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Colour & Music Blog

“Correspondences Between the Arts.”6pm Wolfson College, 21st October 2011. with Siobhan Davies and Michael Stanley

A discussion at Wolfson College with Siobhan Davies (Choreographer) and Michael Stanley (Director of Modern Art Oxford) looking at visual art and movement and in particular Siobhan Davies’s work Commissions which opens in November.

POSTED: 09/29/11 3:43 PM

Performance Painting

Performance Painting at Modern Art Oxford

Paint and toys

It is just a couple of weeks since my painting performance at the Modern Art Oxford. I felt it was a great success and it has given me many new ideas and new directions. I had some terrific feedback too.

There was a great sense of drama created by the scale of the task (painting the whole length of the Upper Gallery)

Over the days leading up to the performance things slowly evolved. Firstly it was decided that rather than paint the actual gallery walls that a wall would be constructed, which I could hit with brushes, which could also create sounds. I also decided on the day of the performance that the polyurethane would be miked up to create  more sound.  In the afternoon I met with my collaborators Roger Redgate and Emmanuel Spinelli, and we spent an entire afternoon working out the space and importantly how we were going to improvise within it, using the sounds together with quiet amplification.  It was a real delight to work with such open and like-minded musicians.

Rowan-Hull,Redgate and Spinelli

Painting from Sounds

For the performance itself….. time seemed to disappear in an intense hour of creating sounds and colours and after the event I was asked whether I would hang onto the work. I said no. …and it was enough for me to take a few photographs as a record. Later in the day however, the boards were dismantled to reveal sections, which oddly looked like pages of notation of which I now hope will be used to create further work. Hopefully these great photographs and the film that is made from the event will somehow capture this special occasion and moment in time of my creative life.

Colours and Sound

Painting Sound

All Photographs by kind permission of Sisi Burn

POSTED: 09/26/11 9:41 PM

Performance Painting for One Night Only.

At the moment as I write this I am gearing up for a performance at the Modern Art Oxford, a great art and influential gallery that I have been in many, many times over the years and where I have seen some of my favorite and most informative shows. Particular shows that spring to my mind is the great South African Art show in the 1980’s, a terrific Maria Abramovich show, a magnificent Kounellis show five or so years ago and a wonderful show of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller a couple of years ago too.  I will be painting the whole upper gallery in one night, layering sounds and painting the walls creating a musically fuelled forest of colour. It will be an exhibition, which exists only for the performance. It is for this reason I have titled it “Two Hours Only” and I will be creating with two great composers and improvisers Roger Redgate (with whom I have worked with before) and Emmanuel Lorien Spinelli who works creating sounds from objects. I personally always think of paint as an instrument in itself, so I will be using colour and shapes overlapping one another to create the sounds in my head, mirroring what I hear.

It will be exciting to have such a beautiful vast lofty space in which to create visually and with sounds. I will be using colour on black, whereby the colours resonate and with stretched polyurethane to recreate how I see colours floating within space and with which I can also make sounds myself by using percussively. The audience will become immersed in a sea of gestures,textures and colours.

I have always been fascinated by the work of Sigmar Polke who created huge paintings on the concept of time and also Yves Klein’s work via performance, which have had a great effect on me and continue to inform my work. More recently there have been some exciting performances organised by Sound Fair in Berlin including one which struck me where Arto Lindsay who is also an inspirational figure created sounds in a gallery context in a work called Symphony.

Exploring painting via performance to me is of most importance and it is now I believe a great time to redress the way in which painting can be seen interactively and its fundamental linking in process with sound and music. I recently took part in a performance/conference at the Royal Academy of Music whereby film was played of my working with musicians and then one of the works  was interpreted as a graphic score. Some members of the audience were perturbed by the temporality and ephemeral nature of the performance and the piece of work left at the end. Someone said that I was  “deconstructing the Greenburgian Aesthetic” which I have been thinking about since. In my last performance I decided to destroy a piece after working on it  which drew a collective gasp from the audience, and now for this, the whole work will exist for just the performance. A sort of Exhibition which is created for one night, for one night only.

