Cellist-Turned-Artist Jorinde Voigt Transforms Musical Notes into a Visual Language

Artsy Editorial
Nov 21, 2014 4:18PM

The affinity between music and visual art has been demonstrated in numerous iconic works. Take Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, made after his move to New York City in 1940 and introduction to boogie-woogie-style jazz, or Andy Warhol’s banana illustration for the Velvet Underground’s first album. Lesser known but by no means less important are the visual artworks of avant-garde composers John Cage and Iannis Xenakis, who tweaked and experimented with traditional music notation to fascinating effect. Their experiments are echoed in contemporary artist Jorinde Voigt’s spirited drawings and sculptures, currently exhibited at Johann König. Voigt trained classically as a cellist for years in her youth and later, as a student of philosophy, she used musical notations as stand-ins for concepts she didn’t understand through language alone. Her art practice is an expansion of this impulse, and a quest for truth through visual composition.

Violent spatters of black ink are the focal points in Voigt’s “A Difference That Makes a Difference” series (2014). The ink is literally hurled at their surfaces; if translated to sound, it’d be a piercing shriek. Lagoons of gold paint, an aerosolized spot of pink, fluid pencil lines, and scribbled notes accompany the spatters, creating a dramatic composition evocative of a moment from Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.” “Setting” (2014), a series of lead sculptures in the show, reiterates the black paint splash in three dimensions. The objects are made similarly, with the artist literally flinging the lead, still malleable at 400 degrees, into cold water where it sets in unpredictable and unrepeatable forms. 

Her “Tubes” series (2014) consists of vertically oriented metallic tubes accented by lines, displayed in different arrangements for a range of results. Compare Tubes I, a bundle of a dozen or so tubes in different sizes and tones, and 3 Tubes, showing a trio of them, uniformly shaped and painted the same gold color. The former is more weighty and thudding, like low tones on a wooden xylophone, the latter like a bright piano chord. Through her own music-inspired visual language, Voigt creates compositions and maps representing a spectrum of experience, emotion, and thought. In comparing her work to music, Voigt explains, “You can enjoy it without being able to read the score.”

—M.A. Wholey

Jorinde Voigt is on view at Johann König, Berlin, Nov. 8–Dec. 20, 2014.

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Artsy Editorial