Colour & Music Links

Colour & Music Blog

Image, Nature and the Moment.

Just the other day, I was invited to a private viewing of the Lithuanian filmmaker Jonas Mekas’s work. This great exhibition is currently showing at the Serpentine gallery and gives a glimpse into his working. In it there are passages of poetry, still’s of his numerous films, and documentation of his life. There was a beautiful new film installation, which contained snapshots from his life. During the first hour of being in the Serpentine, I became completely immersed in his world. Then I walked out of the room, and there was the great man himself, now nearing 90 years of age filming the private view and observing. It was as though the private view itself had become his studio. It made me think of poets such as Rimbauld and Baudelaire, their observations of life and more recently of poets like Bernard O Donoghue writing eloquently about displacement, being neither here nor there.

Viewing the John Gerard installation. Photo by Edmund Blok.

At a Private View of John Gerard's work.

The Serpentine show brought to mind an amazing great show I stumbled upon in Italy a few years ago of the visual artwork of Fredrico Fellini. In this case it was reams of sketchbooks and transparent workings of drawings of dreams. The great filmmaker was making sense of and drawing his dreams and in many cases then putting them into a film.

I have recently been looking at Carolee Shneemann’s groundbreaking work from the 1960’s and 1970’s where  life, process and performance become interlinked.   There is an exhibition of Shneeman’s rather neglected work at the Richard Saltoun Gallery in London next month. Amazingly, her work has been left out of the “Bigger Splash “ show running at the Tate, which explores painting and performance.

Seeing Mekas’s work also made me think of how art and life become as one. More powerfully though it made me think of how vital life itself is. In the woods near my house recently there have been the most spectacular mushrooms next to the solid 100 year old Oaks, due I expect to such a wet year in the UK. These Fungi burst from the ground momentarily beautifully and with such force which brings to mind the recent tragedy of colleague and friend Mike Stanley whose untimely and difficult memorial I attended last week. I can’t help but think of him as I look at wonderful mushrooms in a wood. The “Mushroom in the Forest” for the great poet Misrolav Holub was like an event, a symbol of upheavel. In the last couple of months I have experienced all this, the amazing experience and great joy of delivering my own son and experiencing great shock at losing old great friends and new ones suddenly. Life and nature feeling entwined as ever.

POSTED: 12/8/12 10:58 AM

Michael Stanley RIP.

Just the other day I found out the tragic and terribly shocking news of the untimely death of Michael Stanley (The Director of Modern Art Oxford).

Michael was a real support to me over the past few years. He took up the position of Director of MAO just as I became Creative Arts Fellow at the University. We met at the start of my tenure and over the past few years I have hosted talks with him and he was instrumental in, and helped bring about my performance at MAO last year. Aside from his great dynamic achievements and accolades as a director, he also had a rare empathy and real understanding of artists.

I was really very fond of Michael and will miss him greatly.

POSTED: 09/24/12 4:45 PM

Film Screening and Talk 5.30pm, Tuesday 19th June, 2012. Wolfson College, Oxford.

I greatly enjoyed talking to Haroon Mirza and as always with Michael Stanley this week. The discussion centred around Haroon’s fascinating work and the combination worked well looking closely at the wider context of Art, Sound and Music and their fascinating interconnections. Next week I am looking forward to discussing my own performances with Roger Redgate and  Emmanuel Spinelli, exploring and translating sounds and music via painting, movement and improvisation, and the ideas and questions that have emerged.

Performance Paint

Performance Paint

The evening will be a screening of excerpts of the recent Modern Art Oxford and  South Bank performances that brought us together, with a discussion about how our disciplines have joined in this hybrid way. This will be the last event in connection with my tenure as Creative Arts Fellow at Wolfson College, at the University of Oxford.

POSTED: 06/14/12 4:28 PM

“Art and Sound.” at 6pm, 11th June, Haldene Lecture Room, Wolfson College, Oxford.

I am very much looking forward to a conversation between myself and the internationally acclaimed artist Haroon Mirza, and Director of Modern Art Oxford Michael Stanley about Haroon’s work and about the fascinating interelationship between Art and Sound.

