Music on canvas

Alina Ivanova-Scriabina
Oct 18, 2014 1:57PM

Robert Rauschenberg was an incredible artist. His significant contribution to the world is a new synthesis of visual art, performance, dance and music. But we should not consider it as a simple explanation of synthesis of arts as we all know it. Let’s think of a more complex concept – the artist that synthesized the most far-flung materials imaginable.

We cannot name all of Rauschenberg’s hypostases, the list is huge: a painter, photographer, choreographer, onstage performer, costume designer, printmaker, composer and so on. I would like to fix on his art as a composer. But from a pictorial art side. Though, is it possible to create musical compositions on canvas?

The answer is yes. And you have a marvelous opportunity to see visualized melodies and musical performances. I would like to dedicate my project to all the artists who were connected with music. Who expressed music by visual arts.

Many talented painters played musical instruments. Therefore, they have explored the sound, emotions that came along with it, and have conveyed them into art works. Also, relationships with musicians have always been inspirational for artists.

Speaking of Rauschenberg, music came into his life due to an acquaintance with composer John Cage who brought many innovations into music. One of Cage's compositions - “Winter Music” - was dedicated to Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

Not many people are aware that Robert Rauschenberg composed his own music. For instance, in 1963 he made a collage of sounds for performance of “Pelican” in Washington and in 1994 for Trisha Brown’s solo performance “If you couldn’t see me” in New York.

As Calvin Tomkins said about Rauschenberg’s work style: “He thought of it more as of collaboration with materials. His attitude to art was in reactivity, and that it could be anything at all”. No wonder that the music became a material, a part of his art. 

The displayed oeuvres are made by artists who adored and understood music, considered it an important part of their life and of art itself. Music has inspired abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky. His relationship to Schoenberg's music is central to his concept of Composition. Paul Klee created the painting named “Redgreen and Violet-Yellow Rhythms” while researching a color of music rhythm. Moreover, painters even borrowed names of their art works from musical terms – “composition”, “improvisation”, “rhythm”, “nocturne”, “chords”. This is how strong they are related to music.

In our multimedia world all our senses should be involved in the process of comprehension. That is what all the artists were trying to tell us about. Let’s not forget that once music was considered to be a higher art, more harmonic than any other, approaching closer to the universe.

Alina Ivanova-Scriabina