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Art & Music, York Art Gallery until December 31
YORK Art Gallery wanted to finish on a high note before it is mothballed in December for two years of expansion and refurbishment.
Hence the choice of Art & Music as the subject matter for the “closing” exhibition.
Works by artists such as LS Lowry, Walter Sickert and Andy Warhol has been brought together in a show to celebrate the relationship between art and music, and appropriately it was opened by Delma Tomlin, administrative director of the York Early Music Festival, which launches next Friday.
Art & Music showcases more than 40 works from the gallery’s collection including oils, prints and ceramics, plus two loans of contemporary works: artist/film-maker Jayne Parker’s 16mm short film, Foxfire Eins, featuring cellist Anton Lukoszevieze; and Jon Thompson’s painting The Toronto Cycle #12, Cadence And Despair (VI), which hangs on the back wall and would look very much at home on a 1980s’ New Order album cover.
The exhibition looks at the many ways music is expressed through art – from the obvious to the more obscure – and also its symbolism within works, as Jenny Alexander, assistant curator of fine art, explains.
“Art and music have always had an intertwined relationship which has meant that both are influenced by each other,” she says. “In this exhibition we’re looking at works of art which depict or have been influenced by music both directly and indirectly.
“By pointing out the less obvious links, we hope visitors will find new ways to interpret the pieces not only on display but also when viewing art generally.”
The works on display range from Juriaan van Streek’s Vanitas, painted in the 17th century, to more modern works, such as Bridget Riley’s Cloudy Blue Greens with Pink and Emerald Thrusts, two abstract paintings executed in full colour, rather than her trademark black and white.
“Van Streek’s work, which shows a violin with a broken string, is a piece of moral criticism,” says Jenny.
“Musical instruments represent physical love and he asserts that to practise music is a vain pastime. The broken string in the painting symbolises death and reminds the viewer to lead a moral life.
“In contrast Riley’s work was influenced by the freedom of expression in music, which does not appear to obey rules, yet can be translated in a mathematical way. Her artwork takes a similar approach.”
The exhibition also considers the ideas of class, society and education and how that is represented in art through music.
In a nutshell, the exhibition is divided into three main themes, the first focusing on the symbolism and representation of music in art, such as Johan Till’s depiction of the God of Music, Pan, and portraits of young women displaying musical skills that were considered as important as needlework and being able to speak in French. Music’s role in social harmony is depicted too.
The second theme, represented by the likes of Bridget Riley, is the link between music theory and abstraction in painting, when artists wanted to be able to express a moral message or feelings beyond the figurative.
The third focus falls on performance and representation of performance, such as John Copper’s newly re-framed piece from 1930, The Orchestra, one of the highlights of the show.
Look out too for Sir Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of Paul Robeson, who famously sang in the York Great Exhibition Hall, behind York Art Gallery, on May 5 1939.
Album sleeves of New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies, by Peter Savill, and Madonna’s Celebration, by Mr Brainwash, aka Thierry Guetta, bring pop into the exhibition, and if you want to know why, before spluttering about York Art Gallery sinking downmarket, all will be revealed by seeing the show for yourself.
Devotees of the floral work of Henri Fantin-Latour and Andy Warhol’s Pop Art Marilyns will have the answer already.
Art & Music runs at York Art Gallery until December 31 and will be complemented by a series of events and talks. For more information, go to yorkartgallery.org.uk
Gallery opening hours are 10am to 5pm daily and admission is free. Children can enjoy the interactive shapes and xylophone challenge in the main gallery.