Tag Archives: music and image

Winter Series: Music and Image

Sold. ‘North (2)’. 8×4.5″ inches

Right – a painting from my winter series 2015.

(Paintings for this year’s winter series don’t begin until October. Read on, below) …

Winter Series: Music and Image.

Private View 25th November 7 – 9pm

Open studio 26th November to 3rd December

Venue – Lyne Street Studio, 5 Lyne Street, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh

 

 

This project is a development of a five-year collaboration between myself and Atzi Muramatsu. It’s a collaboration that has involved many approaches, including individual responses to shared subjects (such as the Eigg Island project at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in 2015) or Atzi’s live response to my paintings, from which I created video montages.

For Winter Series: Music and Image, I’ll be creating a series of twelve paintings in response to twelve pieces of music composed by Atzi Muramatsu, on the theme of winter.

For this I’ll respond solely to the form, mood, texture and musical references of the music. It’s going to be an exciting new challenge for me as I’ve focussed mainly on landscape painting for the past five years.

In the process of collaboration, you become immersed in the work of the other person,  more than you would if you heard a one-off performance, or visited an exhibition for one evening, for example,

For Atzi this has been at times an unusual experience where it feels as though he’s actually in the landscape as he responds to the painting. To get the sense of this, have a look at my recent video where you can see Atzi become more involved with the paintings as the performance develops, it’s particularly affecting during his improvised response to ‘Moonscape, Harris 4’, which you can see in this clip from about 3:19 onwards. (The clip shows the painting, then cuts to Atzi performing, and back again). Clip –  Moonscapes 

I found the juxtaposing medieval-sounding and folk influences most dramatic – absolutely relevant to the subject matter, which was all about the idea of living through the darkest times in a Hebridean landscape. I knew the painting was a bit dark for some tastes (it won’t be a best seller – dark paintings rarely are!) so I was gratified that Atzi went into that dark landscape so willingly!

In the editing process of making these videos and synchronizing music with image, I’ll often hear the same piece about twenty times or so. So the music really plays over and stays in my mind. Some fragments stay more than others, one of my favourite pieces is probably the beginning of Hebridean Light, which you can hear from about 3:38 in this video  –  I find it joyful.

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate more deeply the eclectic nature of Atzi’s influences, I think of him sometimes as a musical encyclopaedic sponge! But it’s the musical talent in expressing, juxtaposing or harmonising these influences, and the level of expression, that I find so inspiring. It’s one thing to hear all those influences in a piece that’s been composed and worked on over months, quite another to hear it improvised live.

So it’s no surprise to know that much of Atzi’s work has been created for film, his score for ‘The Making of Longbird’ being a recent example (the film won a Scottish BAFTA). Atzi then went on to win a BAFTA last year.

As someone who’s always been fascinated by film scores, music and image (in fact my art college dissertation was partly on this theme, but don’t worry I wouldn’t inflict that on anyone!) from Moricone and Herman to recent compositions by composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto who created the incredible score for The Revenant, I can absolutely see where Atzi’s ear for music traditions – from ancient  to modern in the eastern and western hemispheres, would suggest a future in film music composition. More recently I’ve been exploring the music scores by  Bear McCready for the Outlander series. It’s mostly a commercial approach – unashamedly romantic, though extremely well researched. I was particularly struck by the subtle arrangements used during dialogue which correspond so brilliantly to time and place – for example Jacobean times in 18th cent’ Scotland, or 18th cent’ Paris, post WW2 Britain, or music reflecting courtlife in contrast to country-life and folk traditions. It’s really a fascinating subject to explore, but I’m digressing!

In short, it’s going to be a most enjoyable journey for me to respond to Atzi’s music through paint. I want to honour the process and make sure that buyers of the paintings experience it too, so with each painting sold, buyers will recieve a CD with recording of Atzi’s music score, and a music notation of each piece. This means that people can experience the image/painting and music together, exploring for themselves how the image responds to music. If they’re musicians they might themselves play with the the themes too perhaps, and who knows, it might lead to new collaborations, I’m always open to that.

I’ll be sure to post the making of each painting as they progress, and to include music sounds clips here on the blog as the series develops. The main body of work will happen in October, wish us luck!

