Art and music have always been connected: from early cave paintings of musical instruments, to album covers, to interactive concert visuals. What we see and what we hear are closely linked.
Music & Modernism
Music is by nature an interpretation, the expression of a perspective, rather than a literal depiction of reality. The Modernist movement was all about avoiding literal representations of the world, therefore music was an attractive source of inspiration. Back in 1877, the writer Walter Pater said: “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.”
Wassily Kadinsky, a Russian painter, was heavily inspired by music. He wrote: “music is the ultimate teacher.” He used musical words to describe his works as “improvisations” or “compositions,” arguing passionately for a multi-sensory experience in the viewer. Have a look at some of his pictures. Do they conjure up sounds in your imagination?
Vassily Kadinsky - No Title, 1923
Vassily Kadinsky - Composition VII, 1913
The rising popularity of jazz inspired a new wave of art evoking its rhythms, structures and tones. The artist Stuart Davis was inspired by a jazz sextet and syncopation to create his Hot Still-Scape for Six Colours - 7th Avenue.
Mick Maslen: Trail of Energy
1st December 2021 - 16th January 2022
Bristol Heart Institute Atrium
UHBW Arts and Culture present Mick Maslen: Trail of Energy, an exhibition of works in the Maslen collection, produced by UWE Curating Intern Hatty Welsh. The collection was bequeathed to UHBW by the late artist and art teacher Mick Maslen, in thanks for the work the NHS did caring for him later in life when he suffered from Parkinson's disease.
Mick loved music and his family recall him listening to Bob Dylan, Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbara whilst creating art.
"He thought there was a musicality to mark making - Springsteen, stones etc. particular favourites. The one track I always remember him painting fondly to is Shankar’s Song For Everyone"
- Dan Maslen (Mick's son)
Mick Maslen: Trail of Energy will be opened with a session of mark making to music for staff, patients and visitors.
Mick Maslen believed that there is no right or wrong way to draw - anyone is welcome to drop in to the BHI Atrium between 11am and 3pm on Wednesday 1st December to join us in letting go and having some fun with drawing.
Mondrian and the Blues
Piet Mondrian was another abstract artist inspired by blues music: specifically boogie woogie music, after which he named several pieces.
Piet Mondrian - Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1943
You can listen to the kind of music that inspired Mondrian here:
ACTIVITY: Why not put on some music, pick up a pen, and doodle whatever comes to mind?
You may be pleasantly surprised by what you see, as well as what you hear.
Visible and Tactile Sound
Bristol Artist Lisa Cole has been working with the Bristol Robotics Lab to develop a sound to pattern drawing machine as part of her MA in Art & Design at UWE.
The prototype turns sounds into patterns and objects which can be felt or held. The primary material used is clay although the project could be altered to draw with ink, paint or wet concrete.
Sound is spoken into or played via a mobile phone that acts as a microphone and amplifier. Using an Arduino as a graphic equaliser, different frequencies of sound make motors react instead of light. The motors control the speed and direction of a turntable (which holds the target object) and the height of a pendulum, which is fitted to deliver clay slip. The shape the pendulum draws is altered by the rotation of the turntable. The resulting 'record' of the sound can include raised lines and braille like dots.
The project is ongoing and Lisa plans a second machine that will record multiple voices as lines, exploring the many languages that are spoken in her area of Bristol.