Tag Archives: performance

The happening

Lee Mitchell band

Recently I was asked to take part in an arts evening with The Furnace at The George in Balham, London organised by a group of people exploring collaborative enterprise between different art forms. I was asked to do a live painting performance as a spontaneous response to the music of the Lee Mitchell band. They were the main act for the evening. The invitation came on a Saturday morning for the event that Wednesday night.


Over the last year I’ve built up a body of work in silence and meditative solitude, overworking and re-working, abandoning and embracing over an extended time scale. Although daunting to change the pace and environment so drastically, I realised this was a great opportunity to unleash some of that creative build up at a specific moment in time surrounded by a specific community of people. It had to be about that moment in time, irreducible and unrepeatable; a conversation between a painter, an audience, some musicians and a canvas (2 metres high x 6.5 metres long.)


Not having ever painted anything that big before I was concerned just to cover the thing, hoping that the acrylic paint would flow freely across it. The staff at Bird and Davis were extremely helpful in advising what materials I’d need and how much. Once all the technical issues were sorted out my nerves evaporated into peaceful calm, and on the actual day I was able to really enjoy all the other acts before me. The only thing that kept bugging me was what I would paint. Every time I came up with an idea I had to let it go, sensing that it would impose itself on the unplanned moment and wreck the phenomenology of it all. Someone said ‘just make sure you paint from your head to your feet.’ I thought ‘once the music starts I’ll let my body do the talking’ and that’s how it happened. The musicians started out in mellow tones and I started with broad sweeps of blue and then green. Gradually the pace of the music picked up and I began to introduce warm oranges, pinks and yellows.


Later it culminated in red, black and white.


I became quite ecstatic at points during those 25 minutes, especially when I started splashing pink onto the green hills and swiping black figures into the surface in the final few minutes. I was really intrigued by peoples’ comments afterwards, especially those where their experience paralleled mine at those points of heightened intensity; a truly shared dynamic. I’m interested in the dance expressed in paint. I painted a small picture called Dance which depicts a joyful ecstasy of bodily movement. Other paintings also approach human interaction through ritual/ceremony/dance. I want to re-visit that subject, but have wondered how it might be achieved figuratively.


During the event as I drew from the music and the audience and allowed my body to respond to the immediacy of the moment, I sensed that I was actually becoming in reality, the subject I had wanted to depict in paint; quite a liberating feeling. The next day I ached.

What emerged was a kind of landscape with figures dotted across it and in the middle a huge all Seeing Eye.

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