I went to this taught course with some trepidation and high hopes. Was this where I would learn how to paint ‘abstracts’?
Under the auspices of ‘Art in Aldeburgh’, the course was taught solo by artist Ake Arnerdal. There were just 5 participants; I was the only male, and the oldest student. We met in a small studio, which was fine for our size of group; most importantly, it transpired, two of the four walls were available to stick paintings on. It was quickly clear that all five of us were reasonably competent so we were able to be plunged without more ado into the first of Ake’s exercises. We spent the entire course doing exercise after exercise at a fairly pacy rate. It would have been useful to have spent more time at the end in explanation, rationale and discussion; as it was, the purpose of the exercises, and indeed the whole experience, was implicit rather than spelt out. For me, it was the realisation that the key word in the title was ‘towards’, not the nouns on either side of it.
I would like to run through the exercises, with my own commentary; if nothing else, this might clear my own mind a little. We were told what each exercise was, but not the point of it; though by the end it was implicitly clear that the purpose overall was to demonstrate several ways in which we were moving towards painting an abstract. The illustrations are just snapshots taken when the results of our labours were stuck on the wall. All my works are in ink wash unless otherwise stated. All are on A4 sized paper unless otherwise stated.
We began by listening to some music and being told to paint our reactions to it as we listened. We did this several times later on too, so I put my ‘music abstracts’ together:
I’ve forgotten what the music was but clearly I was attempting to illustrate graphically some of its audio-characteristics rather than, for example, trying to capture its mood. The ‘blue octopus’ was prompted by an introductory explosion of sound though goodness knows why I repeated the ‘ox-horn’ symbol. Clearly I heard the piece as highly structured with different parts in four different compartments with, for example, flowing sounds at the top and a disjointed passage bottom right.
These other two ‘music abstracts’ from later in the course strengthen my attempts to represent the music, indeed individual notes, graphically: the runs of dots in both represent runs of notes, but I am not of course giving them any value. They are just physical things.
I see now too that I represented what I heard as once again very structured, with rows and lines of sound. Other students reacted very differently but I suppose the point is that we had all created ‘abstracts’ by painting while we listened.