the FIRE HOUSE
The Sounds That Paintings Make
9 - 31 October 21
an exhibition of paintings, drawings & prints
Opening Day Drinks - 9 October 12 - 4pm - all welcome
please join us for a glass of champagne
inc. Artist Talk / Q & A session 12.30pm
with special guests Daniel Birch (electronic sounds) Fr. Peter Burns (Gregorian chant)
and Agnieszka Studzinska (poetry)
The Sounds that Paintings Make brings together a selection of work both past and present which in one way or another share some properties with ‘sound’. As an abstract visual artist, Sandra Beccarelli is consciously aware of terminology such as ’tone’, ‘rhythm’, ‘movement’, ‘vibration’, ‘intensity’ etc.
Much of the words used to describe aural noises and music share this descriptive language with the visual arts. Sandra’s paintings and drawings also share a connection with the formal layout of musical score and often starts with a linear, or grid-like system to place her own visual notations on.
Some of her works have been created to music, some of her paintings have inspired soundscape compositions by sound artist Daniel Birch and her Disrupted Musical Score rippled through with pins was translated and sung by Plainchant cantor, Father Peter Burns.
In addition, Sandra has collaborated with poet Agnieszka Studzinska to produce a series of Disrupted Etchings and Disrupted Text which contain thoughts and descriptions of the physical processes within each of their creative fields. Agnieszka speaks of “sentences hanging in mid-air”, of absence and presence, while the audience listen to the pace and rhythm of the poet’s voice.
Sandra Beccarelli is a London based artist who creates abstract works based on systems and processes in order to explore the complexities of emotion and reasoning. Constantly pushing the boundaries within painting, drawing and mixed media, she pursues these concepts in both expressive and obsessive ways, where process and meaning are intrinsically linked.
Sandra aims to get to the ‘essence’ of a feeling, often referring to nature as a starting point; an interpretation of what we can see and what we can't; the structure which underlies rhythms and movements stripped down and distilled to pure energy.
The ‘backs’ of her artworks are the equivalent to these unseen energies, where often the reverse side of her canvas will inform the ‘front’ e.g. syringing through a ‘hidden grid’ or sewing and rippling pins through paper. This method of working resonates with the idea of cause and effect and how everything is linked and exists, even if we can't see it.
The recurring theme of how emotions can be visually described has been her obsession throughout her career, as has the religious concept of light, dark, loss and hope, order and chaos and looking towards nature as a metaphor, where shadows shift and emotions change. It is in this shadowy area, a transitional place where change occurs, merging or crossing over between two possibilities, a disruption, where consciousness and order ‘slips’. The word ‘emotion’ comes from the Latin ‘emovere’, meaning ‘disturbance’ or ‘disruption’.
In all her works she creates structured working systems and then disrupts them, letting go of order and control to chance and spontaneity. Beccarelli is interested in the use of ‘empty’ space within her work, silent, yet active, where captured moments of intensity such as the accumulation of marks, drips, or heightened colours harmoniously emerge.
Daniel Birch is an electronic musician and sound artist to an eclectic mix of artistic mediums such as film, art installations, podcasts and adverts. Based in Somerset, Daniel Birch creates rich, shifting audio soundscapes and music with lush ambience and cinematic texture. Using a playful approach, he explores with childhood curiosity, and sources sounds with the use of samplers, field recorders and loopers. He also releases a large proportion of his music under Creative Commons licences.
Daniel’s part in the exhibition has been to create a new collection of atmospheric soundscapes directly inspired by Sandra’s experimental and expressive abstract paintings. Daniel has restricted his frame to a few elements including manipulation and experimentation of sound, tone and process with cassette loops. He feels this new approach will help capture a stronger sense of emotion and rawness in his work.
Agnieszka Studzińska has an MA in Creative Writing from the UEA. Her debut collection, Snow Calling was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award 2010 and she is currently finishing her PhD in Creative Writing at RHUL. Her poem, This Could All Be, is a final response to a collaborative project with Sandra Beccarelli, called Beating Time: A Conversation Between Painting & Poetry exhibited at the Alison Richard Building, University of Cambridge, 2020.
As part of the collaboration, both painter and poet would meet regularly and discuss their work to find many similarities in both content and process. Beccarelli would bring her sketchbook and Studzinska would make notes. Beccarelli’s preoccupation with metaphysical concepts in her work and more recently ideas of erosion, destruction and loss, unlocked familiar themes in Studzińska’s writing; their conversations became her narrative.
Father Peter Burns O.S.B, Benedictine Monk of Ealing Abbey is director and first cantor of Ealing Abbey Lay Plainchant Choir. He studied at Wimbledon School of Art, The West Surrey College of Art and Design (now UCA) Farnham, and the Institute of Education Bloomsbury. He joined the monastery in 1984. His theological studies were at Heythrop College and the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.
Father Peter translated and sung Sandra’s Disrupted Musical Score, by singing and recording the Gregorian chant as it appeared after Sandra’s rippling through with steel pins. The sounds emerge and disappear from the surrounding silence.
THOUGHTS BEHIND THE SOUNDSCAPES
click on the titles to listen to the corresponding works
Using four cords on a tape machine and reverbing sounds, Daniel created an ‘echoey’ soundscape to Echoes of Shadows and Light that listeners could ‘sink into’. Inspired by Sandra’s use of contrasting black and white paint, he uses a mixture of high and low sounds which fade in and out to give an other-worldly feel. This track also includes recordings of Sandra working in her studio.