Harris video – a journey in music and image

Photo: Sarah Bader

I spent most of yesterday evening creating a video montage of the Harris paintings and Atzi Muramatsu playing cello at the exhibition preview. (video below)

I think it captures a little bit of what’s so beautiful about our collaboration, and what people in the gallery respond to with such enthusiasm and emotion.

Gallery previews are quite hectic events, there’s a lot of stimulus, and if you’re the artist who’s also organised it, well, to be honest my heart is usually hammering – not anxiety as such, more excitement (you spend two or three months painting then your paintings are presented publically in a way that gives you a whole new perspective on how they work as a series, and you’re bombarded suddenly with friendly enthusiastic people talking about them, it’s quite a high!)

I find that Atzi’s performance gives me, and everyone else, a chance to slow down and contemplate, to remember why all these paintings are here in the first place. It’s an appreciation of being alive, it’s pretty much the meaning of life if you’re an artist in any form.

Exploring Harris. Photo by Donald Ferguson

Each time we collaborate I’m reminded anew of what’s so rewarding about the process: while I’m in the place I’m painting, and throughout the painting process, I’m constantly researching – reading, talking to people from the place, exploring everything about the landscape that makes it unique and compelling. Atzi’s response feeds that experience back and extends it, even if we haven’t discussed all the inspiration behind the paintings. I’ve learned to simply trust that he’ll ‘get’ it.

 

Everyone travelling to the Isle of Harris tells you that you must visit the turquoise seas and white sands of Luskentyre on the west coast, and so you must, it’s beautiful, almost incredible visually! But I was also reading about the islands – (I recommend Bill Lawson’s Harris in History and Legend) the origins of people, the possible meanings behind the stones of Callanish on Lewis (particularly the significance of the moon in its formation), the music, poetry and of course the tough lives of the islanders who lived there over thousands of years through constant challenge and change.

You find it in the place names; echoes of Viking culture – Gaelic and Norse combined, you see it in the ruined houses, abandoned crofts or fishing piers, or the long, black seams of peat (the sole source of fuel in past times) cut into rain and wind-lashed hilltops. Ordinary people here certainly suffered at the hands of land owners’ whims – the ever changing, or failed, industries, the Clearances of course and not least the hard rocky ground and wild winter weather that made farming this land so arduous. They’re still here though, the Scottish Gaelic language survives, as does the humour, the story-telling, art, music and poetry.

Much of all this is there in my paintings if you’re looking for it. Atzi Muramatsu’s cello playing brings it back to life for me. When I heard these three music pieces in the gallery I was transported back to Harris, re-experiencing the darkness and light I discovered there.

Music lovers will hear a bit of everything, from playful Scottish reels to the darkly Baroque, then avant garde dissonance, but also wonderful expression and interpretation absolutely unique to Atzi.

And remember, all of this is improvised response!

 

Nocturn – cello and paintings

The video below is the beginning of this year’s collaboration between myself and Atzi Muramatsu (composer and cellist).

We recently talked about the themes of the latest series of paintings (Nocturnes) and Atzi produced a series of works on cello. The mysterious and minimal intro music is a perfect introduction, but I’m particularly moved by the piece that accompanies Nocturn 4, it’s suitably dark in mood, yet there’s an airborn feeling to it, with a sense of searching, or being compelled to explore what we’re not familiar with.

'Nocturn 4'. Mixed media on 20x16" canvas

‘Nocturn 4’. Mixed media on 20×16″ canvas

The tense piece towards the end, and strange primal, dramatic sounds at the end are in contrast to the more lyrical piece that accompanies Nocturn 4, and I felt this was perfect sound accompaniment to Nocturns 3 and 5 which have a sense of more movement, tension and drama.

 

 

 

'Blue 3'. Mixed media on 20x16" canvas

‘Blue 3’. Mixed media on 20×16″ canvas

Nocturn 3 features the suggestion of a ship, or ship’s ferry lights, so I’ve played around with slightly distorted and unsettling effects in the video, which are echoed nicely with the atmospheric creaking sounds Atzi makes with the cello (I think of them as creaky anyway, it might just be me associating with images of boats in trouble at sea!).

 

Inspiring stuff from Atzi as always. We’re working on a new project to accompany the exhibition in July and I’ll update on that soon.