Painting with it’s sometimes old fashioned connotations is often put in its own static category…. almost as if it acts independently on its own apart from installations, sound art, Conceptual and other sometimes rather unhelpful categorisations. Throughout my career painting and in particular Abstract painting has often almost been seen as… almost sometimes a bit behind the times and static . It is where painting becomes interactively one and the same, crossing all defined boundaries where it continues to and will always interest me. The performance will I hope… as my recent work is doing is attempting to reveal the temporal qualities of painting and the capturing of time in sound and music.

Performance at Modern Art Oxford

POSTED: 09/8/11 3:18 PM

Performance at Modern Art Oxford, 7.30,13th September 2011

“Two Hours Only”, Performance Painting. A performance in the upper galleries by Mark Rowan-Hull with contemporary composers Roger Redgate and Emmanuel Lorien Spinneli exploring gesture, movement, time, colour and the interactive process of painting via performance to improvised and looped music – recreating the artist’s own experience of ’seeing’ music.

POSTED: 08/12/11 2:32 PM

Experimenting with the I Pad 2.

Just this week I have been introduced to a magnificent new app for the i.pad which I will definitely be using in a performance next month.

It is based on Ligetti’s piece Artikulations of 1958 and this app could have been made especially for me and for my way of working. It allows me to put down a colour however simply, and or Gesture to create an immediate notation, and then to layer on top of that.

I actually did this successfully in a performance at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club a few years ago now , with the Virtuoso trumpeter Gerard Presencer who played phrases of which I painted to and to which were then looped via an effects pedal.  Gerard then interpreted this and then I visualized it in turn, producing an exciting layering effect.For more revcent performances too, I have sort of been doing this inside my head, looping passages and working on them organically. I really believe that this app will really open up a new way of producing and I am in touch with the developers of the app to see how it can be enhanced for performance. All very exciting.

visualisations from latest performances on Perspex and Canvas.

As I have mentioned in these pages, I have been starting to play the keyboard to illustrate ideas in my workshops and so now I feel it is now time to bring my own improvising into performances and to perform with the I Pad  and with music with paint and see what unfolds.

Also I have been listening to the magnificent Autechre’s freeform Oversteps lately which I feel for some reason goes tremendously well with some of my Perspex pieces.

I have been experimenting with putting different musics as well as visualisations together too, after seeing a website which put together visualizations of Ligetti, Autechre and Reich. By accident I played them all together and it sounded fantastic . In the privacy of my studio I have been trying this out together with juxtaposing my own work to diverse music’s and even lights and materials and am thinking about this as a way of displaying in future shows.

Performance work 2011

Canvas and Perspex

POSTED: 06/30/11 10:53 AM

Seeing Sounds on Black.

The last month ended with an exciting performance, where for the first time I worked on a Black background and also destroyed a piece during the performance.  The piece I destroyed in some ways felt like a sort of renewal and I then went on to work from Black to colour, and I feel that now I have become a new Tenaebrist. Perhaps  more importantly, I have been experimenting with different sounds and sonic variants to produce work.

Performance with Tibetan Bowls and a Lupophon.

Lupophon painting

The use of black was influenced by the fact that when I experience colours when listening they appear to float in mid distance and this I thought could be achieved better by using black as a background. I had also been looking at the magnificent black paintings of Pierre Soulages recently and the most effective show I have seen of late was the magnificent Anthony McCall in Ambika P3 which had beautiful light cones in the dark. I have also been looking at the radiant light in nature a lot recently too. Also one of my favourite pieces of music is Charles Ives’s Central Park in the Dark where Colours float and sounds are evoked through the darkness. All these thoughts crossed my mind as I started to lay on marks and gestures to the sounds of the quite extraordinary and spectacular sounds of the Lupophon ( New Bass Oboe) and Tibetan Bowls.

