Issue Number: 95
Music to the eyes
A trio of shows celebrates how art tunes into music, notes Serena Davies
‘Colour is the keyboard. The eye is the hammer. The soul is the piano with its many strings,’ rhapsodised Wassily Kandinsky, an artist preoccupied with the connections between the aural and the visual. Three shows that link art and music this summer would have delighted him.
Pallant House Gallery presents a survey exhibition that trips lightly between eras and across Europe. It brings together artists as disparate as the Czech modernist František Kupka, who made abstracts inspired by Bach’s fugues in the 1910s, and the British painters Alan Davie and John Tunnard, who were in thrall to jazz 30 years later. Musically inspired works by Kandinsky, the composer Arnold Schönberg and other members of Der Blaue Reiter group also feature.
Fred Tomaselli, Organism, 2005.
It was Kandinsky’s visit to a Schönberg concert in 1911 that first moved him to visualise the same ineffable quality he heard in music. ‘Music was seen as the pinnacle of artistic achievement, the most spiritual of all the arts,’ adds curator Frances Guy.
On a different note is an homage to Brian Wilson, lead singer of the Beach Boys, at Tate St Ives. Alex Farquharson has curated a show that is ‘part biography, part social history, part none of these things at all’.
His inspiration is the complex life of Wilson, whose falsetto voice was a trademark of the group. Work from the Sixties to the present day conjures both the sunny themes of the band’s songs and the darker undertones of the commercial exploitation and drug abuse of a sensitive man who suffered a breakdown at 24.
Peter Blake’s Beach Boys print of 1964 celebrates the band-as-brand at the height of their fame; photographs by Ed Ruscha show the dystopian Californian landscape. Fred Tomaselli’s multi-coloured paintings, such as Organism, 2005 (above), convey what Wilson described as the ‘psychedelicacy’ of his later kaleidoscopic pieces.
Meanwhile, ‘Panic Attack’ at the Barbican Art gallery shows how artists embraced the iconoclasm and rebellion of the punk movement. It draws parallels between artistic trends and the aesthetics of punk: collage, for instance, like the use of safety pins in fashion, was immediate, affordable and subversive. It also examines Jamie Reid’s cheeky defilements of the Queen’s face in his designs for the Sex Pistols’ record covers.
As with the other exhibitions, it applauds the interplay between musical and visual art forms that evolved in the twentieth century.
Eye-music: Klee, Kandinsky and all that Jazz, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (01243 774557), 30 June–16 Sep;
If Everybody had an ocean: Brian Wilson: An Art Exhibition, Tate St Ives (01736 796226), 26 May–23 Sep;
Panic Attack! Art in the Punk years, Barbican Art Gallery, London (020 7638 8891), 5 June–9 Sep
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