The Herne Bay community is currently enjoying the evolving Cellular Dynamics project, as scientific research and live music combine in a two-week residency at Beach Creative, the community’s thriving arts centre
Saturday night saw a performance of music combined with live image- and video-projections by Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences, Dr Dan Lloyd, and Your Loyal Correspondent, set amidst the photographic exhibition accompanying the project, which has been on show since Tuesday and lasts until 1 July. The live piano works performed included John Cage’s hypnotic In A Landscape, the mesmerising Opening by Philip Glass, and pieces by Debussy and Tarik O’Regan, alongside hi-resolution spectroscopy and images drawn from the scientific environment.
The audience enjoyed pre-performance refreshments and a short introductory talk about the project at the University, before the performance. Uniquely amongst the various incarnations of the project which have previously taken place, this one saw both performers sat surrounded by the audience, creating a highly intimate atmosphere, with each piece prefaced by an informal Q&A session.
A display cabinet also presented functional peripherals from the research laboratory as objets d’art; another aspect of looking at the scientific landscape in a creative way.
The exhibition continues at Beach Creative until 1 July, and admission is free; Cellular Dynamics next appears as part of the Norwich Science Festival in October.
I’m sitting in the café late on a dark winter afternoon, to talk with creative powerhouse, artist, actor and writer Adam De Ville about his Blue series, one of which is appearing on the cover of the programme for the concert in the Cathedral Crypt by the University Chamber Choir in March, for its performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. The music is a masterpiece of the Baroque period, a dramatic and vivid setting of the thirteenth-century hymn to the Virgin Mary’s suffering during Christ’s crucifixion; Adam’s painting (itself called simply ‘Blue’) plays with ambiguity, with uncertainty, with questions of identity, the unknown figure’s possible story and the implication of her suffering.
Sitting there with a shock of silvery hair giving him a distinguished aspect, his gaze direct, there’s a contradiction almost between the committed energy he has for art, his fierce creativity, and the carefully-paced, gently articulated way he talks about it; it’s as though each sentence is carefully weighed, measured for its value in articulating ideas which are important to him. No words are wasted; you are left with the sense that these things have been a long time in consideration, yet they flow readily into our free-wheeling conversation, as the sky outside darkens and the coffee sits forgotten amongst the papers.
Photographs of the Blue series are spread between us across the table-top as we talk. It was painted eighteen months ago, with two distinct aspects – one reflecting Adam’s passion for history, with two works referencing the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the other his fascination with technology. ‘I love exploring technology; does it give us an identity ?’ he ponders. ‘I’m always thinking about how the elderly generation uses technology, and how young people engage with it; does it create gaps, or fill them ?’ He launches into a story about sitting in a restaurant recently, watching a young couple eating, talking with each other and at the same time conducting other conversations on their mobile phones; multi-tasking across different streams with complete ease. ‘I wonder how my own children will use technology in ten, twenty years’ time.’
‘A lot of my work is about looking back and imagining forwards, whilst also embracing the transitory nature of life. I paint to try and get home, to anchor myself in moments on paper.’ The striking sequence of images in the Blue series reflects his interest in the colours and tones buried within that single hue; it began during a three-week illness, during which he picked up a sketchbook and began to paint – but only in blue. I asked him about his focus on a single colour and what it meant. ‘I was thinking about age, about being at different stages of life; and, on some level, how we deal with ‘the blues,’ with depression.’ When painting, the images are usually done in a single sitting, although the preparation and thought-process preceding them takes considerably longer.
A recurrent theme in Adam’s work is the idea of belonging and loss. ‘I’m fascinated by the idea of coming home to a home that doesn’t really exist. Life is transitory; you set up a home, and an identity which disappears when you die.’ His paintings have titles like Memory of Bern or Plans for Birmingham, as though he’s trying to pin down on the paper something elusive, to capture that fleeting moment that exists either only in the memory or in a brief vision of what might be.
Adam’s musical interests include the hypnotic soundscapes of Arvo Pärt and Gavin Bryars; Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten formed the sonic backdrop whilst he was painting ‘Blue,’ and Bryars’ mesmerising The Sinking of the Titanic inspired ‘Preludes (where you go I go),’ a haunting sequence of images.
I ask him what he’s working on at the moment. ‘I’m exploding!’ he says, eyes alight with real relish; ‘long may it last!’ His newest images explore the urgent, street-art energies of graffiti; other paintings explore a more vibrant world of colours in various cityscapes – Paris, the Montmartre district, Birmingham’s brutalist architecture from the 70s; there are also paintings of Havana – all places connected with Adam’s life, fragments of his own history. Suddenly we’re transported from the darkness-bound neon glow of the café to Cuba, as he recounts a brilliant (and hilarious) story behind one of the Havana images, involving his acting in a commercial dressed as a pork-chop, a moment which sounds utterly surreal but which informs some of his most energetic painting.
For all his gently-weighted manner, it’s impossible not to be invigorated by Adam’s considerable enthusiasm for his subject, his looking at things from different angles, for making connections and exploring ideas. As we leave to go, each to his own home – after our conversation about identity, about belonging, I’m no longer quite sure what that may mean – a little of the neon glare seems to fade from the café as he ventures out into the dark; but it resides, fiercely, in the images still spread on the table in front of me.
