory of what had been seen.

This seemed to all encapsulate and attain a certain power and poignancy for me at this time, after thinking of all the people I have known, so important in my development as a creative being, who have died recently, shining and leaving their lasting impression.  I am, in particular thinking about Mike Stanley currently, who tragically and harrowingly died this time last year. The last time I saw Mike, just after a talk with the artist Haroon Mirza, we talked about Zorio’s work as he was responsible for a show of his at Milton Keynes Gallery a few years back.

Performance, Time.

Performance and Time.

In the last few months I have been working on a suite of drawings and Maquettes in the studio, reflecting on time and on themes of colour, and the Crossing the senses. In particular on small pieces and ‘tableau Vivant’s,’ which relate to certain performances. The window pieces I show here, for instance, extrapolate performance pieces with windows and objects reflecting on the passage of time between the immediacy at the cusp of improvisation, capturing the moment in juxtoposition with the product, with its ultimate legacy and beautiful decay. As with music or a performance, one is left with the recording, a photograph or the pressing of a vinyl and so on, but the performance itself like light passing over a mountain and is fleeting.  I have been looking recently at Jem Finer’s fascinating work , the transitory work of the Gutai group, and Carolee Schneeman’s work which all, amongst other things, beautifully studies and examines time and duration. The other night I saw some beautiful restored films from the Centre of Visual Music by Jordan Belsen at the Tate Modern, which are like cinematic paintings. They are actually quite short films, but when viewing them they seem much much longer, such is their beauty and complexity of the imagery.

Bryce Canyon in Utah.

Bryce Canyon

Whilst in Arizona over the summer, I came upon a beautiful site in an ancient landscape where a Buddhist Stupa had been erected. All around the site were many prayer flags fluttering, in a beautiful state of decay . Here there seemed to be a perfect harmony between the ancient lasting but ever changing landscape and the transitory but lasting nature of being. Most wondrous of all was a moment I had at nightfall at the amphitheatre at Bryce Canyon in Utah. It was the most incredible, spectacular and awesome landscape I have ever seen. As I looked at the colours glowing as the light fell, the beautiful “Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives came into my mind. Unfathomable beauty, which like Zorio’s star and great people, leave an impression which keeps on glowing.


Necks Mindset/Silverfish.

John Coltrane-Interstellar Space/ Ascension

Jason Moran-Artist in Residence.

Andrea Keller-Three Lanes.

Sons of Kemet- Burn.

Impossible Gentlemen- Aliens

Daniel Baremboim- Beethoven Symphony’s
Reading- Seamus Heaney-Seeing Things

Gutai-  Decentering Modernism.

Australian Aboriginal Painting Since 1960-Remembering Forward

Pablo Neruda- Selected Poems.

POSTED: 10/7/13 3:08 PM

Improvisations, Correspondences and the Canyons.

Here are some improvised performance paintings I have become fascinated with in the last months. By looking at these colours, textures and shapes  I can remember the certain shifting chords, and the intense recollections of painting them. Whenever I hear in passing, for instance a bit of Messiaen or Shostakovich, It takes me back in an instance to the exact time and experience of the performance, and at the moment I am collating the passages of music (notation) that they originated from, researching the “correspondences” that the passages of paintings contain. The Colours in some way provide markers for the shifting music. I am returning to the paintings, remembering in the words of the late Michael Stanley, “Its all about Painting”.

Sainsbury Centre Performance Painting

Sainsbury Centre Performance Painting

Walls Of Water Performance Painting

Walls Of Water, Liverpool Met Cathedral Performance Painting

Speaking of improvisation, it was wonderful to hear that Cecil Taylor was awarded the prestigious Kyoto Prize, the first time an improvising musician has ever been awarded one.

There are some great shows on at the moment, which show the contemplation of Correspondences that interest me. At the Venice Biennale there is an Anri Sala installation on work by Ravel. There is a big  Andres Thomkins exhibition on in Lichtenstein at the moment, There is also a great Takesada Matsutani show on in London. His performance “Stream” is beautiful, and also a great source of inspiration for it’s simplicity. The Gutai movement from which he was involved, I am currently researching. In sound,both Ryoji Ikeda and Haroon Mirza have exciting shows on different sides of the globe and there is a fascinating show at Calvert 22 in London about Experimental Music and Art in Eastern Europe, and for Cross sensory Performance work, there is the amazing Mike Kelly retrospective at the Pompidou in Paris.

