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My joy is to translate music into art. As I hear music, I see it in colour, form, texture and movement and paint accordingly. Form and colour are not arbitrary decisions made by me. My job is to allow the energy of the music to be channelled into a visual mode of expression, capturing energies held in sound, so that they may be absorbed for healing, integration and growth.
How to View the Gallery
This online art portfolio includes a small sample of 3 paintings aligned with their mapping notations. Zoom in to see the details. Scroll further to listen to the music that compelled me to translate it into the painting.
A Voyage Hard Won 2017
Watercolour 18 x 24
Piano Concerto # 2 - 3rd Movement - Rachmaninov
This painting was a commission for my friend who loves the strength and romanticism in this concerto. I also identified with the backstory for this piece. Rachmaninoff had come to a near creative standstill after the disastrous premiere of his first concerto and this music marks his coming back to musical life and the full expression of his gifts. In a very real sense, it echoes my own journey as an artist from victim of despair to mystic visionary of the inner voyage that is synaesthesia!
I captured all 11 minutes of the music in a single horizontal map, which can be read from the bottom left to the top and then beginning again at the bottom of the next column and so on until the piece ends in the top right corner of the page. This helped me track the music in my head, but when it came to the painting, I had to take a different approach to capture the entire essence of the music.
I blocked out all the different phases and used triangular and circular shapes to express clusters, rather than individual notes. The flow of the painting mirrors the mountain in the middle with the sound settings around it framing and forming a surreal landscape. I used the dry brush technique and traced out negative lines to provide definition, especially on the movement of the piano. This painting only took a couple of days, after all the mapping, and in some sense, it is the biggest and boldest in feeling of all my paintings.
I listened to this specific recording featuring William Kapell.
Virtuoso Soundscape 2009
Watercolour 22 x 30
Sarasate Zapateado, for Violin and Piano
This painting marks the beginning of a new way for me to paint. Instead of being able to sit down and paint, completing a work in perhaps one or two sittings, I now found myself in a different situation, with many demands on my time and energy. I could only snatch hours here and there. How to maintain my artistic practice? How would I know where to begin again from within the music if I had to wait to go back to painting from week to week?
And then there was this music in particular. It sounded so fast to my ears. How would I demonstrate the process of painting, unless I followed the music in a way that would be easily discernible and compelling to the viewer? An idea struck me in the most natural way possible. It emerged from my inner synaesthetic response to the music itself. It was encoded in how the music appeared to me. The piano thrumming in blue all the way up and down through the golden red, orange-tinged cloud-like swelling of rapid-fire, still sounding notes, sparkling and ever moving upward in a mirrored pattern on both sides of the piano line. On both sides of the piano line, that was my clue.
I would track the minutes and seconds of the music on one side of the line and correlate this with plot points on graph paper to give myself the actual place on paper where a given point in the music would be painted. This would allow me to paint the form of the music and the particular colour of the phrase in greater detail and with greater assurance than before! And so I began to explore this technique. I found it gave me much greater range and allowed me to relax and enjoy the creative process much more.The red ground of this painting is the resonance given off by the violin. The white ground is the soundscape of the title, the joy of being, the ecstasy of the source of life as we know it in the physical sense. It corresponds with a period of my life where I felt deeply, intensely happy, and deeply rooted in this beautiful and awe-inspiring earth we call home.
Comment on this painting: John Oliver, composer.
“Music is a time-based art. Art is normally not as the eye can enter the picture wherever it likes and can gain information from the painting ad libitum! The unique quality of your work is that you can encourage the viewer to treat it like music by entering the painting at the beginning of the music and following it through to the end, with all of the additional visual commentary reverberating around the core image. Very interesting perceptual proposition."
Here you can watch me create the painting.
All the Joys of Heaven 2011
Watercolour & Ink 18 x 24,
J.S. Bach Brandenberg Concerto #3 3rd movement Allegro
I was commissioned to do this painting because it was so alive and joyful. I soon discovered I needed to hear and validate what I heard, by looking at the sheet music, though I could not read it. This enabled me to distinguish the phrases in Bach’s music in sufficient detail to describe the colour sequence and shape of each of the primary instrumental voices in the music violin, viola cello and harpsichord.
My mapping techniques served me well. At first I did a long format extending over several pages in my graph notebook, plotting each point in a linear fashion. I next worked out the placement and count of repetition but this did not suggest the form and flow of the painting as I wished. Finally, It occurred to me that I should create the entire three-minute sequence of sound on one page, with each of the three voices marked in a colour that would be translated onto the page.
The phrase would be encompassed by infinity in the form of circles of various sizes, depending on the length or duration of a particular musical phrase. I found this process of discovery and lightning, absorbing and sometimes exquisite. The colour palette was simple and consistent throughout with the voices laid down in the same colours throughout. The harpsichord created the cyan and deep blue background against which all of the orbs would be suspended. My experience of this music and the painting of it coincided with a period of intense grief in my life, as my father died midway through its creation. Yet while I painted my grief subsided. The music exudes such joy that no other emotion, no matter how deeply felt, leaves any trace.
Comment on this painting: Kevin Komisaruk, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream: Keyboard, Harpsichord, Organ, University of Toronto “It is thrilling. I absolutely love the colours - especially the buzzing intensity of the cyan around the spheres, which is felt more than seen. One senses such electricity and is compelled to try to find where it's coming from. Above all, you have captured Bach's abstractions of chaos and symmetry from a place of such tremendous sincerity and insight, Marina: it is genius, and so very beautiful.”
For a closer insight into the sheet music, scroll along with this video!
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