painting, Love won't be leaving by Peter Whiteman

Music is emotive. Possibly more than any other art form. It has distanced friends and possible partners.

I was physically attacked in the auditorium of the London Coliseum Theatre at the opening of Monteverdi’s opera ‘The Coronation of Poppea’ which I had designed, by an extremely elderly lady. The stage visuals obviously did not complement the music in her expectations. It was a passionate response. I took it as a compliment. The piece is deceptively difficult. The powerful but distressing story is recounted to very beautiful and seductive music, as many operas are.

However, her raking nails drew blood from my face at the time, reminding me of the emotional effect music can have. I painted to music continuously for my last exhibition. The paintings express differing moods, and recorded music is a versatile way of arriving at, sustaining, and if necessary, reconstructing a moment or mood. I was fortunate in that birds were nesting in the roof above t he studio, and so the act of painting ‘angels’ or ‘spirits’ was also accompanied by the continuous sound of wings. Glancing out of the window I could see hang gliders circling over Millau, which is famous for it’s thermal currents. Often as many as twenty or more at a time. Another reminder of effortless, and in this case, silent flight.

My taste in music is very catholic. However, as in most things that I relate to, it depends on the human performance. Machines, as in the visual arts, are only capable of projecting what is installed in them. Seemingly apparently mechanical sounds can work for me, as in the music of Philip Glass, or the singing of Diamanda Galas with the drumming of John Paul Jones. But I can detect in an instant if a sound is generated by a mechanical device; and so I am not interested in ‘techno’ music, or music which is ‘overproduced’, as is often the case nowadays.

My colour palette has lightened and brightened since moving southwards. Likewise, my response to music, rhythms, and sounds in general have also altered. I now prefer the more intricate and subtle beats of North African, Indian, and other music.

Travel is an infinite provider of inspiration, even if undertaken, of necessity, through music at times.I count myself fortunate in having been introduced to, and having worked in opera. It opened many doors, and spurred my widening appreciation of a seemingly endless spectrum of music.
It certainly ‘freed up’ my process of painting. That, and that you can have too much reference at times.