The talk is a continuation of a series of talks I have organised as part of my ongoing Creative Arts Fellowship exploring not only my own work but the crossing of the senses within visual art.

POSTED: 05/28/12 9:37 AM

Planets, Colours and Notes.

In the last couple of months I have been continuing looking at the fascinating correlations between movements in and between art, music and dance and went to the terrific ‘Danser Sa Vie’ show at the Pompidou Centre in Paris where I particularly loved seeing the cross sensory work of choreographer Trisha Brown and Jan Fabre’s powerful piece with a naked dancer covered in Oil, juxtaposed with Klein’s body paintings and  chiming with Pollock filmed by Hans Nemuth. Having the dancer being completely exposed, all  barriers were completely removed between body, movement and process flowing as one.

I have also seen a few terrific shows in London recently. The late Joan Mitchell’s at Hauser Wirth and a great show of Debuffet’s in Waddington’s both, which would have been made even better with a bit of music and sound. Debuffet apparently made music himself collaborating with Asger Jorn. I was talking with the great Art Historian Richard Cork following a talk with him at Wolfson College on the inter-relationship of Music and painting. Someone afterwards mentioned how some of the paintings would have made more sense with music and the idea was floated of showing paintings with music in separate rooms. This I believe has not been explored much. A few years ago I took part in a touring show called ‘Eye Music’ which contained work by Kandinsky, Klee, and more. This could have benefited greatly from some music filtering through the rooms. It would demand a lot of space but would be great I reckon.

Performance Painting at the Royal Academy of Music to Music by George Crumb.

On a musical note I have been listening to some George Crumb to whose little pieces I painted (See above) to a while ago and of Vlinko Globkar’s fascinating work and I’ve been joyously rediscovering the sensitive afro American improvisations of the 1970’s by artists such as Sam Rivers and Don Pullen. This revolutionary Organic and under sung music sets up huge all encompassing complexities of colour and timbre which really appeals to me.

The other night I became aware about the extraordinary Bowerbirds of Australia, which collect objects of the same colour. I can imagine them flying over those vast distances bringing colours back to their nests. In my studio I find myself over the years doing something similar gathering objects, whether it being flints, album covers and wee boxes. A few weeks ago it was unseasonably warm which meant that in the evenings I could open my studio in the woods and look at it from a far, a bit like when you step back from a painting. This also coincided with the planets Venus and Jupiter being incredibly bright. The light made it almost possible and tangible that the light of my studio and the planets were in some way connected.

Colour Music

Messiaen Colours. Collection of St Hugh's College, University of Oxford.

I have been continuing my obsessional fascination with Tarkovsky films too lately and  in particular the magnificent Rublev about the great Russian Painter, and drawing analogies with the poems by the Czech Immunologist turned poet Miroslav Holub. The filmmaker and poet both enable this tangible feeling of tremendous scale, from the particular to the enormous, the microscopic to the grandiose and like the glorious music of Messiaen, in particular the Colours de la Cite Celeste the colour of the particular and the vastness. Through re watching my latest performances, these concerns are reflected and picked up upon in the relationships between small objects and enormous gestures.  My own practise of Buddhist Kum Nye Meditation similarly reflects this moving between the small, slow and micro movements to the huge expansive and all encompassing.

Post Performance at Modern Art Oxford

Small devices, objects and painting.

POSTED: 04/27/12 2:50 PM

‘Collision’ Talk at Wolfson College, 5.15pm.8th March 2012.

Rowan-Hull will talk with Michael Berkeley and Kevin Laycock on their visual/Music collaboration.

A Screening of the work will take place as part of the event.

POSTED: 03/5/12 10:41 AM

Dreamtime and Illuminations of Beyond

I have had a mind blowing few months, of which to date I have not written about. Largely due to the fact that it is all still just sinking in.

It all started with an auditory experience in December, watching the Australian band “The Necks” whom I went to see playing in the Holywell music room, the oldest purpose built music room in Europe. Over the years I have become a great lover of Australian improvised music. In particular the music of the great rough rambling sound of the tenor Saxophonist Bernie McGann and the sensitive abstractions of the pianist Andrea Keller.

