The Day I Painted the Music
On the 14th April 2004, the day that happened to be my birthday, I painted a piece of artwork that I still think to this day is one of my strongest pieces. As you can see by this site, I'm a multi-media artist who loves exploring contemporary abstract work in many ways. But back then I was focused on the art of painting sound and music, expressing myself in the pure and simple act of becoming at one with the music. A bit like when you are dancing to an amazing track, you are with the groove and you just don’t care because you are lost in the sound, beat, and rhythm!
That was my aim that day, to lose myself in the sound. With a can of paint in one hand, a spoon in the other, and a canvas on the floor I was ready! Ready for an epic battle with a three meter canvas, fifteen cans of Dulux gloss paint, eight spoons, two jugs and a bucket!
The day was a great one, it was my birthday, I was in my studio in Birmingham, I was excited about my new style of art, and life felt good! I had decided that I was going to paint really large scale as a birthday treat to myself, It was an out and out self indulgence. This was going to be my largest canvas to date, only having a few months of painting in this particular style under my belt, I was intrigued to see where this day would take me.
The paint cans were all open, the equipment was ready and my sonic weapon of choice was selected on my trusty old JVC RVB90 boombox, Goldie’s ‘INcredible sound of Drum 'n' Bass’! Lets bring it on I thought!
The music went on, I started mixing a colour, then I got up to see a clean crisp expanse of white canvas before me. Right, I’m ready for this I was thinking, things felt good and I was excited to see what would happen. I just instinctively started throwing loops of oily paint through the air. It just seemed to hang in midair, creating beautiful arks of colour, before landing on the canvas with ease, it had a certain grace about it.
I was now into the warming up stage, but that did not last for long before I settled down into a groove and started to relax into the music. Things started to flow, I remember it just getting mesmerising and hypnotic from then on. I just seemed to become part of the music, it was like when you rehearse a tune on a piano that much you just start enjoying the sound, and not concentrating on your hands. You have total control to go where ever you want with it, it was like that. I was now feeling in real control, I knew where I was going. I did not know the exact destination, and I did not care as I now knew the journey would be a great one.
As the music started building I was firmly in the zone, then all hell broke loose with the music, and consequently my painting! I think it was when ‘Spacefunk' by Digital dropped, I just remember going berserk! It was a total outpouring of primitive expression. I was being swept along with the savagely reconstructed amen break, thudding base, and that trance inducing high pitched monotone echo cutting through the mix. Now, now I was the music, it was leading me, throwing me around with its power, like a ship in a stormy sea. I’m just holding on and riding it out with controlled adrenalin and exhilaration, I was now painting without thought or fear! This is where I had dreamt of being, and it was happening to me for the first time, it was the perfect storm.
I got totally lost in it all midway through, I don’t joke when I say I was experiencing rushes of euphoria whilst painting, it was almost drug like. I got so entranced in it, I had not realised all my arms were getting covered in Dulux oil based gloss, paint designed for wood and metal, not my skin! As I was using so much paint, the fumes in the studio where hitting a real high. I just did not notice or care about these things, there was just one thing on my mind, and that was moving with the music and shaping the sound into paint on canvas.
Towards the end I could see it all coming together, I could see the form had developed, the end was in sight and the music just seemed to keep giving. Just at the right time I would have the right musical mood for the small considerations, now it was getting thoughtful and considered. After the deluge of attacking the canvas with what seemed to be a lorry load of paint, it was now time for those small touches that just finish a piece of work off. I was still flowing, but my brain was now out of primitive cave man mode. Attacking the canvas turned into nurturing it with thought and consideration. This bit was the beautiful part, the finishing flurry, a bit like when you are warming down from a great workout. You start thinking about the hard work you put into it with a little internal glee smile, thinking how it was all so worth it to get to this point.
I just knew it was finished, it’s weird, I always do, after the midway crescendo of a piece it starts to come down the other side of the hill and I warm down with the last few finite touches and it all seems to come to a lovely natural conclusion. I looked up and signalled that was it, finished! I felt like it was all sorted, I had conquered it, and just knew it would be a strong piece. As I looked around I spotted my arms covered in a lovely crimson coating of Dulux paint! How did that get there I thought? It crossed my mind that it was going to take some getting off before my attention turned to the finished canvas for a close evaluation.
