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13 November 2014

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You are in: Manchester > People > profiles > Sound and vision

Sound and vision

The link between music and art is well-known, be it in album covers or stage decorations, but a Manchester artist has taken the relationship a step further by asking bands to make music based on his paintings.

One of the paintings from Almost There (c) Joe Simpson

This painting is soundtracked by Mike Braye

Almost There is the latest project of painter Joe Simpson, who has had work shown in Manchester Art Gallery and the House of Commons. It is an exhibition of 12 paintings with 12 songs attached, each one written as a specific response to the art.

According to Joe, the idea was a simple evolution from his work as an undergraduate, as he has always tried to "make my work look and feel cinematic."

Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson

"I quickly decided after graduating that I wanted to work on a large project that could be shown as a solo exhibition where each painting relates to one another. I came up with the idea of producing a series of paintings following one timeline, tracing a character’s journey."

Joe describes the 12 paintings of Almost There as being like a "road movie, where a character goes on both a literal and an emotional journey searching for answers", but says the detail of the storyline was "deliberately left ambiguous, so it is up to the viewer to fill in the blanks."

"The scenes are almost the 'in-between' moments. The narrative element to the project is as much about the unrevealed time between the scenes - what isn’t shown can be as pertinent as what is."

One of the paintings from Almost There (c) Joe Simpson (detail)

My Side Of The Mountain soundtracked this picture

The idea to attach the paintings to specific songs also came out of that cinematic idea, as Joe says he has "always associated my work with music and tried to give them the feel of montage sequence in a movie, where music is playing in the background, so I decided it would be great to have music attached to each painting."

"I wanted to create a platform where people could view the painting and listen to the song at the same time. From there came the idea of approaching musicians to work on an original soundtrack."

That meant one thing – hours on the Internet, surfing music sites to find the right acts to commission. Joe admits that he "spent a lot of time on MySpace looking for unsigned and independent acts whose music I really enjoyed and also felt would work well with my paintings."

"The idea was always that if it were a scene in a movie, the song could be playing in the background."

Joe on how he wanted the music and art to work together

Some acts, like My Side Of The Mountain and Kathryn Edwards, turned out to be local, while others, like The Miserable Rich and New Cassettes, were based further afield, but location wasn’t a factor for Joe.

He only wanted the acts that he thought most fitted his images and who would create the most interesting responses. To that end, he designated a specific painting to each band – one that he felt most matched their music – and, with the minimum of direction, awaited the results.

"I met up with all of the bands to chat to them about the overall ideas. I explained the overall themes of the series, how I was interested in redemption, loneliness, a feeling of being lost and looking for answers, and hope.

"Then we would talk about the specific painting for them, and what I was going for with the image. I deliberately kept it really loose, as I wanted the song their interpretation of the scene.

One of the paintings from Almost There (c) Joe Simpson (detail)

Matt Trinder provides the track for this painting

"The music didn't have to be really literal, but to set a tone for the image. The idea was always that if it were a scene in a movie, the song could be playing in the background."

Joe says the songs he got back are "amazing", far better than he could have ever imagined – particularly given that this was something of an experiment.

"I'm so pleased with what everyone has come up with. The acts have all really worked hard and come up with something really special.

"The set up of having paintings displayed with headphones makes the viewing experience really intimate, you get to really look at the painting and really listen to the song."

"It was a bit of an untested idea, whether the music and the paintings would actually work together – but I think they come together perfectly."

Almost There is at the Candid Arts Trust in London from Saturday 21 February to Sunday 1 March, before moving to the Waterside Art Centre in Sale from Saturday 4 April to Saturday 13 June.

Both exhibitions will include concerts by some of the acts involved – details will be available on the Almost There website.

last updated: 21/01/2009 at 15:42
created: 21/01/2009

You are in: Manchester > People > profiles > Sound and vision

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