Artlyst attended the National Gallery to experience its latest exhibition: Soundscapes. The Gallery has commissioned leading contemporary sound artists and musicians Nico Muhly, Susan Philipsz, Gabriel Yared, Jamie xx, Chris Watson, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller to respond to six paintings of their choice from the National Gallery collection. Each brand new ‘soundscape’ has been specially created for the exhibition and can only be heard in full within the exhibition space for the duration of the show.
Each musician and sound artist has a room in the Sainsbury Wing exhibition space for the viewer/listener to wander between, resulting in a series of encounters between the visual and the sonic – similar to James Richards response to Francis Bacon’s ‘Study for a Portrait’ (1953), currently on display at the Whitechapel Gallery, or even Avro Pärt’s recent collaboration with Gerhard Richter – the series of works are transformative in nature, responding directly to each chosen painting.
These soundscapes, transform the image and exhibition space creating an often orchestral or ambient work of art in its own right, with choral or theatrical leitmotifs that create a temporal aspect to each painting. Time is the conceptual connecting tissue between the works – the combination takes painting and sound and creates a temporal installation – each sound artist or musician creates a unique work out of the fusion of existing painting, the sonic filter of sound, and the gallery space.
Of particular note is musician Gabriel Yared’s response to Paul Cézanne’s ‘Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses)’ 1894-1905. Yared had this to say about his choice: “I’m asked why this painting? because there is an apparent stillness – a melting between individuals, you don’t see them really properly, just shapes – there’s no faces just forms melting into nature, it’s all an ensemble – and also because the colours speak to me. I always say that a beautiful painting addresses your ears as well as your eyes, it’s like Cézanne, he is inventing sounds through colours. The eyes of each visitor would be much more creative than any music in the world, but I’m just putting them in a religious atmosphere – divinity is the painting, and the music is just like candles around [it] – to be inside the room, inside the painting, inside the music.”
Words: © Artlyst 2015, images: courtesy of the National Gallery, musical segments: © Gabriel Yared all rights reserved
Soundscapes – The National Gallery – until 6 September 2015