Wolfson Performance

After the performance a member of a largely academic and intellectual audience noted that the Perspex pieces which were painted within a more traditional western manner reminded him of Oskar Kokoshka (whom incidentally I love) whereas the ones painted with Tibetan Bowls contained a Calligraphic element more akin to Eastern art. This has made me since think about how Art History is so ingrained in our brains and to how, although my work is very much tied up with the moment, unwittingly it also carries this weight within.

Speaking of Tibetan sounds I have recently been introduced to the wonderful work of Elaine Radigue, and there has just been a recent festival of her work in London. Some of her work has adventurously taken place in one of my favourite  magnificent London church’s tucked away in the centre of London. This particular one St Stevens Walbrook has an altar by Henry Moore and Kneelers by Patrick Heron. All my performances have been site specific and as you can see in sections of this website have taken place in very differing spaces such as Churches, Cathedrals concert halls, Jazz clubs and Art Gallerys, and I am keen to explore this in a more sonic way in future work, making performances which also become a meditation on the space as well as time.

POSTED: 06/29/11 9:40 PM

Capturing Time

Last week I became aware of an exciting event via Twitter whereby you could ask a question to an artist. I had received a fascinating response to my question to the artist Marina Abramovich via the Lisson Gallery  about how important time was to her and that she preferred pieces that were tremendously long in duration (the longer, the better. )This week it was the great Artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel whom I asked if the practice of painting effected the way in which he made films and if the capturing of Time was as important in both. He gave the fascinating reply that “In an excellent work of art, time ceases to matter, and the only time that exists is the time that is IN the work and the time you spend with it…and art (and film) whenever its made, brings you into the present moment you see it.

Finger painting on Canvas

Fast passage from Edward Cowie's Kandinsky's Oboe

This fantastic piece by the great contemporary composer Edward Cowie, was written for and performed by Christopher Redgate. By painting in performance to this piece I was reinterpreting sounds interpreted from painting.

Last night I went to a lucid and stimulating talk by Eric Clarke who is the professor of Music at Oxford University and I thought about this in connection to when he talked about music’s ability to sharpen our cognitive mind.  Music has the ability to bring us into the moment yet it is all about time.

The capturing of time within a performance is the focus of my work at present I am very aware of this when intensely listning to the complexity of certain music and capturing a colour, shape, gesture or textural quality. When the music has gone what I am left with is the traces of it, yet somehow it exists as something. A great friend and wonderful writer kindly pointed me to a poem about poetry by Wallace Stevens which he was reminded of during a performance I gave recently and the words describe this quality most beautifully.

“An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives Sounds passing through sudden rightnesses, wholly Containing the mind, below which it cannot descend, Beyond which it has no will to rise.

Be the finding of a satisfaction,and may

Be of a man skating,a woman dancing, a woman combing. The poem of an act of mind.

POSTED: 05/20/11 10:41 PM

“I am Nature”

I live in a wood…. my studio being next to one and each day when I am here I walk around it. It is to me like living in a natural art gallery, and almost an extension of my studio, I walk round it, play music in it and marvel at it and today it sounds like the sea.  When people come to visit my studio, I always take them around the wood or it feels as though I haven’t shown them everything. I am beginning to introduce my work into the wood and visa versa now and am experimenting with how work looks from a distance and how it appears as part of nature.

I recently took a writer into the wood behind my studio … I could feel his discomfort as this strange artist he didn’t really know took him without explanation further and further into deserted woods and  it was at this point where he was reminded of  the film “The Stalker” by Tarkovsky of which I have recently become completely obsessed by, (together now with his film about the great Russian Ikon Painter “Rublev”. ) In Stalker  there is the wonderful  “Dream” sequence, which involves photographs and things appearing then disappearing in water. There is another scene where the characters sit and watch a passing shower, a scene, which I experienced first hand while mowing grass. I sat waiting for a heavy May shower to pass which it did, leaving bright sunshine, the smell of fresh cut grass and drips glistening in sunlight. It was like entering a paradise.