There is also a huge sensory light show of James Turrel’s on currently at the Gugenheim in New York. The last time I saw his work was at the Gagosian in London, where I nearly broke my ankle, gazing in wonder at colour changes in a restricted space with a gap. Fortunately, I was saved,by a black suited Gagosian bodyguard.  Turrel’s work often reminds me of those mesmerisng Jordan Belsen films, some of his groundbreaking film work can be seen in September at Raven Row Gallery. In Arizona he has acquired the huge Rodan Crater, where one can (from 2014) view light from different angles and perspectives and In the coming months I am setting off, to work in and experience the Vortexes and Canyons of Arizona for myself. In recent weeks I have rediscovered Messiaen’s great masterwork “From the Canyons to the Stars” which derives from the area, which will give me all the strength needed for my own future exhibitions films and performances.

New Reading and Listening.

Listening–Exai- Autechre

Tap-John Zorn/Pat Metheny

Silent Comedy/Big Sur –Bill Frisell

Des canyons aux etoiles/ Coleurs de la Cité Céleste-Olivier Messiaen.

July 2013.

Reading-More Than Meat Joy-Carolee Schneemann

Yves Klein. With the Void, Full Powers

Nocturne -James Attlee

Josef Albers and Wassily Kandinsky: Friends in Exile. A Decade of Correspondence

POSTED: 07/4/13 8:54 AM

Sound Painting.

Tryptych of Paintings on Perspex, primed Canvas, and Under Window.

Paintings in my Studio.

In an event a few years ago now, I worked with a poet and a composer in Sheffield. It was a pivitol exploratory moment for me as for the first time, I  focussed on just sounds I was creating on Canvas as much as, if not more than on the visualisation. It was miked up, and I found it mesmerising and was excited by it. Previously, I had used this in a performance at Ronnie Scotts, when I miked some canvas’s up. I used this effect also, on a much larger scale in the performance at Modern Art Oxford, and then more recently at the South Bank with Cornelious Cardew’s Treatise Score. In these exciting performances, it felt as though there were no particularly barriers between the artforms. Sound, Notation, Painting, movement all became interlinked, becoming a cross sensory Jigsaw.

Ekphransis Painting

Sound Painting

In the last couple of weeks I received the original sound recordings from those performances and have been revisiting them and isolating the sounds. Not watching the performance painting is an odd experience though  fascinating and fruitful. Surrounded as I am in my studio, by relics of performances. It makes me focus on the memory of certain moments and sounds. The sounds of a performance, the individual movements and associated traces are vital and an important part of telling the ongoing story of my work.

Treatise by Cardew Performance Painting (Now destroyed)

Finished performance piece.

May 27th 2013.

POSTED: 05/28/13 3:47 PM

Capturing and Curating the Moment.

At present I am listening to Muhal Richard Abrams in my studio creating wonderful shifting chords and unexpected improvised colours. It is a recorded performance from around twenty years ago, yet sounding as if it is being created now. I’ve also recently been listening to some fresh sounding Anthony Braxton which is captured on vinyl with incredible artwork containing the shapes from whence the music came. Both these musicians continue to be a great influence on my work, and their forward thinking approach to music set up the Association for the advancement of Creative Musicians. Artists using sound are using Vinyl in the same way as a way of capturing sound as a product, and recently there have been records released by Haroon Mirza, (whom I talked with last year) Martin Creed, and Christian Marclay. I am also becoming fascinated by the legacy of sounds created in my own performances. Distilling the essence of performance is always a dichotomy for me, of which I am constantly addressing in the work I make, especially recently, whereby I am collating performance work, speaking of which I have noticed recently that my performance paintings of years ago, in public collections can now be seen on the BBC “Your Paintings” website. Parts of my studio at the moment, remind me sometimes of my informative visits many years ago to John and Myfanwy Piper’s house and seeing their incredible mantelpieces and bookshelves with  fascinating collections of things special to them and also more recently to Tom Phillips’ amazing house/Studio to which I recently visited. When Myfanwy Piper died in 1996, I was kindly allowed by the family and with Piper’s collaborator Geoffery Eastop to take documentary photographs of the house, some of these are in a recent book by Art Historian Frances Spalding on the Pipers.

Reunion with my old College friend Martin Hughes

In My Studio.

