Colour & Music Links

Colour & Music Blog

Music and Art. Performance.Tuesday 31st May.Wolfson College,Oxford

A performance exploring visual art, improvisation and the capturing of time via improvisation with Christopher Redgate Oboe, Lupophon and Gerald Garcia Guitar/Tibetan bowls.

POSTED: 05/3/11 12:37 PM

Tableau Vivent’s,Live Streaming and Assemblages.

I am intrigued by the idea of Live Streaming, and am planning to experiment with this over the coming months. I am already active on Twitter, but also think it would be great to stage some live performances from my studio in the coming months, and involve my practice via social media networks also using Soundcloud for new sound pieces.

Morning Light in Studio

Early morning Sunlight.

Studio Ephemera

Painting on Perspex competed in performance with Amit Chaudhuri.

So much more than the final performance and paintings go into my work, and I would love to try and bring all the processes to the foreground this year. Apart from anything else, my studio is the hub of all that goes on in performance and is becoming like a Tableau Vivant where things happen and events take place, music is played, paintings happen, general experimentation occurs. It is in constant flux and is becoming an art object in itself, sometimes reminding me of a Cardiff/Bures Miller installation or a strange museum and sometimes I even feel that I am in a Tarkovsky film.

There are knapped flints from Suffolk, a gift of gears from a formula 1 racing car and coffee tins piled high with a candle on the top. There is also a sort of shrine, which has collected coloured boxes and ephemera and many of my paintings and collages are suspended like Tibetan prayer flags, almost for me becoming like devotional objects to particular pieces of music.

Photograph taken by a friend Mary Heneghan on a retreat in Tibet

POSTED: 04/1/11 2:25 PM

Hearing/ Seeing Light and Colour.

Throughout my career I have always been interested by both the experience of colour (in my case often associated with chords and patterns of notes) but also the physical appearance of colour, the effect of colour via light and the meaning of colour and I am currently still reading fascinating books on the history of Colours. Although a lot has been written about colour, there are not  that many good books on colour generally. I am also fascinated by Medieval Colour Lore of Colours,  of which hardly anything has been written. The two stand out books broaching the subject of Colour are John Gage’s Colour and Meaning, and Colour and Culture. For me the different experiences of colour came together in a performance a few years ago in Liverpool, where I painted underneath a huge lantern of magnificent colours shining through stained glass, to colour based music and colours I was producing live via performance.

For my most recent performances I have painted (to use other’s descriptions) musically fired forests of colour on Perspex, which have been almost exotic in colour. The colours can be experienced in different ways in the performance and on Perspex I can achieve the effects of transitory colours in space, similar to what I experience when listening to music.

Musical Perspex

Summertime with Amit Chaudhuri.

Now I am looking at ways in which I can achieve this effect via exhibiting my work, looking at the work of Seeper and United Visual Artists who create huge and sometimes interactive displays involving all the senses.

I have also recently as mentioned before been looking into the use of lasers and have visited Professor Simon Hooker’s lab in Oxford where amazing colours are produced via high powered lasers known as Frequency combs. This last month I went to see an extraordinary exhibition involving light by Anthony McCall where entering a darkened space to be confronted by cones of what almost looked like steel sculptures but were actually made from projected light. The light slowly moved creating slowly moving shapes on the floor, which were mesmerizing and had a rare and beautiful simplicity. This is something I would love to achieve in my own work.

POSTED: 04/1/11 1:45 PM

Hearing Visions and Musical Windows in my Studio

I have recently been spending a little bit more time in my studio and am lucky enough at last to have a big space in which to look and listen, although nearly all my imagery now is done in performance and in the moment. For writing and ideas in general, coffee shops are my favourite places and these also operate like studio’s and places of contemplation for me.

My most recent piece I have produced in my studio is a window placed on top of a painting produced in a performance. I recently showed some work in Sheffield where some pieces I faced outwards on the windowsill. (I also displayed paint pots used in production) making the process of the paintings the focal point.

Looking in from outside I became fascinated by seeing the finished pieces from the outside but not inside the gallery.I reconstructed this recently in my studio (not a coffee shop.)

I have long been fascinated and have a deep love for the work of Andre Thomkins and particuarly his weird, unworldly Lackskin works of which I have mentioned before in these musings, and have been enthralled by a film which I saw in Picadilly a few years ago where the process trancends the final piece, not unlike the infamous Pollock/ Hans Nemuth film but I suppose working more tentitavely and organically sometimes directly with sound.

Much of my work is now on Perspex and I have surrounded my studio with these pieces which almost take on a stained glass appearance, in what Seamus Heaney named “shifting brilliances” painted during various performances and placing them amoungst things and various objects I have collected over time which appeal to me and also, interestingly even placing them with vastly different music and changing their context. Juxtaposing moments captured behind a window of time.

