I am really happy to have two works included at “SALON OPEN” The Old Lock Up Studio Cromford on October 19th .Looks like being an amazing evening!
It had been one of those magical days, end of the summer, when each sunny day is a precious gift and there’s a hint of woodsmoke and falling leaves in the air. I’d had a good day at work in Manchester, and had wandered down to Albert Square to take in the scene and get myself some street food from the Food and Drink Festival based there. My journey on the stopping train through the Hope Valley was as good as it gets. Dusk was falling over the landscape. As we pulled into Sheffield Station lights came on, lifting the darkness. I’d got talking to a travelling companion. She had her bike. The train was delayed. She was anxious about being on time for a gallery opening. At first I thought she must be heading for the same event I was, but as we talked, I found out she was heading to Snig Hill. She was performing in an anti-choir, an experimental sound accompaniment to an art show. I pointed her and her bike in the right direction as we left the station and made my way to Bank Street. A singer in an anti-choir. A summer day at the end of September. The scene was set for a special evening. Bank Street Arts has its home in some lovely interconnecting terraced houses in a part of Sheffield that has always had an air of mystery for me. I found a door and opened it. In the room in front of me were my friends Keith How and Jim Ghedi. Jim is a wonderful musician and Keith is an inspired artist. Keith brings experience and a young soul to his work. Jim brings youth and an old soul to his. Their collaboration is something very special. Their performance started on time, in a room with some of Keith’s paintings on the wall. Jim had his musical instruments and a chair in a corner, by a window. The room swiftly filled with an audience curious to see what this performance was all about. The idea of painting in response to music isn’t new. Many artists and writers work to a soundtrack in their studios. But working in direct response to a musician’s performance is an unusual and courageous experience for all concerned. The audience quickly settled into concentration, sitting on the floor or leaning against the wall. In a one hour performance there was very little movement. Everyone wanted to see what happened next. Jim’s music, incorporating his lovely voice, his guitar and saxophone, samples of conversations with meaning, filled the room and cast its spell. Keith started work on his canvases, three on the wall and one next to Jim. The two bigger canvases were painted red. Working with colour, hands and brushes, Keith painted,sometimes moving to the rhythm of the music, working across the four canvases. The painting made the music manifest. The sound became visual. Psychedelic. Synaesthetic.
Our evening at Bank Street Arts was a wonderful experience . Jim Ghedi played music from his “Satori ” album , while I “interpreted his music on canvas. The audience paid us huge respect both during and after the performance . A real thrill and honor.
This evening then……….
“Jim Ghedi is an acoustic guitarist and songwriter whose unconventional finger-picking style connects the roots of Folk, Spiritual Jazz and Eastern & African music.
Going under a title called ‘Afro folk jazz’, which displays a spiritual direction and human consciousness, his music connects the dots from a wide range of different areas in a unique style that makes him an unpredictable and intriguing musician to watch and listen to. Jim will play a 45 minute set whilst artist Keith How creates abstract paintings in the gallery.”
Walking out in the Peaks today among the first flushes of Autumnal tints in the hedgerows my thoughts turned again to Expressionism and Nature Based Abstraction two themes close to my heart. I am still seeking to understand the connection between the organised chaos of the natural world and that zen still point in the midst of the seeming chaos. The natural world does not care or worry about the colors that are thrown together . They shouldn’t work together but they do .
The same applies with sound . So called discordant and experimental music , like abstraction, is often dismissed as noise yet to stop and pay attention reveals hidden moments of beauty . We are so trained for immediacy that there is no time to taste, think ,to listen or to look.
Allowing yourself to move with the music and color takes you beyond . There is no shape or form to copy, no tree and hill or bowl of fruit. New territory. This constant journey is motivation enough.
I find myself excited at the prospect of taking part in “SENSORIA” with Jim Ghedi again .Listening to him rehearse magically creating soundscapes with his guitar voice and samples is inspiring.
Todays walk revealed the calligraphy of bird flight , brush strokes in dying grasses and vibrancy in death.
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”.
I am proud and thrilled to announce that the lovely people at The Little Mesters’ Recording Confederacy have invited me join their family as resident artist.
Please check out the website and listen and buy the fantastic music on the label. These folks are brimming with creative and artistic talent and great people as well who really deserve recognition. Please give them your support .
They said some nice things about me also !
Artist Keith How has joined our family!!
He paints beautiful paintings and looks like an italian mob boss, godfather and now resident artist for yours faithfully LMRC
Check out his great works on the links.