Some of my favourite works of art ,poetry and music are related to woodland, Ucello’s , Samuel Palmer’s wonderful moonlit etchings, John Clare’s poems and the work set in nature of Ian Hamilton Finlay also Messiaen’s studies of nature and birdsong (well documented here) and one of the great books I have recently read is about woods and our relationship with them by Roger Deakin.

As the great Jackson Pollock said, dropping the paintbrush in favour of dripping… “I am Nature” and Klee’s famous line remarking that he was “taking a line for a walk”….suggest to me that visual art practice can become part of nature itself… not in a forced kind of way but a most fundamental crossing of the senses.  Walking around the wood each day constantly remind me of the flux, and effects of time. Nature is shifting and changing all the time and I believe that the greatest of art suggests an oneness with nature and can translate to another artform, like the constant flux of light on leaves and lichen in a wood.

Returning to  Pollock, I will always remember walking with a great poet at the Tate retrospective of his work who said that  Pollock was not just a painter, he was a poet, and that all really great artists went from one artform to another.

To my mind, all great music becomes visual and visa versa all the time.  The cross sensory responses I experience are and can in fact be experienced in nature, art and music by all. Just this weekend I ran a workshop where I played the piano to explain paintings, that were produced and in turn provided stimulus for new work, a sort of layering effect. It was a great experience making music after all these years  making images, and I am now tempted to go back to all my paintings using this process.

POSTED: 05/12/11 9:25 PM

Asides on a Lupophon

This month I am collaborating with a virtuoso Oboe player and guitarist  on a performance which will  build upon work I have done in the last year exploring  the ways in which the processes of painting, composition and improvising. This time it will be with the brand new  instrument the Lupophon (Bass Oboe) and Tibetan Bowls as well as the newly designed oboe (the first redesign for over 200 years) I have always been intrigued by the Oboe, and it was my always my favourite instrument when very young. I loved the way it was so hard to play, and the way that on recordings (the finished paintings of music) you could hear the p…p …p of the sound being produced.

There is a great poem by Wallace Stevens who wrote some lovely poetry about music and art including one called “Asides on an Oboe” to where this quiet quality of power is alluded to.

I have also always been drawn to the power of quiet improvising as well as classical players such as the frail beauty of Art Pepper, Dinu Lipatti, the squeezing out of a note of Miles Davis  (A child once described his sound as that man who couldn’t get out of a cupboard) and the quiet  harmonic beauty of Bill Evans…I could go on.

Anyway the quiet contemplative nature of the oboe with another of my new favorites…. the classical guitar, for which interestingly not much modern music has been written, together with the sonic beauty of Tibetan bowls and the sounds of paint on Perspex will be a great treat for me.

POSTED: 05/12/11 8:46 PM

Scene and Heard

A couple of weeks ago I took part in a conference at the South Bank Centre, as part of their Ether festival called ‘Scene and Heard” an innovative conference organized by Third Ear focusing on the fertile area of the sound and art and “Collaborations.” There were many interesting speakers particularly from arts organizations and art bodies.

After many hours of hearing about various collaborations with organisations and performance targets , funding issues and other such matters there was a session where artists and curators talked about the things they were involved in. Finally Sandra Naumann took to the platform talking excitedly and fluently and with great passion about “I see a sound” a magnificent show, which I unfortunately missed and took place a few years ago in Linz. Suddenly I realized why I was there!

It was wonderful and thrilling to hear someone speak in such depth about the area of which I find so fascinating and that I feel so passionately about, and to which not much has been theoretically explored or written…about the profound ways in which visual art crosses with music and visa versa, and I am very hopeful will provide a source for new a new partnership and enquiry. Many years ago I went to a brilliant conference, at the Royal Academy of Music taking its name from a brilliant book by Simon Shaw Miller called the “Visible Deeds of Music.”and subsequently organised some events there myself.

It is conferences like this that played a big part in getting me together with like-minded people whom I have since collaborated with. My collaborations, which are such an important part of my practice past, present and future have all been borne from a mutual passion for the fundamental linking of Visual Art and Music. So I look forward to more Scene and Heard’s.

POSTED: 05/5/11 10:09 AM