Culture | Painting the sound of music

Technology meets art in Philippe Van Eetvelt’s performance piece

Montreal-born artist Philippe Van Eetvelt presented The Colour of the Music at Griffintown’s Arsenal gallery  last Tuesday, accompanied by Claudio Pinto on an upright piano. Van Eetvelt’s art piece was inspired by Montreal artist Patrick Bernatchez’s 2011 video art from his Lost In Time collection, in which Bernatchez disoriented the public with inverted shots of piano-playing. Van Eetvelt and Pinto have widened the boundaries of musical perception by incorporating the technique of piano-playing into painting a canvas. Throughout the performance, Bernatchez’s short film quietly played on a screen in the back of the room.

As Pinto performed an Argentinian piece, Van Eetvelt guided the mobile structure composed of 88 syringes full of paint. Each colourful tube was connected to a different piano key and was sliding over the canvas. As the pianist went through the piece, the multi-shade paint would splatter out of different syringes, leaving discordant spots on the white cloth in time with the melody. Before the performance, Pinto told The Daily that he tried to make his music sound as “funky as possible” in order to create a beautifully erratic design.

The different colours were associated with different tonalities, and so it happened that the piece performed by Pinto produced a mostly green trail of paint. Right after the performance, Van Eetwelt went on to explain that a specific colour palette is usually chosen before each performance, carefully associating colour and piano key, but on Tuesday, he decided to go about it at random and see what happened.

 As the pianist went through the piece, the multi-shade paint would splatter out of different syringes, leaving discordant spots on the white cloth in time with the melody.

Arsenal provided a vast space for the event, exhibiting some of Van Eetvelt’s other pieces alongside the main show. Just before the show started, the room slowly filled up with people, among them friends and family of Van Eetvelt and Pinto. The artists slowly walked around, greeting people and shaking hands, dressed in all black, with black Converse shoes to match. Most people attending the gallery wore black, creating a severe minimalist backdrop to the aesthetically saturated event.    

Pinto led the floor, presenting the piece and commenting on the performance. Van Eetvelt, very silent and reserved, gave the occasional shy smile. He did end up sharing with the audience that he enjoyed collaborating with Pinto because each pianist interprets things differently, and he found that Pinto’s rhythmic pieces create unique patterns.

The Colour of the Music  was an innovative performance which enmeshed two somewhat disparate components of artistic expression in a novel way. Painting, music, engineering, and design came together to create an unrepeatable moment of innovation. In one evening, The Colour of the Music perfectly revolutionized the disciplines of visual art and music, proving that it is possible to paint through sound, with both Van Eetvelt and Pinto delivering a colourful performance.

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