The clean up on my arms after was pretty bad, plenty of rag and turps does not do to much for your skin. But that really signifies the experience for me, I was totally lost in it, living it, oblivious to circumstances around me, and the consequences of my actions.
That day was a truly amazing and cathartic painting experience for me. It reminded me of when I went to yoga for the first time and came out the class thinking “what the hell just happened to me!” I got that lovely totally chilled out, knowing, relaxed and fulfilled feeling. Obviously with yoga I did not have the self clean up operation after, a distinct advantage that yoga has over painting with solvents! After a few times of painting like this and getting the same painted skin effect, I decided covering up may be a good idea. Now if I paint with solvents I wear a respirator for the fumes and the right clothing. So, if you see me painting on this scale again, using industrial and household paints in a confined space, I will probably look like a Spitfire pilot with an attitude!
‘Rhythm (INcredible sound)’was a coming together of brilliant music and a connection to it on a primeval level. When music connects with us, I believe it does so because it taps into the deep primitive part of our brain. We all know it deep down, I believe music is wired into our DNA. If you look at ancient and recently discover tribes they all have some form of expression with music. It is usually rhythmic, percussion based, with some sort of bass to it and chanting, or singing over the top. Percussion and bass make those amazing sonic waves that connect with me and so many other people. This is one of my many loves about urban music, and Drum & Bass in particular.
A Limated edition of Rhythm is avaialbe here
Some interesting information about the making of Rhythm:
The Abstract Painting Style of ‘Rhythm’:
I both abstracted from, and painted with the rhythm and sound of music. The emphasis was on speed, relying on natural instinct and movement. I used gravity and air as my paintbrush to shape my paint strikes and organic structures. To build depthI floated layers of wet paint on top of each other whilst exploring the reaction of mixing different paints together.
The Abstract Painting Technique With ‘Rhythm’:
I dripped, threw and poured large amounts of paint. I purposely made areas of pooled paint with my jug. The process after painting was to dry the work to a congealed skin like state, with thick wet paint still underneath the skin. Then with the canvas brought upright, I then cut into the pools of paint and allowed them slowly to start pouring down the painting, this was over a matter of a ten day period. After they got to the desired length I laid the work flat again to dry.
Acrylic based paint
15 cans of oil based paint (Gloss)
2 jars of enamel paint
1 can of varnish
1 can of eggshell oil based paint
Turpentine as thinner
Primed Fredrix medium-heavy canvas on stretcher 118 x 55 Inches (300 x 140 centimetres)
Music used to paint too:
Disk 1 (spectrum) INcredible sound of Drum 'n' Bass
Release Date April 26, 1999
Sony Music Distribution
My album review of INcredible sound of Drum 'n' Bass:
I love this double album, it twists and turns throughout the golden vaults of the Metalheadz collective, It’s an eclectic, tight winding journey, graced by the classic sounds of "Pulp Fiction" by Alex Reece, "The Angels Fell" by Dillinja, "To Shape the Future" by Optical,"Here Come the Drumz" by Doc Scott, "The Warning" by Grooverider's Codename John project”, Your Sound" by J. Majik, and to top it all off, some classic greats “Like Terminator” by Goldie himself!
INcredible sound of Drum 'n' Bass Track Listing:
Spectrum Disc 1
1. Here Comes The Drums (Original) - Don Scott
2. Pulp Fiction - Alex Reece
3. Space Funk - Digital
4. Thursday - Deep Blue
5. The Calling - Roni Size/DJ Die
6. Unofficial Ghost - Doc Scott
7. See Red - Johnny L
8. Close Range - DJ Kalm
9. Warning - Codename John
10. No Reality - Ram Trilogy
11. Bambaata Back To The Core - Shy Fx
12. Otto's Way - Fresh/Vegus
13. Rainbow's Of Colour - Grooverider
14. Fade 2 Black - Souljah