Neural Luminance Amplifier, 2014, three channel DVD, Courtesy of the artist

Neural Luminance Amplifier, 2014, three channel DVD. Photo by Stuart Hay.

Exhibition Space: Colour Music

GEORGIA NIELSEN explores the birth of abstraction and uncovers the long-running relationship between music and colours at the recent Colour Music exhibition.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, visual artists were looking to their musical counterparts for inspiration.

Constrained by the necessity of literal depiction the artists were envious of the freedom music gave its composers.

They sought to paint the way musicians composed - tied not to narrative or figurative form but free to explore the sounds, the emotions and indeed the human experience of the notes played.

Their exploration in search of such freedom was fuelled by the idea of synesthetic experience - where one's senses are fused together causing one sense to trigger a response in another - forging a new artistic relationship between colour and music.

This search gave birth to one of the most important developments in the history of modern art - abstraction.

Early signs of the concept can be found in the landscapes of Turner, Constable and Whistler

Later the idea was proposed almost simultaneously by several artists, including Kandinsky and Kupka.

Lesser known early contributors to abstraction included Australian artists Roy de Maistre and Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack.

Their exploration of this concept and its evolution through the last century were the focus of recent Drill Hall Gallery exhibition Colour Music. The exhibition's curator, Tony Oates explains:

"Roy de Maistre was here in the 1920s creating works that have a definitive correlation between colour and music. The exhibition picks up from that point and shows a progression of artists in Australia who have continued to be engaged with the ideas of colour, music and abstraction."