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I Am Nature

Just immediately prior to the pandemic, I staged two collaborative performances. The first being a complex collaboration featuring voices and dance. The second a more stripped down event with singer Cleveland Watkiss (with whom I had worked with before)  and dancer Lavinia Cascone.

For this I planned, that instead of working on an upright surface as I normally do, that I would instead work on the floor with colour and onto Lavinia’s body and onto my own, interconnecting in a sensory way with Cleveland’s voice. In the past year I had travelled to Thailand, and stayed with a hill tribe with my family in the Northern Hills. There was a moving ceremony when we left which involved us dancing around a central point to a rhythm. I wanted to in some way reflect on this in the performance.  The result can be seen here and at times we all seem to come together in a powerful and intimate way via different our own respective art forms. It felt as though we were all painting and mark making .

Performance with Paint Voice and Movement

I cannot wait to work with Cleveland and Lavinia again. The Title “I am Nature” is from a poem I love of the same name by Tom Paulin. I also use some particularly visual text from Finnegans Wake suggested to me by a dear friend, which seemed to fit with the whole experience.

I hope you enjoy it.

June 2021.

“I am Nature”

POSTED: 06/7/21 7:25 PM

“Everyone you have loved”

This latest textural, site specific and complex performance piece was performed last year immediately prior to the Pandemic. It is a Sensory, celebratory improvisation between myself,  dancer and artist Lavinia Cascone, singers Maggie Nicols and Portia Winters and Sound Artist/Composer Dr Emmanuel Lorien Spinelli and I believe it is an exciting development in my performative work to date. This particular collaboration was borne from my close relationship formed over the past ten years with Portia and Emmanuel.

All Those you Have Loved

It was performed amongst special guests who freely circulated around the recently built modernist architecture and  immersive space in which the performance took place. The event centred around the central space of the Make designed building which is infact outside. The performance begins with myself working from the outside, and reacting with the dance, sound and movement which was happening inside. We eventually come together seamlessly flowing from inside to outside the building. The main premise for the wholly improvised piece was to convey the immaterial spirits of sound and of Colour and ends with coloured smoke, which is in part a gesture of homage to the great Judy Chicago who is personally inspiring. Her use of smoke became way of feminising the landscape.

The title of the film comes from a song poem that Maggie wrote and which she spoke at the very start of the performance inspired by dialectical materialism when exposed to Engels’ “Dialectics of Nature.”

“All in a moment,

Everything you’ve been and done

There in a moment

Caught in a moment

Everyone you’ve loved and known lives in those moments.

“The text I use in the film documentation is from James Joyce’s visually inspiring “Finnegans Wake” of which I have been drawing inspiration from lately and also the great visual poem I love by Tom Paulin on Jackson Pollock  called “I am Nature” which reflects upon Jackson Pollock in particular relation to his upbringing and ancestry. This all seemed to resonate well to the premise of the performance.

There are many special moments for me within this performance. The first being when the dance and sounds from the interior come to the exterior. An Audience member afterwards told me that there was a moment, when the focus altered from all sensory elements becoming whole and towards the painting. Another moment comes when we all become part of the painting itself, and there is a lovely passage when things seem to slow down and become almost as if choreographed. Towards the very end of the performance Maggie and Portia’s voices come into the front of the mix as blue smoke surrounds the space and all parts come together as one.

I hope you enjoy this special improvisational complex and textural performance.

Everyone you have Loved. 2020/21

June 2021.

POSTED: 05/19/21 2:56 PM

Self Isolation Studies. Time, Memory and Creation.

These pages have been lying dormant for a long while now, and I am thankfully resurfacing this year after some large life events which rightfully have dominated much of my time and energies over the past few years, recently, I am entering a new breathing space for embarking on a fresh phase artwork. With the second COVID 19 induced period of self isolation, It seems a pertinent  time to introduce two films online and make them available for viewing on this website and other platforms. They signify a change both in pace and style from my work thus far.

The first of these moving image works is simply entitled ‘Black and Blue’ and features a ‘Space Painting’ that I did in my studio a few years ago, and an action piece of  burning a canvas in the Woodland close to my house and studio. This piece explores the processes of creation and destruction, resonating with a wonderful poem by Wallace Stevens about a painting by Picasso. Stevens wrote much around the senses (of which my work is based) and about painting too, even writing a fascinating essay on “The Relations of Poetry and Painting.”

The simple and stark black space, was inspired by two spaces. The first  Wally Hendrick’s war room, a powerful protest installation  piece which, I first came across  at an exhibition in London , and  Tuol Sleng a disturbing place in Cambodia, a crude bessablock structure built within a crudely constructed within an old school, by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970’s. The place seemed to be an embodiment of people’s cruel capacity for the destruction of humanity.

