Synaesthesia at Some Space and Beyond

Earlier this week I posted images by Garek Druss and Cable Griffith, now on view at Some Space Gallery (the art gallery inside Gallery Frames.)  I stopped by the show’s opening on First Thursday and I’m pretty charmed by Garek Druss’s drawings, especially the thought process and perceptual phenomena the work represents.

Garek J. Druss. Vocals with Reverb. Watercolor, graphite and pen, 2009. 16 x 20 inches.

Garek J. Druss. Vocals with Reverb. Watercolor, graphite and pen, 2009. 16 x 20 inches.

Before I saw this show I had no idea Garek was a visual artist, but I was familiar with his music, both as half of the drone duo Ear Venom and also his solo act Story of Rats, which specializes in expansive textured landscapes of sound.  Garek’s drawings are a visual counterpoint to his work in sound. Vocals with Reverb, posted above, is a synaesthetic visual representation of a familiar auditory phenomenon.

Garek Druss. Recorded Material. Watercolor, graphite and pen, 2009. 36 x 24 inches.

Garek Druss. Recorded Material. Watercolor, graphite and pen, 2009. 36 x 24 inches.

Two of the drawings in the show, Recorded Material and Composition for Live Performance, are visualizations of entire pieces of music.   These drawings elegantly collapse the multidimensional aspect of Garek’s music into a beautifully rendered two-dimensional study that he uses to work out the details before a performance.  They are reminiscent of architectural models as well as graphic scores, like this one for Iannis Xenakis’s Mycenae Alpha, a 1978 piece designed to be read and played back by UPIC, an early graphics-to-sound technology.

Guitarist Keith Rowe cites Jackson Pollock’s painting as a major influence on his improvisation style, and has used paintings by Jackson Pollock as graphic scores for prepared guitar compositions.  I can think of other artists whose work I’d love to hear rendered as musical compositions, including Seattle artist Leo Saul Berk, whose noodling drawing based on the interior of a sacred Mayan cave implies sound, movement and multidimensionality worthy of Xenakis.

Leo Saul Berk. Dark House. Sparkle pen on paper, 2008. 92 x 145 in.

Leo Saul Berk. Dark House. Sparkle pen on paper, 2008. 92 x 145 in.

Leo Saul Berk. Dark House (detail.)

Leo Saul Berk. Dark House (detail.)

Thoughtforms was the title concept of a 1901 treatise on synaesthesia and metaphysics by Theosophists Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater.  Early editions of the book were accompanied by Kandinskyesque color plates illustrating the peculiar thoughtforms perceived by the authors when hearing specific pieces of music.  Intuitive and expressionistic, they may be read as graphic scores in reverse, guiding the experience of the listener rather than the music itself.

Besant and Leadbeater. The Music of Wagner. From Thoughtforms, 1901.

Besant and Leadbeater. The Music of Wagner. Thoughtforms, 1901.

The current show at Some Space scratches the surface of a fruitful category of inquiry.  There is music coursing through the veins of Seattle’s history, and there are lots of visual artists in town who make music of all kinds.  Artist/musicians Whiting Tennis, D. W. BurnamJamie Potter and  Wyndel Hunt jump immediately to mind.  Aubrey Nehring of Backward Masks has an art show at Some Space in November.   Oh yeah—and there’s me!

Likewise, I know there are plenty of excellent musicians in town who have undiscovered talent as visual artists, including the multifaceted Timm Mason (of Midday Veil and Mood Organ among other projects), whose mesmerizing music-inspired drawings are like graphic scores and thoughtforms rolled into one:

Timm Mason/Mood Organ. God is Speaking Reliably. Ink on paper, 2004.

Timm Mason/Mood Organ. God is Speaking Reliably. Ink on paper, 2004.

One day when I have more time, I would love to use all of this as a starting point to curate an exhibition of 2-D work inspired by the process of creating music.  Because, after all:

Everything in the universe is, is, is made of one element, which is a note, a single note. Atoms are really vibrations, you know. With your extensions of the BIG NOTE, everything’s one note. Everything, even the ponies. The note, however, is the ultimate power, but see the pigs don’t know that, the ponies don’t know that.

You mean just we know that?

RIGHT!

— Frank Zappa, Very Distraughtening.

UPDATE: I didn’t know this when I posted, but Garek Druss is currently working on an album called Thought/Forms and the image above is the material for the “Thought” side of the record. Cosmic!

~ by emilypothast on March 8, 2009.

2 Responses to “Synaesthesia at Some Space and Beyond”

  1. What a great post. I’ve also been perpetually haunted by longings to curate a show of work in the intersection of visual and musical.

    So far, I am a music listener (a keen one, at that); not yet a music maker. However, as a visual artist I am primarily inspired by music.

    good lord it’s windy out!

  2. Thanks Susanna. These are things we should talk about over that cup of coffee we’re supposed to have someday. And thanks for the lovely post about my show at Grey. I can’t believe they threw you out!

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