Musical Works

Collaborative painting, Mental Health and Australia.

My own personal view, is that the world of Painting  is not necessarily always a purely visual activity but is a whole sensory experience which often involves collaboration too. This is perhaps given credence by my own neurological experience of seeing Colour and thinking of painting very much as a whole with Music and in terms of sounds and movement across the senses.

My own approach to  painting is also very much guided by my own neurodivergency , and as a participatory and transformative experience. Over time I have learnt as much and often more from working in workshops and with other disciplines than from working alone, and in isolation. When I left art college,  I felt I needed to work with people and understand mental illness. I trained and worked as a psychiatric nurse and worked in Bristol resettling severely mentally Ill people back into the community. This led to working as an arts Co Ordinator In East Anglia and seeing how an awareness of the senses within art helped with issues in mental health and with understanding  neurodiversity as a whole.

Painting in performance is something that is confronting and difficult for a lot of people, but for me it is about making sense of the world around and creating a multi sensory reality, which alike to a jigsaw all elements fit together as a whole in the end. This has wider benefits especially in understanding creativity via the crossing of the senses giving  Performances a transformative and therapeutic effect and providing the viewer an experience which assists understanding of issues surrounding neurodivergence and mental health .

Still from "Everyone you have loved" Painting Collaboration.

Performance Painting with Lavinia Cascone

The influential and greatly imaginative artist Stuart Brisley has said “The very notion of Art itself has an aspect of Alienation about it”. I am always keen to lean away and avoid this and I believe that painting in performance with and amongst people is a great way of attaining this. For me it opens  a way of demystifying and  democratises painting too, revealing what my collaborator Roger Redgate calls ‘the cusp of creativity.’
Just recently I  see the most exciting painters today such as Cecily Brown and Julie Mehretu are also taking part in exciting collaborative projects. Just recently I also enjoyed Paul McCarthy’s brilliant performance drawings,  in collaboration with the actor Lilith Stangenberg. I also greatly enjoy the work of Florence Peake and Anne Imhof who also mix visual and music concerns with performance in exciting ways. Closer to home in the UK the artist/painter Oscar Murillo has been working on a project with Artangel with schools across the world.

If I  look back to History at artists such as the famous Abstract Painters in New York in the 1950’s for instance. The archetypal singular artists working in isolation, cutting their own path and seeking inspiration from within. It seems seldom that one reads or examines  the influences of free Jazz, Dance, contemporary Classical composition, Blues and of the visual, technological influences of the time, the visual music technologies of pioneers such as Thomas Wilfred, Oskar Fischinger, Jordan Belson, Mary Ellen Bute . Yet In my opinion this pioneering work profoundly affected and was indeed pivotal in pioneering developments in painting at this time.  At the time of writing, Mary Ellen Bute’s work is highlighted in a show at the Pompidou about Women in abstraction.

I have spoken before in these posts before about the work of Len Lye, for many years neglected whose abstract work prefigures and foresaw much of what came afterwards, and the other month I went to a wondrous evening of hand painted films at the Barbican called “Raw Vision” by pioneers in this field which highlighted to me just how important these cross sensory  developments were and still are for painting.

At this time…more than ever , I am excited more than ever by the actual act of painting. I  recently spent a great deal of time in Australia, (where my eldest son lives). I saw some great Aboriginal painting which very much involves itself with sensory perception, and now having spent so much time within that overwhelming continent, imagined to me over years and years artistically via poets such as Peter Porter and Les Murray and visual artists like Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Tracey Moffatt Shaun Gladwell and many others. I was surprised to learn that Aboriginal painting on Canvas is a relatively new history which continues to evolve and is taking place now .

This time I started to make great connections with and gain a great understanding into how the native Aboriginal painting has become so integral to the continent, and is such an important expression of the land and the alternative histories of past present and future, which belong to the land  and is  articulated by a special awareness and importance of, the Human Senses. In particular I became fascinated by the work of Kudditji Kngwareye a member of the Utopia artists whose work conjures up a sense of the landscape he knew and had become estranged from. He apparently used to sing whilst painting to further bring about his memory and connection with the land.

Many years ago, I remember working in a Hospital with an elderly woman in rural Suffolk. I received a grant from Eastern arts to work in Rural communities to do so. This particular woman, was greatly mentally disturbed and without speech. I remember seeing her over a period of two years, each week. Each time, as soon as I mixed paint, sometimes playing music,  her eyes lit up. She painted for hours and hours on end, naturally and freely sometimes with and sometimes without me. It was as if she were communicating something deep from inside. I never forgot her amazing work. Now, long gone and destroyed. It was the sensory act, the great handling of paint and the colour and the act of which i remember. It lives on within me. It reminds me of the great story about Agnes Martin telling a child that a rose continued to be beautiful after it had been seen. Holding it behind her back she asked the child if it were still beautiful? and remarked that the beauty of it existed in the mind. In a world full of more and more imagery,  this seems so important and relevant to remember at this time.

I will be creating more work painting in collaborations and performances soon, (please see my most recent collaboration in the previous posts) further reflecting upon these thoughts and experiences and I hope continue to provide further agency to the importance of creating the space for Collaboration and sensory exploration within my practice.

November   2021.

Listning to.

Andrea Keller -Wave Riders.

Sault: Nine

Anchorsong- Mirage

Donald Bousted- Duo Contour 19.5

Sault- Black Is/ Rise


Amit Chaudhuri – Finding the Raga

Yuval Etgar- John Stezaker “At The Edge of Pictures”

The Stuart Brisley Interviews. Performance and its Afterlives.

Peter Macdonald -Artifacts of Writing.

About the Performance Painting