NOISE: An exhibition of new music

‘NOISE’ is a multi-disciplinary exhibition which extends the definition of ‘soundscape as art’ to include new musical compositions of any variety. Through the interaction of visual silence and cochlea noise, the audience is introduced to the disciplines of visual and soundscape art.

Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest Collection have invited a select group of internationally renowned musicians to create an original composition or improvisation inspired by an artwork of their choice. ‘NOISE’ showcases nine new compositions by both national and international musicians from a wide range of genres, from opera to IDM, folk to neo-classical and industrial.

Featured musicians – Jim White (Dirty Three) and George Xylouris, Tom Ellard (Severed Heads), Jack Ladder, Io Echo, Eddie Muliaumaseali’I, Kirin J. Callinan and Daniel Stricker (Midnight Juggernauts), Castratii, Tim McPhee and Matthew Doyle – respond to the gallery’s prestigious collection of contemporary and Indigenous artworks as well as examples of Modernism, Abstract Expressionism, Hard Edge Abstraction and Minimalism from the 1930s to 1970s, including work by Ralph Balson, Henry Salkauskas, Yvonne Audette and Peter Upward.

‘NOISE’ invites audiences to experience music in an intense and uncommon way: shifting the act of listening from its usual realm of concert halls, pubs, clubs, radio and digital devices into a space normally associated with focused ‘viewing’. Through visual and audible collaboration, the musicians are able to expand the representation and interpretation of the artwork itself. The music transcends the audience from viewer to listener, and transports them from place to place; from a symphonic environment to the visual and physical world of the artwork – and vice versa.

According to Tom Ellard, Australian electronic musician and founding member of the electronic and industrial music group Severed Head: ‘The area bordered by visual art and abstract music is still a mystery to explore’. Perhaps this is why Ellard’s chosen work is Ralph Balson’s The Construction… Transparent Planes; a symphony of colour and geometric form. Balson’s rich combinations of warm and cool hues create luminosity and transparency through simplistic planes of overlapping colour, capture the viewer’s gaze. Their senses are fixated on the complexity of the artwork, accompanied by the saturation of the music. The exhibiting environment becomes obsolete and the viewer is seduced by the construction of rhythm and form.

While the construction of Balson’s images articulates his interest in commitment to careful composition, there is also a sense of disorder and randomness to the organisation of the painted surface. Balson’s visual language is one of bold colour and elementary use of shape, with each work speaking to the viewer as an immediate expression of energy. This can be matched with the pinache of Ellard’s post-punk and industrial musicality. Internationally regarded as one of the most influential experimental and electronic musicians, having pioneered the use of tape loops and samples, synthesised sound was transformed into mind-altering imagery. Ellard continues to forge a path always underpinned by a determination to push music into every context it can possibly occupy – including visual art.

When it comes to artwork, there is generally a lot of focus on looking with our eyes but much can be gained by entering further into the creative experience through sound. These works are layered with forms and meaning but lack aural stimulus. These new musical compositions invite the viewer into the work to explore their layers, their depths, and help reach into the core of its meaning through a fusion of senses. The exhibition unites the silence and the ‘noise’ on presentation.

Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest
6 April to 23 June, 2013

Adolf Gustav Plate, Untitled (Samoan chief’s daughter), c.1896,
plate, oil, pencil and crayon on board, 33.5 x 28.8cm

Ralph Balson, The Construction… Transparent Planes, 1942, oil on board, 68.5 x 90cm

Courtesy Penrith Regional Gallery