Bringing the colour blue and my own body into this stark broken space is both symbolic and reflective, and partly  hommage to the history of action/live painting in particular referencing Klein and Pollock, and the work of the Vienna Actionists, the Gutai movement and of Stuart Brisley and Carolee Schneemann, exploring ideas of the nature of painting , destruction and the limits of the body in painting. The poem “The Man With The Blue Guitar”  resonated well with the resulting images, it being in itself a meditation on the nature of art, performance and the imagination.

Film Still from "Black and Blue"

Black and Blue-Film Still 2019.

"Black and Blue" Film Still 2019.

"Black and Blue" Film Still 2019.

The second piece “Empty House Studies” 2019.  also takes its cue from the poetry of Wallace Stevens, whose work has had an important impact on my thinking lately, and the film is more personal and centred around objects and transformation. The poem used in this case is “Asides on an Oboe”. The lines I have placed as titles, contain particular resonance with each segment of filming. Each action is also  punctuated and introduced by one second long compositions of music by long time collaborator Roger Redgate.

Empty House Studies-2019 Film Clip.

"Empty House Studies" 2019 (Film Clip)

The Actions performed as part of the whole piece reflect an overriding sense of loss, and of the daylight passing through my old house (by then falling into a derelict state) each different sequence acting as a visual poem.

The segments are all moments, and mostly important objects and memories from my life thus far, personally significant to me; self revelatory, and transformative. They explore ideas of fear, isolation, solitude and in particular vulnerability. A feeling which picks up from my performances.

My friend, the writer Professor Peter MacDonald (who introduced me to Stevens’ work) has kindly said of this work “These moving Image works overcome one of the greatest challenges  in the work so far,  The narrative arc of of the synaesthetic action and movement, versus the static final product.”

Strangely, at this time of Covid19 and “Self Isolation” for all peoples around the globe, and viewing these works again after a couple of years in gestation, these moving image pieces become more focussed and seem to me to gain an extra relevance to the moment that we currently find ourselves in.

1st December 2020

“Empty House Daylight Studies” 2019.

“Black and Blue” 2019/20

Music Listening.

Portia Winters-Bliss of small things.

Andrea Keller-Transients Vol 2.

Yosi Horikawa-Vietnam

Autechre-Plus and Sign

Django Bates- Tenacity.

POSTED: 03/26/20 6:19 PM

The Energies of Carolee Schneemann

It is with the greatest of Sadnesses that I learnt recently of the loss of the great inspiration and Artist Carolee Schneemann. I cannot understate what an effect Carolee’s work and her encouragement had on my own progression. Over the past ten years, my art has been evolving and becoming more about performance, evolving as it has from the synaesthetic sensory experience of colour via painting and towards involving my own body via performance and  more broadly speaking, exploring my own vulnerability and identity through my own work.

At around the time when I was starting collaborative improvisatory performances,  I became fascinated by avant grade developments in painting and performance especially by the Gutai movement and the Vienna Actionists and also with Carolee Schneemann who seemed to cut her own path. At the time there was very little written about any of these movements or artists. This thankfully has and is  changing.

The first time I saw Carolee Schneemann’s work up close was at a glorious exhibition about Dance and performance at the Pompidou Centre, called ‘Danser sa Vie’, which seems a very long time ago, but actually relatively recent.

Carolee’s work seemed to resonate so well with all that was happening and developing in my own work. I immediately read the books  ”Beyond Meat Joy” and  “Correspondence Course” (Edited by Kristine Stiles) which revealed the huge depth of her work, and the endless energy and collaborations too. I became more fascinated by all of her work spanning, assemblages, film, paintings, performances together with overtly political . Over the years  I was very surprised that despite being so well known amongst so many artists and so very influential, that her work at this time and especially in the UK seemed still largely unrepresented. I then saw more work at a (then small) gallery in London called Richard Saltoun gallery featuring work by largely (at that time) neglected female artists.

I immediately wanted to try and connect with Carolee, and made it a priority,  and managed to obtain her studio e.mail. I cannot recall what I wrote, but I received a quick response I received a very warm response and that she was soon to come to London and perhaps to make contact when she was there.

At this time I was also trying  with the Centre of Visual Music to get together some film showings organised with the University of Oxford of which I am affiliated, and at this time I became aware that Carolee was finishing a film (Breaking the Frame) and hence made enquiries about her perhaps giving a talk about this . Unfortunately and to my great frustration at the time this did not eventuate.

