“Performance Painting”

One or two people have enquired what I mean by ‘Performance Painting” so it seems appropriate to try and give some form of explanation of what it means to me.

My first (unknowing) attempt at live painting was when I was 17 in 1967 when I painted a psychedelic mural on my bedroom wall while listening to “Sgt. Pepper” . My parents were not impressed. From then on album artwork was almost as important as that lovely round 12″ of vinyl. I would sketch and paint while listening to Pink Floyd ,Yes, Soft Machine etc. on my headphones. I always loved special effects at gigs – atmosphere enhances the experience.Unknowingly a connection had been made.

When I returned to painting many years later I was watching the band “These Monsters” in their jazz rock days. From nowhere my head was filled with shapes and colors as the music surrounded me . I just had to paint that sound! A further encouragement came while listening to Gregor Kurtag’s E.C.M. album “Kurtagonals”. The brooding dark electronica fuelled a series of works I called” Keefagonals” .This series was exhibited in Finland . One buyer confided almost apologetically that the picture she had chosen had “spoken to her”! I have always painted while listening to music but the “Keefagonals” experience helped make a real connection between color and sound.

So what actually happens? For me, an empty space and sound.  Waiting and interpreting. Letting the music become one with color and them fuse together then expressing the connection in a visual context. The results are unique and cannot be repeated and the live experience is an experimental/sensory journey.

When I began to explore this way of working I had no idea of the long tradition of pictorial abstraction , the synthesis of sound and color . My major exhibition with potter John Rogers this year was totally inspired by The Mahavishnu Orchestra and the poetry of Sri Chimnoy . The exhibition was entitled “Between Nothingness and Eternity” . I painted a picture to represent each album track.

Being invited to collaborate with Jim Ghedi on his “Satori” project has encouraged me to continue to explore this media further. I understand this is a simplistic explanation of what is a complex subject , I may understand more as I go on.

Further reading ” The Sound of Painting (music in modern art”) ¬†Karin V. Maur (Prestel 1999).

Further listening : The Mahavishnu Orchestra ” Birds of Fire”. Gregory Kurtag “Kurtagonals”.