Group One Blue

I’ve come across another UK artist whose art is informed by intriguing ideas, among them aural-visual synesthesia. Kevin Laycock, who teaches painting at the School of Design of the University of Leeds, is a musician himself, and very interested in the relationship of painting and design to music. To quote from a statement at the Drumcroon Gallery:

Kevin Laycock’s recent paintings explore the structure of ‘Colour Symphony’, an orchestral work created in 1922 by the composer Arthur Bliss. The composer, who was known for creating music with unusual combinations of instrument and voice, had set out to explore the musical associations of colour. In these paintings, Kevin Laycock is returning the musical score to the colour that inspired it, exploring the qualities of colour in music and paint, finding a painted equivalent for the musical structures and sounds.

The two images shown here are from the series just described, called “Tectonics.”

Group One Red

There is a thread linking Laycock’s latest work with the concept we discussed a while back of visual indeterminacy, as elucidated and represented by Robert Pepperell. In fact, the title of his most recent series is “Uncertain Harmonies,” referring to a particular orchestral composition written to be played with the different string sections tuned a quarter tone apart. I haven’t heard it, but presumably the ear finds some difficulty in relating to the ambiguous harmonic structure. There is a nice essay on this newest series in a new online journal called Colour: Design and Creativity.

Laycock’s paintings have a distinctly musical feel to me. The underpinning of the grid sets up a sense of rhythm, which is, however, far from overwhelming. It is always there, at the largest and smaller scales, but is varied or reinforced as one moves around and through the composition. It does not seem predictable as a naive transcription might. To me it works well whether one “reads” the painting in the usual way, letting one’s attention fall where it is drawn from moment to moment, or in a more linear way, as if reading a page of text–more akin to the actual experience of music. There is a definite feeling of unity, of relationship across the individual, chaotic details.

Have you ever thought of an artwork, either one of your own or one you’re viewing, in musical terms? I have sometimes thought about a rhythmic feeling I would also like to achieve in photographs of certain landscape subjects, though I’ve never been particularly successful. Nevertheless, the musical connection has enhanced my appreciation of those places.