Saturday, 17 May 2014

Filming my Mahler Experience.

 The Mahler Experience - Symphony Hall

I've just got back from two intensive days, filming my paintings of musicians and musical subjects at Birmingham's Symphony Hall - now a collection of about thirty that goes back to 1990. (Click on this link for the whole story). The Dutch film-director Dick Kuijs (Castus Productions) is making a documentary film for Dutch television (and others) about the story of my life painting music - a story that started during my childhood many years ago in Birmingham. It's become rather a long story (!), much of which is told in earlier blogs.

Telling this story to camera is quite hard work, as every painting has its own story, many with emotional associations. I also had to dig deep into fond memories of post-war Birmingham, the College of Arts and Crafts where I studied painting and of the Town Hall (where Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Grieg and Elgar performed) where I would skip lunch to listen to free lunchtime concerts by the CBSO. In my second year of college (1950) I was just seventeen and this was virtually my introduction to orchestral classical music. It swept me off my feet, leaving me wondering whether I shouldn't have studied music. Well, my instrument became the paint-brush.
Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts, as it was called in the 1950's, built in 1884.

We art-students also spent lots of time sketching the bombed-out ruins of Birmingham, already overgrown with weeds and waiting for a renovation that only truly reached its cultural resurrection in 1991 with a superb new Symphony Hall. I was there for that opening concert, when Simon Rattle conducted the CBSO and Chorus in Mahler's Symphony No.2 (the "Resurrection" Symphony). My painting (acrylic on canvas, 200 x 160cm.), hanging just inside the Symphony Hall entrance, is an ode to the amazing acoustics, designed by the late Russell Johnson. The painting is so large, that as I stood at my easel I felt I was standing inside the hall, with my brush conducting those clouds of majestic sound zigzagging up to the hanging ceiling to merge with the architecture. Below are a few snapshots of "the making of" in my studio in 1993. First  brushing on very thin layers of colour, then pulling the architecture into focus where necessary and getting the proportions right. Then getting the painting to "sing", which is always my aim. It was a tremendous experience.

The Mahler Experience - Symphony Hall.


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