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National Gallery Creates Pieces of Sound Art for New Gallery Audio Tour
National Gallery Interior. © National Gallery, London.

LONDON.- Painting is a silent art but the best painters engage all our senses. They are concerned with the illusion of space, conveying texture and evoking smell and with rhythm, tone and harmony… ...Sounds of the Gallery.

The National Gallery is launching the Sounds of the Gallery tour on Friday 30 October.

This is a new audio gallery tour for which pieces of sound art have been created in direct response to paintings in the collection.

Responses come from sound artists such as Jem Finer, whose Longplayer was recently performed at the Roundhouse in London; film composer Simon Fisher Turner; musician and sound curator David Toop; and wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, who was the founding member of the experimental group Cabaret Voltaire. Works also come from students at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication who have participated in a new Gallery project Transcriptions: Sound.

The sound pieces on this tour will allow an imaginative engagement with works in the collection and provide an opportunity for visitors to think about how painters strive to engage all our senses.

Well-known paintings from the National Gallery’s collection, including Monet’s Thames below Westminster, Constable’s Cornfield and Gauguin’s Vase of Flowers, were used as inspiration for the pieces of work.

Jem Finer, who chose Monet’s Thames below Westminister as his inspiration, explains, ‘There is something slightly odd about composing for a painting. They are undeniably silent but far from mute. I thought of the river as a drone, a constant through history and as a sound about which composition would revolve. It was hard to make recordings in situ. At all times of the day and night traffic was present, bleeding on to my tapes. Even below the waters there was no escape from noise pollution… In the end I made the recordings in the middle of the night when at least the boats were silent.’

Transcriptions: Sound is an innovative collaboration between the National Gallery and Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in which BA (hons) Broadcasting (Sound Design) students are invited to respond to a painting of their choice in the Gallery’s collection.

Alex Campbell, one of the participating Ravensbourne students, chose Turner’s Fighting Temeraire. He says of his response, ‘Initially, my piece mirrors the glow of the sunset. Resonant oranges and yellows flood the sky as the Temeraire is led to her death. The great ship appears ghostly, a shadow of her former fighting days. My sound piece weaves the sinister nature of ‘end of days’ with the Temeraire’s physical majesty.’

When the Gallery was founded in 1824, one of its stated aims was to provide a resource for the inspiration of artists. Never did anyone say that this should be limited to visual artists and it is always exciting to break down barriers between different artistic disciplines.

The National Gallery | Sounds of the Gallery | Jem Finer | Alex Campbell |

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