Adam’s work is currently in exhibitions at Store Street Gallery, London, Lilford Gallery, Canterbury and Flux 2018 at the Chelsea College of Arts, London.
Blue will be exhibited in the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery from Friday 16 February to Friday 9 March, during normal opening hours: admission is free, and there is disabled access. The individual painting, ‘Blue,’ will be shown during the Chamber Choir’s Crypt Concert performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater on Friday 2 March.
We’re delighted to announce that the latest exhibition in Colyer-Fergusson Gallery is now open!
Created especially for the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery, Preludes (where you go, I go) by visual artist Adam de Ville is a series of images in response to Sinking of the Titanic by composer Gavin Bryars, a haunting meditation on the idea of what happens to the music played by the band as the great ship sank.
Adam’s exhibition imagines the same effect happening to paint and paper in a sequence of images capturing particular moments before, during and after the event. Based on accounts, personal stories and surviving artefacts, the series is a moving contemplation of the human side to one of history’s great tragedies.
The exhibition is showing in Colyer-Fergusson Gallery until Friday 4 November during normal opening hours, and admission is free. Find out more about Adam here.
Exploring the intersection between science and music this morning, in preparation for a project which will take place next spring.
A combination of music and images from cutting-edge research in the School of Biosciences will aim to highlight moments of beauty in in the mundane, or more functional, aspects of the scientific environment. Bringing together piano works including pieces by John Cage, Tarik O’Regan and Philip Glass, the experience involves drawing out the aesthetics of the laboratory environment and the scientific process, aspects which are often overlooked or ignored.
The project, in collaboration with Dr Dan Lloyd in Biosciences, will be unfurled next spring.
Continuing the ancillary events linked to the Tokaido Road opera coming to the Gulbenkian Theatre in May, our second exhibition in the new Colyer-Fergusson Gallery is a response to the Kent landscape, and in particular the historic Saxon Shore Way, by the Canterbury-based artist collective, Earthbound Women. I asked one of its members, Ruth McDonald, about the group and their response to the project.
Tell me about Earthbound Women
We met whilst doing an MA in Fine Art at Canterbury Christ Church University and all have an abiding passion for clay, earth, form and landscape. We are bound to the earth – it defines us.
What was it about the Tokaido Road project in particular that interested you in taking part ?
We were keen to participate in a project that features women in the Arts and were anxious to be involved and give the project our own “take”.
You’ve talked about the exhibition as ‘modern observations written over the ancient history of the Kent coast;’ what have you discovered in preparing for it ?
Initially we explored the Saxon Shore Way together spending time drawing and illustrating the landscape. We then divided the coast up and each took different section. It was fascinating to see how popular the coastal walks are and yet at the same time they do have a desolation when the weather is inclement.
Your exhibition will explore similar ideas of travel and landscape to Hiroshige’s ‘Tokaido Road:’ is it a Kent-ish version, and why did you choose the Saxon Shore Way in particular ?
We studied Hiroshige’s works and felt that we should study our own landscape in Kent and walk the paths of the Saxon Shore Way. This is a long distance walking route of 257 km named after the line of historic fortifications that defended the Kent Coast at the end of the Roman era. It stretches from Gravesend to Hastings. The range of landscape is tremendous and we wanted to record the changes in the weather and seasons.
What can we expect when your exhibition opens in Colyer-Fergusson on May 9th?
Expect to see a wide range of work in differing styles. One artist has made clay objects from earth gathered on her walks. Another has produced a series of etching and drawings. Some will be accurate observations and other work will have an emotional interpretation of the experience of the walk.
Tracing the Saxon Shore Way by Earthbound Women will be at the Colyer-Fergusson gallery from 9-24 May; admission during normal opening hours, admission free. Find out more about Earthbound Women here.
We are very excited to be launching #EarBox, a new collaboration between the School of Arts’ Studio 3 Gallery and the Music Department next Wednesday, 28 January, at 1pm.
#EarBox is a series of events exploring the meeting-point between visual art and music, where visitors can experience the latest Studio 3 exhibition, or listen to the unfolding musical performance – or wander the new emotional landscape mapped by the intersection of art and music, where the experience of one medium informs and influences a response to the other.
The event next Wednesday will feature piano works by Debussy, John Cage, Chick Corea and Philip Glass; visitors can explore the paintings during the performance, or sit and listen to the music – admission is free.
This term’s exhibitions features an exploration of colour and form in paintings by Brian Rice, and sculpture by Richard Rome, and the music includes piano works performed by Deputy Director of Music, Daniel Harding, as well as performances later in the term by University ensembles including the Chamber and Cecilian Choirs and the Wind Ensemble.
Admission to all these events is free; make sure you’re following @Unikent_music or @Studio3Gallery for event details, or visit the Music department’s What’s On or the Studio 3 blog page.
Indulge the senses: #EarBox at Studio 3 Gallery.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.