However, partly due to my efforts , the Hales Gallery put Carolee and myself in touch . I will always remember the evening when I excitedly picked up the phone and took that call in my studio, as by now she had become an almost mythical and heroic figure to me. It was arranged that I would meet her for Lunch the next week between interviews. Amazingly, and incredulously to me,  it was to be the first solo show of hers in a London Gallery. A small show of her wonderful performance and film “Water Light/Water Needle” (a choreographed performance and film), which I particularly love, not only for its imagery, but for the unusual way it mixed music and sound, ( using excerpts of Vivaldi in this case) which I have since found out was in collaboration with the great composer James Tenney. Her collaboration with Tenney  I became greatly interested in, and I always felt that her sensitivity and knowledge of Music played an important part of a lot of her work.

Some People often say that meeting your heroes is often disappointing, but in this case, it was a delight. Carolee was gentle, kind and supportive,  sharp, greatly intelligent and clearly had such a broad knowledge and voracious interest in all areas of culture, politics and life. It was easy to talk to her, and I felt a connection on many levels.  We talked of all sorts of things and I got a real sense of not only her love of life but also the great struggle she had experienced through her life and Art interwoven. She was an inspiration.

In the following years and after this memorable and treasured meeting-   we kept in touch. Carolee became a generous mentor and I showed her the first cuts of my latest films and images and she in turn showed me her ideas too, and then a few years ago  I helped with a show of hers,  and staged a performance in part a homage to her work at Reykjavik.  I was delighted to be invited to, and to see the PS1 MOMA show only last year. I found it an especially moving experience, to see all her work finally together in one place and especially in New York. To see all that work together at last was both exciting and awe inspiring. Thankfully, and movingly she finally received the attention that she so richly deserved right toward the end of her life, and after a long struggle with illness.

Her last message (Only a matter of months before she died ) to me was heart warming and typically encouraging and inspiring …I love these works very much….Go Further, follow your energies……. Keep in touch…..( with a lovely picture of her Cat dancing with coloured Ribbons.)

I will continue to follow, be inspired and keep in touch always with the tremendous inspirational energy of Carolee Schneemann which will remain alive to me.

Water Light/Water Needle, at the PS1 MOMA show in 2018/19

POSTED: 04/2/19 6:01 PM

Correspondences in Performance Painting.

In recent months I have been looking at filmic documentation of Painting performances and interventions,  considering one in particular which took place at the Sequences Real Time Art Festival in Reykjavik a few years ago. The performance itself was site specific and a both a simple painting and a Space Painting and was in responce  to the nature of the environment. The performance was in part a homage to the rich tradition of painting as performance,in

but also followed the course of a meditation exercise, a form of ritual in self help and awareness of which I often practice . I also wanted to reflect on the fundemental connections between the sensory act of  painting, sound and the body, and like some other performances I was using and controlling my own breath to dictate the movement and actions, reflecting on my own Identity within space and in the landscape as a whole.

The music I use in this film is  “Concerto for improvising Soloist and Two Ensembles” by composer Roger Redgate, whose work I have always felt a great connection to. His process was very much collaborative with the other musicians and says that “I give them some freedom to work with given materials, so I can control the overall form and some of the content, but they can make decisions as individuals and collectively to influence the result.”The soloist is Christopher Redgate with whom I have also performed with for over 10 years. The music  contains a sound world that I feel connects strongly with the actions of the performance.  The resulting film which can now be seen on this Website contains moments of Correspondence, when sound, movement, gesture and material all seem to join and fit together as as a whole.

Correspondences (Film Clip)

Film Still from "Correspondences."

POSTED: 11/23/18 12:30 PM

Performance Painting “Plein Air”

A few years ago I staged a performance outside and within the landscape. For this I was responding to the music of composer/artist Mira Calix, whose musical approach resonates with my own practice, I feel it uniquely collages electronic and acoustic instrumentation, and I finally sent Mira some stills of film that I was working on, which were  mainly shot outside in the woodland where I live. I know that he compositions also often refers to, or reflects upon the landscape.

The performance outdoors had an unpredictable quality of which I enjoy and wish to take further. In the performance I was thinking of some of the Gutai artists’ experimentations with surface and the ephemeral. I was also thinking of some of the great work that Carolee Schneemann did with the composer James Tenney and I had this work at the back of my mind when setting up the piece.

Plein Air Performance Painting

This led to me to utilise this music for the performance,  and the film can be seen now on this website and here. It was premiered at a Centre for Visual Music Salon evening, held by myself and the Director of the Centre Cindy Keefer.

November 2018

POSTED: 11/8/18 4:14 PM

Transparence of the Place.