POSTED: 03/17/11 11:51 PM

Life Stories Workshop, Wolfson College.

7th May 2011.


Drop in multi mediaWorkshop to produce work for an exhibition running from the 26th May 2011

POSTED: 03/16/11 9:59 PM

Correspondence Interactive Workshop

Here is a lovely  description of the workshop I ran late last year by a participant, the writer Erin Soros.

Documentary photos

If it weren’t for the length of our bodies and a few wrinkles and grey hairs, we could be mistaken for an absorbed bunch of kindergarten children, all of us sprawled on the floor, happily painting swirls of colour in response to notes played on a guitar.  The interactive workshop, titled ‘Correspondences,’ was an opportunity for artists, musicians and writers to explore the relationship between music and art.  It attracted participants from Oxford, where it was set, and visitors from across England, many of us living in the UK but originating from far-flung spots—India, China, Canada.  The workshop coordinator, artist Mark Rowan-Hull, has mastered an improvisational style of painting, on stage, to live musical performance.  He began the day by explaining synesthesia—a neurological linking of the senses.  Some people with this condition see specific colours in relation to letters or numbers.  Rowan-Hull sees colours when he hears notes.  What might we see?  He set out canvas and paper, gouache and acrylics:  we were to translate music into colour and shape. A responsive dance.  The musician Gerald Garcia began playing his own compositions on guitar and Tibetan bowls.  How unusual, and yet simple:  the room filled with the resonance of plucked notes, the accompanying scratch of our brushes. Bending and lifting arms. Heads cocked with intent. We created artistic dialogue, canvases startling in their differences—some featured vibrant colours and energetic swoops, while other paintings were delicate, shading tentative, as if seen through rain. One included single words, dropped like splotches. None were directly representational—no birds, no bells.  Instead, the evocative patterns evidenced a new way to hear.  Try it, the next time you are moved by a concert on the radio:  take a piece of paper and some pencil crayons, and let your hand do the listening.

POSTED: 02/17/11 11:56 AM

Cross Sensory Collage

I have been to some really fascinating shows recently, which are giving me further ideas about my own practice and displaying it. The first being the dutch artist  Manon de Boer whose exhibition at the fantastic South London galleries I saw a couple of weeks ago, which I thought unusually and eloquently explored the senses. One particular film observed people observing John Cage’s 4 min 33 secs and another showed Improvised dancing captured on Camera and then the viewer was just left with the sound. I found these particularly powerful as by highlighting and isolating the visual and auditory senses, created a powerful overall experience. (See John Cage’s Artwork here)

I was also really interested in the sound installations of Haroon Mirza whose work I thought was a highlight and most thought provoking of the ongoing British Art Show7 show which I saw at the new Nottingham Contemporary. I notice that he just last week won the Northern Art prize.

I am interested in exploring the sounds made in my own work and am working on pieces, which reflect this interest at the moment.

I also really enjoyed the Len Lye show at the Ikon Gallery. I went expecting moving colour and the important light and happy films, which of course there were. What was unexpected for me were the huge kinetic sculptures which I found extraordinary and mesmerizing, creating colours in sound and unexpected tensions.

Recently I have also been listening to music, and in particular music which focus’s on heightening the visual and auditory senses including Bill Frisell and John Zorn. It was a Bill Frisell performance, many years ago where I first thought about my visual experiences of colour. Interestingly, a few years ago he started the 858 Quartet following a project creating music from Gerhard Richter’s paintings. This interest has led me to the fascinating music of Mira Calix whose strange ethereal mixing and collaging of sound fascinates me. Her work seems to me to be painting in sound and I am very much looking forward to possibly collaborating with her later this year.

Collage (Mixed Media) in box

Assemblage of architecture photographs and paintings

Collages have always been a central part of my practice and I often see musical analogies within them. I love the groundbreaking collages of Kurt Schwitters, John Heartfield and  more recently Peter Kennard . There is also a great show on at the Whitechapel of collages by John Stezaker . The music of modern experimental composers such as Calix has reopened my eyes for this visual work in a cross sensual way.

28th Jan 2011.

POSTED: 01/27/11 11:01 PM

Hearing Colour,Seeing Sound

Last week I had my paintings explored sonically by musicians at the Royal Academy of Music, who used my work as graphic scores, using them as a focal point to improvise.  This was very exciting for me and created an exciting extra layer to my work of which I will be exploring in a gallery context in the coming months and next year. Some work has also been used by the Composer David Gorton to accompany his new piece for Oboe.