The Necks though have a unique way of creating a soundscape, taking a simple minimal motif and building it up and up and suspending it. The experience is intense and meditative at the same time, awesome and almost overwhelming, and as I have now found out could only come out of Australia.

Watering Hole

I found the Australian Outback particularly and extraordinarily overwhelming. I expected to think of the work of Australian painters such as Arthur Boyd, Sydney Nolan which of course I did, but I was surprised  often  to be reminded of Messiaen and his great orchestral works ( in particular “Illuminations of the Beyond”)His final big piece which apparently according to one of my knowledgable twitter followers, infact contained Australian birdsong. This music for me seemed to in some way come somewhere close to capturing some of the vastness and spirituality in th landscape, and the awesome closeness of the stars with the land.  Interestingly Australia has an interesting tradition of Colour Music too, of which I first read about in a biography of Francis Bacon. The artist Roy de Meistre and friend to Bacon was a  pioneer of Abstraction through music.

Driving through the Outback

The Birdsong echoing through the valleys and the sound of wind blowing across the desert and the Aboriginal philosophy of Dreamtime (as documented in Bruce Chatwin’s great book Songlines) really struck a chord with everything I am interested in and am doing and I feel sure that the whole experience will filter into my new work.

Desert I pad Sketch.

The Spontinaety of performance is something I am focussing on at the moment and the ways of portraying this. The performance with Susanna Recchia recently has had a profound effect on the way I am thinking about my work now. There are a few great shows too, which are resonating with me at the moment. In Paris (where I will be visiting shortly) there is an exhibition about Art and Dance at the Pompidou Centre about the interrelationship between the two artforms over the last Century. The other is about Music and Composition through visual art with Ryoji Ikeda in Berlin. Next month at the University of Oxford, I will be hosting talks about Music and Art’s inter relationship with Art Historian Richard Cork and looking at Visual art and composition with Michael Berkeley and Kevin Laycock.

Finally a writer I admire just wrote to me “I was musing on your own work’s hybridity, and how you arrived there, this _between_ space of painting and music which is really itself a dance.  How your work inhabits time, chance, the synchronicity of your paint and another artist’s sound, that intensity of listening, translation, transformation.  How to create those meeting points without sacrificing the discipline itself.?

All of my current concerns concisely and most eloquently stated.

POSTED: 02/10/12 3:57 PM

“Eye Music.” A talk with Richard Cork, 1st March, 2012

A talk at Wolfson College with Art Historian Richard Cork on visual art’s relationship with Music in the 20th Century. 5.15pm in the Main Hall.

POSTED: 02/3/12 3:11 PM

“Continuous Flow”

When working on artwork with people with severe mental illness, I always placed a great importance on stressing that a piece was not to be finished, and that the process was much more important than the finished product. I was reminded by someone of this the other night and have been thinking about it since. Process or rather the preparation is now the main focus in my own work, becoming for me as important if not more so than the finished piece. I am always visually trying to capture temporality. As an artist and an improvisational musician the process is always at the forefront. Preparation for that process to happen successfully is the key. In my practice, painting via performance, it’s about  finding not only the right person whether musician, composer and dancer to work with but also the right combinations of sounds, surroundings and space in which to perform this process.

In my performances, it is also important to reach a point whereby I can paint freely. To achieve this is difficult and requires a process in itself of “centring” or as some refer to reaching an inner zone.

I was recently introduced to the fascinating, free paintings of Sri Chinmoy, the Indian Guru who made a terrific amount of paintings, and which to me capture what the inspirational Buddhist teacher Ringu Tulku (whom I saw talk last year), calls a “Continuous Flow.”

Treatise Performance

Following a revealing and candid talk between Anthony Caro and Tim Marlow of which I went to the other week, I was fascinated to learn how it was the process involved in making that he remembered about his own art, and unusually not the finished piece. He humbly suggested that his enormous steel sculptures were in a way really forms of Collage, a process of placing and re-placing. Out of many artists I was least expecting this from a sculptor whose huge steel works are so tied to the final piece and Modernist Aesthetic thought. Thinking about the great artists I have had the fortune to meet, their life and procedure and rituals have greatly fascinated me.