Many years ago a lovely old friend of mine introduced me to the work of the great  Australian Pianist and composer Andrea Keller. I had just recently painted in performance in response to some music by Bartok and very much related to the improvisations her group had then done around Bartok’s Mikrokosmos.  I have strong links with Australia. My wife is Australian and all my Children hold Australian passports. I have a great  love for the landscape in particular, and relate strongly to the profound and spiritual connection the indigenous people of Australia have to the Land.  When starting out as an artist, I was inspired by artists such as Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan and poet Les Murray . More recently I have found that some of the most exciting art today is happening in Australia. In particular I enjoy the film and installation  work of Angelica Mesiti, the work addressing issues around Australian Aboriginal history by Danniel Boyd and Shaun Gladwell’s iconic video work  too.

Returning to Sound, A few years ago I did some paintings in response to a piece from a fascinating album called “Three Lanes”. I found the sounds transported me to Australia, and at the time I was working in my studio in the woodland around my home in Oxfordshire UK. Finally, this year I assembled the films I made at this time and made a film with a piece of Andrea Keller’s music aptly titled “Far away, Here” which seemed also to resonate strongly to ongoing concerns in my work about Place and Time, the action and immediacy of performance and the stillness of contemplation and also a sense of completion.  By Coincidence, Andrea Keller also needed some film for a new piece called “Hills of Nectar”which worked well too.

The Film is titled “Transparence of the Place” which comes from a poem that fascinates me called “Asides on an Oboe” by Wallace Stevens with whose work has had a great impact on my thinking and whose work I have been working closely with lately. The piece intends to show the connections between Colour, light passing and the contemplation of space and time come across and connect strongly sound and visual work done across different time zones.

The Film “Transparence of the Place” can be seen from this month on this Website.

Mark Rowan-Hull-December 2018

POSTED: 11/7/18 2:04 PM

Horse Hospital Performance/ Newcastle University.

This Collaborative Performances took place at the Horse Hospital and formed the second part of an evening exploring visual music. In the first half, Cindy Keefer (director of the Centre of visual Music ) introduced a series films (some rare) by filmakers such as Oskar Fischinger and Jordan Belsen. In the second half we explored this theme further with a visceral performance of performance painting on translucent cellophane with sound from Professors Roger Redgate and  Matt Wright (Goldsmiths and Canterbury) and regular collaborator Portia Winters singing. It was an exciting and intense performance.Performance Painting, Centre for Visual Music Salon Performance

Center for Visual Music Salon

Center for Visual Music Salon

Live Painting with Light Performance

Centre for Visual Music Salon (Film Still)

Performance Painting

Centre for Visual Music Salon 10/16

Performance Painting with Light

Performance Painting (Film Still)

Centre for Visual Music Salon (10/16)

Performance Painting in Light

March 2017. Film Stills by Haavard Helle

POSTED: 03/9/17 2:01 PM

House Of St Barnabas (Performance Stills)

This performance came about from when I saw Cleveland at the meltdown festival some years ago performing a re envsioning of John Coltrane’s Love Supreme. His solo was incredible, and like other moments when I have heard music that I can see so clearly, I went about making contact to see if I could work with him. Luckily we connected and understood what each other were doing. I would love to work with him again. This performance was in the lovely chapel at the House of St Barnabas in Soho, London.

I wrapped the inside of the chapel (Christo like) in Cellophane , so that it appeared that the colour was happening all around him spatially. It was dramatic and looked and sounded great. The palette constantly changed with Cleveland’s versatility of colour and texture. However, I used white a lot, which seemed to reflect the purple light, and also worked as a kind of unspoken script casting a shadow against the lights. The performance was completely improvised, but I had set the space up so that I could surround the audience, and create a feeling of informality (slightly ruined by the seating arrangement, just prior to the performance) . I also invlolved my own body within the performance, painting myself, and also using two miked up canvas’s to provide sound. I have since been looking at the exciting work of Donna Huanca who uses the body with paint as a kind of skin within installations, which resonates with what I was trying to achieve within this performance.

Painting Performance with Cleveland Watkiss (Film Still)

Film Still of Performance with Cleveland Watkiss

Performance Painting (Film Still)

Performance Painting with Cleveland Watkiss

Film Still of Painting Performance with Cleveland Watkiss

Painting Performance (Film Still)

Painting Performance with Cleveland Watkiss

Singing Colour Performance with Cleveland Watkiss (Film Still)

Painting with Cleveland

Cleveland Watkiss Singing Colour

March 2017. Film Stills by Haavard Helle.

POSTED: 03/9/17 1:38 PM

“Correspondences” Performance. 15th December 2016.

Performance Painting at South Bank

Performance Painting at South Bank

Next Week I shall be Painting in a Collaborative Performance with Professor Roger Redgate and Dr Emmanuel Lorien  Spinelli and singer Portia Winters on Thursday 15th December (1pm) at Kings Hall, Newcastle University.

POSTED: 12/7/16 1:11 PM