I have been fascinated in how sound can become art itself ever since by chance I saw the wonderful piece Motet by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller when it was in Barcelona. Since then there has been the great Bruce Nauman piece at the Tate Modern and now just yesterday Susan Philipsz has won the Turner prize. I hope that this will open a new dialogue on the subject. I have quite recently begun to explore sound in my own work and have been recording the sound of painting, and have used this to effect in some improvisatory performances. Following the performance at the Royal Academy of Music, I would like the music to play even more of a central theme in the displaying of my work.

Seeing Music workshop

Chronochromie colours

Over the last year I have facilitated many exciting workshops which I always find very stimulating and a vital part of my practice, the last one was at Wolfson College, where participants created exciting artwork and poetry via Ekphransis while the great musician Gerald Garcia played guitar and Tibetan Bowls, a lovely combination of sounds. There was a lovely moment when all one could hear was the sound of the resonating of the bowls and the dripping of water and brush on canvas. This is something I would like to explore further via a performance. Some photos of this workshop can be seen here.

In Verbier (at the Music Festival) earlier in the year, I used a combination of my own playing to illustrate ideas of colours and chords and the great music of Messiaen, in particular the fantastic Chronochromie, which inspired great complex patterns  of colour from participants.

Speaking of colour, there are 3 wonderful shows on at the moment, which relate to it. The coloured light, show by James Turrell which brought to mind for me Thomas Wilfred and his Clavilux experiments which so fascinated (and I believe had a great influence upon) Jackson Pollock . Upon entering his colour pieces, I kept expecting music to erupt. Charles Ives “Central Park in the Dark”, I thought would have gone particularly well. Amazingly, in Birmingham there is a long overdue show of Len Lye, the experimental colourist who made beautiful films of moving colours and shapes earlier last century, and finally the magnificent Gaugin, whose work I saw many years ago in a large show on coloured walls in Chicago which had a great lasting effect on me.

POSTED: 12/7/10 1:22 PM

Displaying Performances.

Over the coming months I shall be exploring the displaying of my ongoing work. Apart from the odd show here and there, and many performances over the last couple of years, my work now demands a new setting to make it resonate more clearly. I am currently looking into ways of showing the way in which my work relates to directly sound.

Painting and film

Exhibit at Wolfson College 2010

I am also hoping very much to show my work alongside the work of André Thomkins who I believe uniquely explored the coming together of sound and paint. There have been some wonderful big shows recently on visual music, and sound art including a great show I was involved in recently called Eye Music, but none which have really explored painting and sound.

Paintings and Film of performance

Show of work in Bank Street Arts in Sheffield 2010

I am always fascinated by Colour as a concept, how it is perceived, the unique way we see it, how it can be created physically and how colour can relate to time via music. All these ideas are being explored in my work at present. This month I will also be collaborating further with Roger and Chris Redgate looking at our work in, relation to Graphic scores, microtonality and art produced via performance. I am also planning performances and installations ,which will use Music, Lasers and maybe poetry too.

POSTED: 11/15/10 3:52 PM

Poetry, Lasers and Time

Earlier this year I collaborated with a composer and poet in Sheffield. We met in a wonderful lively and creative space called Bank Street Arts. The night before I had painted live in Sheffield Cathedral in a formal setting on Perspex to wonderful and complex Organ music by Maurice Durufle and Charles Tournemire.

Steven Chase (the composer) wired up my canvas and the poet’s (Angelina Ayres) table and we set about corresponding to the sounds created. I found it rather an enriching and meditative and timeless experience.

Durufle colours

I have always loved poetry that joins the senses whether it be George Herbert, Manley Hopkins or Charles Baudelaire or modern poets such as Wallace Stevens, Jamie McKendrick and Tom Paulin and Last month I went to a wonderful lecture by Seamus Heaney to launch his new book, and it struck me how visual my favorite poetry is.

I will be experimenting with this interaction between poetry, music and visual art further in my Correspondence workshop, taking place next month.  In the last year I have also been collaborating with improvising musicians and also with writer and Hindustani Singer Amit Chaudhuri and I am hoping to bring these musicians together with myself in the coming months.

I am reading a lot about colour at the moment. Strangely there is not a great deal written on the subject. Naturally I have always been fascinated by the idea of a colour in music. Not only my own experiences of it, but the physical spectacle of it and how that in turn can effect the capturing of time in music, art and words. Last month I met with Professor Simon Hooker at the Laser physics department in Oxford University. Excitingly we are thinking of how we can join forces! There will be more news to come with regards to this, next month. Finally, last week I took part in a fascinating Twitter interview with the great performance artist Marina Abramovic who has a show on at the moment at the Lisson Gallery and I asked her about how important the capturing of time was for her in her work. She answered “Time is everything and the longer the duration the better the art.” This resonated with me strongly. Performance and capturing time is now becoming my artwork.

POSTED: 10/20/10 12:41 PM