Sunday, June 24, 2012

Light and Sound Paintings

Detail of large painting on paper. June 15, 2012
I thought it would be fun to re-examine a series of drawings I created in the early 1990's. During the late 1980' and early 1990's I built sound sculptures and machines. They were constructed out of everyday items, trash and electric motors. It wasn't high tech, it was more DIY. Build with odd bits, my work had a "Rube Goldberg" aesthetic. At that time, computers were not as ubiquitous as they are today, so I "played" them using simple on/off switches. At that time, my goal was to construct machines that made "visual" the sound creation process. In other words, the design and construction always spotlighted the elements that were creating the sound.
One of the drum machines at St. Marks Church 1989. You can see the clear Mylar catching the light.

Another Drum machine showing the relationship of the light and the shadow projection 1992. I used a sheet of set paper to project on. The shadow is the dark round form in the center of the lighted rectangle. The round shape is the hammer contacting the Mylar surface.

One device that was successful in depicting the physical creation of sound was a type of drum machine that I created with Simon Samman. It was a simple frame covered with thin Mylar. When a contact mic was attached to the Mylar, and the Mylar struck, it created a low bass drum sound. Like a lose kick drum. I then automated the drum by attaching solenoid driven piano hammers that would tap on the Mylar. This worked out pretty well except I didn't have anyway to create drum patterns or anything, so the drum beats were one dimensional. Boom, boom, boom.
It wasn't until we preformed a concert at St. Mark's Church that I saw the further visual potential of these machines. During rehearsal, I noticed that when theater lights were focused on the sculptures, and when the hammers hit the Mylar, it created rippling light reflections in the shadow cast by the device. The light was reflected off the vibrating surface of the Mylar as it was struck. It looked like a fast moving water wave effect, similar to the surface of a swimming pool, reflecting a pattern of small waves. It was the clearest visual manifestation of sound and sound waves that I have created.

Drawing number 1 I started this series working on 17" X 38" paper shopping bag paper
Drawing number 5. 17" X 38" paper shopping bag paper
Drawing number 3. 17" X 38" paper shopping bag paper
Drawing number 2. 17" X 38" paper shopping bag paper
Drawing number 4.17" X 38" paper shopping bag paper

This summer I thought back to creating painted works that are a visual extension of this earlier work. I also thought it would be a nice warm up exercise to start the summer creative session. Creating these drawings are fast and physical. I paint them with the paper lying on the floor with a brush attached to a long stick. This time I wanted to work with creating a light colored line on a dark background. Just like how I observed my sculptures working. I started with a ground of black tempra paint. After it had dried I drew a gestural line drawing on top with white house paint. Just before that dried I worked back into the surface with a wet brush. Partially erasing the white lines. I worked back and forth adding white lines and taking them away, building up a random pattern that I could edit.
I felt that the 17"x38" size paper was to little small for creating a physical gesture from the brush strokes. So I finished this series with three drawings on larger paper made from gluing three shopping bags together. This is a photograph of the painting in progress. The finished painting is below.

Drawing number 1 35" W X 45"H Finished state.

Drawing number 2 32"W x 51"H

Drawing number 3 32"W X 51"H Maybe I should look into creating another drum machine?