I was again reminded of process and “continuous flow” after organizing a fascinating talk at Wolfson College given by the Director of the Centre for Visual Music in LA (Cindy Keefer) who highlighted the the importance of the film work of Oskar Fischinger and Jordan Belsen whose films pioneered a way of looking at sound. It is this temporal aspect of the visual arts, which have always captured me. Whether it is the processes revealed by an artist such as Gustav Metzger with his Auto Destructive art and Liquid Crystal works, the Lackskin paintings of Andre Thomkins, performance work by Marina Abramovich and also the moving colours of Richter’s abstracts where process and the final pieces achieve an interdependence, where everything is compounded, or made up of different elements becoming one. This quality I also appreciate particularly in the composers Janacek, Messiaen, McCabe, Monteverdi, Bach, Byrd, Britten, Tallis and Shostakovich  their subtly and shifting colours and complementary chords, of which I have and continue to try  to capture over many performances.

Flowing between Movement, Colour and Sound.

Last week I gave a performance, which I am still digesting….Until I see the  film of it,  it lives on for me like a dream which I can’t remember all the details of but which keeps coming back to me in parts. This was with Roger Redgate and Emmanuel Spinelli and the Dancer Susanna Reccia reinterpreting Cardew’s amazing Treatise score for which I have mentioned. For this I could strongly feel a real tangible feeling of oneness through the score, the sounds, music and the movement of dance and colour. Many remarked afterwards that it seemed as if we had worked together for years although never before together. There was a distinct Continuous flow between us becoming a whole. Movement, Painting, improvisation and musical ideas flowing  as a whole and our different practices held together for a wonderful riveting moment in time.

POSTED: 12/4/11 10:42 PM

Dancing, Painting and Traces of performance.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the great thrill of convening a conversation between the innovative choreographer Siobhan Davies, Myself and Michael Stanley (The current Director of Modern Art Oxford). I became aware of Siobhan Davies’s important work many, many years ago whilst at college and went to see performances of hers of the music of Volans and Reich and the way in which the performances gave the music a visual power made a lasting impression on me. Like Merce Cunningham before, Siobhan Davies has opened a unique dialogue between artforms, which as she talked about during the conversation temper, meld and shape each other.

More recently though I have become aware of her exciting work with visual artists resulting in a show an important show called Collection, which was a collaboration with the Victoria Miro Gallery, a series of works based around a score called ROTOR and most recently Commissions which are a series of works relating to dance and movement and have just been on show at the Bargehouse in London including great collaborative work by Marcus Coates and Lucy Skaer. The conversation between us concentrated on interfaces between artforms, the nature of practices and the correspondences there of.

Conversation with Siobhan Davies and Michael Stanley

The whole conversation did make me think about how dance informs my own work and is becoming very much part of what I do. I experienced dance closely from childhood and spent early years of my life amongst Ballet dancers (interestingly led by an inspiring polio stricken choreographer called Liz Twistigan Higgins). Someone said recently of my performances that I often appeared to be dancing, especially when retouching or doubling up on a certain brushstroke. I have been thinking of how painting and dance can become interlinked and In a performance shortly at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, I will be exploring this further, working live with a dancer reinterpreting the pioneering graphic score Treatise by Cornelious Cardew as part of a celebration of the great composer’s work.

Coming back to the Siobhan Davies conversation though…  whilst researching the artwork for the talk, I came across the spellbinding work of Anri Sala , and just the other day saw a magnificent show of his at the Serpentine, the focal piece of which is interestingly from the Collection show and features a Snare Drum digitally reading a performance, leaving traces of sound. The show encapsulated all that we had talked about within the conversation. It was a truly cross sensual show using music, dance performance and film ….experimenting with the gallery space in a unique and special way. It is these traces of a performance, which resonate with my own practice as I continue to seek a way of presenting my own work precisely and simply.

POSTED: 11/16/11 11:48 AM