Referencing the six ‘fireworks’ in Shadows Rise Like Fireworks, Daniel wanted to produce his interpretation of an explosion through sound. As the track progresses, each ‘firework’ becomes clearer, echoing the brightening of the ‘fireworks’ in the painting. The fluid snaking colourful lines in the background reminded Daniel of the ribbon like qualities tape, he replicates this by recording the sound of the mechanics of his tape recorder working, which nestles in the background sound of this track.
Daniel describes the Language of Movement and Sound as a ‘soft’ and ‘delicate’ painting, that resembles a ‘ballet dancer pirouetting’, inspiring him to create an organic soundscape in which the sounds build and become clearer as the track progresses. He used recorded sounds of Sandra scratching and scraping as she worked on her paintings as part of this soundscape.
An image of a ‘heavy church’ or ‘cave door’ and Gregorian chants, reverberate through his eerie soundscape of Birch’s One Hundred Thousand Surfaces II music piece. Daniel wanted to convey the sense of entrapment, which he sees in this painting, by manipulating and distorting the sound of Father Peter Burns singing Sandra’s Disrupted Musical Scores, and allowing it to drone and echo like voices in a cave while layering in agitated scratchings that hint at a beast trying to escape.
Sonic Interludes bends under the weight of the vast and expansive soundscape recreated by Daniel Birch. The noisy, scratchy, and very busy environment of this painting made Daniel want to place it within its own sonic world. Produced by recording sounds from a bass guitar on a tape machine and running them through tape saturations, octave shifters and plate reverbs (sound effects) help build the overall effect for this work.
When Daniel initially saw this piece, it reminded him of a cinema film reel ticking over and over at high speed. For Analysis of Rising and Falling I he created a soundscape to match this, however when he listened back to it, it felt too intense to for the meticulous detail of Sandra’s mark making. He decided to drop the BPM (beats per minute) of the whole track to around 20 BPM, slowing everything down so that the viewer has time to absorb the painting.
Daniel instantly connected with this piece on a deep, emotional level. He saw in it someone’s view from a hospital window and felt that the small drilled holes signalled feelings of breathlessness… Or even one’s final days on earth. Although This Could all be Gone Tomorrow - Borders and Holes and soundscape were created before the global pandemic, there is a strange feeling of foreshadowing in both the artwork and the music.
THIS COULD ALL BE
by Agnieszka Studzińska
Destroyed. Damaged. Obliterated.
I hear such words on TV performing their customs in wildfires, riots & protests.
Rain varnishes windows, surfaces of nature’s secrets & our faces returning.
The spelling list includes the word: erosion in its practice of the suffix -sion; as in invasion.
Evidence suggests an Iranian missile brought down a Ukrainian passenger plane.
The air is a nest for bacteria & bodies multiply in need to be re-housed.
Polluted whispers & mothers of missing children scan the littered streets.
The neighbour artist paints with her abstract language. I want to experiment with how paint sounds, she says.
I look at the red square in her sketchbook & depict a red landscape.
I hear it in them – dead under a bus or buying fruit at a market.
I promise to remember the small things.
Rain trapped inside the human body.
I hear it in you.
In her sketchbook, she writes, are some holes too big to fix?
The rain folds air in its wings, flaps the afternoon into chaos.
I made these disrupted drawings, she says.
I made these disrupted words to mean something to you.
I consider how earth was formed & he talks about the power of stardust in Pokémon.
There are celebrations of a new decade or the killing of a state leader.
I read: blinded by chemical dust in her eyes.
Promises. Promises. Promises.
Pencil markings of rupture strikethrough her notebook.
I hear it in you.
She titles her work, The Beauty of Holes. What is the deepest hole in the world? I ask.
There are layers of time in the layers of paint she applies to the canvas.
There are layers of sentences in the clothes I wear, phrases settled in cotton.
The future imperfect. Star trek.
A continuous tense like the rigorous rain shedding her skin for the next generation.
I hear it in you.
This Could All Be: A Retrospective
by Agnieszka Studzińska
Gone tomorrow. This could all be. This. Tomorrow. Be. Today. Or. Looking back to a future. Looking forwards to a past. Reflecting here. Gone tomorrow. This present. The now of my thinking. This making of word & painting. Of text as surface. Of all the conversations. Between painting & art. Between painter & poet. Between paint & ink. Computer screen. Printer. Between physicality & thought. Between brush stokes & surface. Between words in air & us. This new text as surface.
Robert Sheppard writes that, Poetics has been open to a variety of misunderstandings. The first, and apparently most obvious, is that it has something to do with poetry…but I’d like to stress that while poetry and poetics share etymological roots they both derive from the Greek verb ‘to make’ -poetics, as the thinking about how something is made… (Sheppard: 2008:3)
And so, the thinking as to how something is made. Is this. Is what? We made & can make again, anew. We made dialogue & notes & something beyond language. All meshed & broken & re assembled together. All be. Could This. In the painter’s process. Her destruction - erosion of canvas. Planted seeds in paper. New earth.
Inspiration arrived in our conversations. Whose there? I translated them at my desk. Observing what was trying to be told. Small ghosts on paper. Larger apparitions outside of ourselves. Hidden narratives in the absence of others.
I experimented with narrative. I experiment now. I re arranged our words. I arranged how we read narrative. I opened structure. I put Sandra’s voice on the page. I inserted stories I heard. Other stories I misheard. I cut sentences. I placed them on top of each other. Like lovers. Like bodies pressing out. These sentences were whole stories broken.
A line from one text reads: end of a demulcent October. It is October now. Moonlit bright morning & windy. Autumn making her mark. Coincidence? Chance? I think. That then is appearing now. New ideas are unfolding. Compression of time & our spaces open. Inviting.
Robert Sheppard (2008) Poetics as Conjecture and Provocation, New
Writing, 5:1, 3-26, DOI: 10.1080/14790720802237170