2014 Symphonic Poem
David Sequeira
C O L O U R M U S I C
Anthony Oats, Curator, Drill Hall Gallery Canberra


In musical compositions,
so long as we hear merely single tones, we do not hear music.
Hearing music depends on the recognition of the in-between of the tones,
Of their placing and of their spacing.
...
Our concern is the interaction of colour; that is, seeing
What happens between colours. - Josef Albers, Interaction of Colour

For David Sequeira colour is an all-consuming phenomenon that lies at the heart of human experience. Music – another constant of his being – influences his organisation of colour, his compositional gambits, and his methods of presentation. Rather than using a prescribed system of colour-value or opting for complicated colour mixing, Sequeira’s approach to hue and tonality is based on intuition and feeling. Looking to Robert and Sonia Delaunay ideas of simultaneous contrast, his focus is on the poetic musical dimension of colour rather than its science.

Josef Albers warned of the dangers of attempting to transliterate colour associations to musical tone, urging more flexible analogies . His Treble clef 1934 series of gouaches presents a sequence in which the motif is colourised in variation:

“Only by alterations in colour can a completely different climate be engendered ... Every colour gives and takes from the others ... what I envisage is playing ‘staccato’ or ‘legato’ – and all the other musical terms.”

Whilst Sequeira’s works often refer to musical notation, they do not seek to illustrate particular pieces of music. Instead, musical references are used to heighten the sensation of colour in his work. The visual resonance and vibration of each colour is articulated not only by its geometric shape, but also by its position within Sequeira’s overall compositions. Through the individual components of his works and their subsequent ‘orchestration’ as a single piece, Sequeira points to the infinite harmonic possibilities of colour.

Like Albers, Sequeira uses the strategies of repetition and variation to set up rhythmic associations as the dominance of a colour in one work ceded its power to another. The cadenced links thus established a pace to the picture and the series. Along with Albers, Hirschfeld Mack and their Bauhaus colleagues, Sequeira has used cut-up coloured card (paint samplers) as a collage medium to experiment with harmonic triads. Transposing this process into gouache for the epic Symphonic poem 2014, the motifs on small-scale sheets of composition paper multiply and mutate. This opens up a playful setting in which difference is fostered and nuance proliferates. As Briony Fer has noted in her book The infinite line, “rather than constraining difference, repetition allows for maximum difference, exacerbating, even, the multiplication of variables.”

In Sequeira’s case, repartition of a set structure gives primacy to colour and allows it to suffuse the composition as its principle feature and central concern. Colour combinations interlace to form resounding chords. The spaces “in-between” give a rhythmic pulse to the arrangement and establish the scansion silence, decay and measured gradation. The intensity of colour is affirmed by the noiseless shock and dazzelment in which an after-image is generated.

Symphonic Poem recalls the text that accompanied Sonia Delaunay’s 1962 exhibition at Galerie Denise Rene, Paris:
Poetry of words
poetry of colours
the rhythm of verse
is construction
and relation of values.
Poetry moves
through all
the creation of art.

notes:
Albers, op. cit., p. 7.
Ibid., p. 37.
Jospeh Albers interview with Katherine Kuh, 1960, quoted in Maur, Karin v., The sound of painting, Prestel, Munich, 1999, p. 103.
Fer, Briony, op. cit., p. 56.
‘Text of exhibition catalogue 1962’, in Cohen, Arthur Allen (ed.), The new art of colour: the writings of Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Viking Press, New York, 1978, p. 213.

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