I saw Keith Jarrett recently at a rare London performance, and during the show I was incredibly aware of the preciousness of the moment, with the ability of this talented pianist to conjure and enhance, even vamp uniqueness in the moment, which I think perhaps makes him so popular with audiences. I was aware again of this capturing and enhancing a moment in a terrific talk by the great South African artist William Kentridge in Oxford recently about the process of making his art. It utilised film of him working to illustrate this, juxtaposed with him talking in person. It was most effective, almost making the talk itself become like the finished piece of work. Following this was a talk by the curator Ivo Mesquita who talked about the influence of Lina Bo Bardi on the way architecture can effect the curation of art, looking in particular at the Sao Paolo museum of Modern Art. Here the Artworks are excitingly suspended, enabling the viewer to navigate around it, enhancing the temporal quality of the art. There has also been a recent show curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist about Bo Bardi’s incredible glass house, which is at one with nature and has been an inspiration to artists.

May 2013.

POSTED: 05/15/13 11:00 AM

Room for A Small Opera.

Room for a Small Opera.

My studio is starting to resemble a “Room for a Small Opera” by Janet Cardiff and George Burres Miller, with vinyl records, old tapes and record players. Their work continues to fascinate me, and it was seeing their “Motet” piece, when in Barcelona a few years ago, which opened my eyes to Sound Art and its impact, leading to my current concerns at the interface between Painting, Sound, music and movement.

In my studio there are many assembled archetectral objects, at the moment I am looking at them and listening to a great new visual album by Autechre . Suddenly they take on a new appearance.  I have often used Architectural features in my work, especially within Collages and for pieces associated with Messiaen’s music. For instance, for a piece in the collection of the University of Oxford, I used a Norman motif of human heads transmuting into bird heads based on what I translated synaesthetically whilst seeing the music of the spectacular Turangalila Symphony. There are some beautiful flinted ruined churches in Suffolk, (where I used to live) and to which I often return. The decorative knapped flints often reflect the sky and are jewell like, particularly this time of year when the light is low. By these I have an old musical roll of “Waltzing Mathilda” a somewhat physical mechanical manifestation of music and a sentimental link with Australia and a wooden rule of my grandfather’s, which I remember being in his hands. Somehow, juxtaposed they contain additional meaning, and gain an extra resonance.  The importance of these juxtapostions or “Curating” these objects, sounds and gestures was brought home to me further in a fascinating show I just went to see recently by the German artist Rosmarie Trockel, switching between media and author, and questioning the role of the artist today.

Flints and Objects

I have for many years now been making maquettes with boxes. A year or so ago, I went to a space within a Lutyens building in London to an exhibition called the “Historical Box” curated by Maria McCarthy for Hauser and Wirth gallery, relating to a time of political and social activism and turmoil in the sixties.  The work I remember most vividly was a black canvas box called “The War Room” by Wally Hendrick, who incidentally produced paintings via performances, and was a member of the Beat Generation. The box has been repainted for three conflicts. Inside the space, one can reflect on this process and the passage of time in a powerful way. I am currently in the process of making some large boxes of my own from sections of performances, so that they like Hendrick’s War room can become contemplative spaces in which to remember performances and moments passed.

Each performance of my own has a lengthy and elaborate procedure and story of its own to tell. Some are unrealised and even fail to come off. I am starting to think that these and the stories they entail are in some way important in their own right. Some of my events have taken so long to organise, that by the time they have happened, I have often moved on with my ideas. I am in the process of documenting and writing them up presently.

In a recent performance, I destroyed the work during performance, something I’d like to explore some more via film documentation, which is in itself becomes the only record of the process and product that is left. All my performances are by nature site specific, and I have been thinking of this also recently and how the performance is governed by the space and piece of music. Someone asked me at the beginning of my Creative Arts Fellowship at the University of Oxford what it was I did. When I explained, he said to me that I must do a lot of documenting. His words keep coming back to me at the moment.

April 2013.

POSTED: 05/15/13 10:22 AM

New Year I Pad Assemblages.

I have recently been working on my I Pad, on some images based around various pieces of Music. I have for a long time been collecting objects and making Assemblages, which for me resonate with various different musics. These particular pieces are derived from experimental soundscape music which I am enjoying at the moment by composer Mira Calix.

Musical Box in response to Mira Calix's Roundabout.

Calix Musical Box

Musical Assemblage.

Musical Assemblage Eyes Set against the Sun.

Music Assemblage

Mira Calix, Musical Assemblage

POSTED: 01/15/13 3:35 PM