Jazz Improvisation in Watercolor in the key as shown
watercolor, circle: 28cm diameter; rectangle: 37.5 x 136cm
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This large-scale abstract watercolour is a metaphor for connections between and among music and art, the arts and the sciences, aesthetics and the properties of numbers and mathematics, ...in short, the interconnectedness of the Universe. This 'interconnectedness' is something which is far more subtle and more pervasive than perhaps any of us imagine.
The disc of colours rises like a giant sun over the planetary realm, an abstract musical landscape of forms and colours outstretched below this morning sun. Each nuance of colour in the apparently-distinct abstract realm below derives from that disc-like source above.
This circle is the exact diameter of the artist's studio palette, a white china plate. The appearance of the colours within this 'colour-wheel' is typical of how the artist's palette actually looks during the course of a watercolour painting. Each of the colours on its periphery corresponds to the exact colours as used in the rectangular improvisation and composition below it. Thus, there is a subtle musical principle employed in the painting, namely that of a scale or key signature.
The chordal/chromatic structure of music is reflected in the the overlaying of thin semitransparent veils (glazes) of the various colours, their proportions echoing the modulations and chordal or vertical dimension of music (eg major, augmented, minor chords etc). The melodic time-based and horizontal dimension of music is paralleled in the painting by the lyricism of line and form. Each of these (melody and line) has shape. Dots within the painting or small accents of intense colour, tone, or angularity correspond to the more percussive aspects of music. Pioneers of abstractionism such as Kandinsky have extensively studied and written about these parallels, especially in his book Point and Line to Plane first published in 1926, then later translated and published by Dover Publications in 1979. [ISBN 0-486-23808-3]
Kandinsky painted many beautiful abstract watercolours but is perhaps better known for his formal larger oils, especially his 'compositions' (a term he reserved for only his most formally developed works, and analogous to the concept of the earlier emergence of a classical and substantive form in music composition for orchestra, the symphony). Like Cézanne, he did not seem to generally work with the flow-characteristics of the watercolour medium, thus the brushwork and forms became the more dominant features in this technique of painting primarily onto dry paper. Emil Nolde was a notable exception of this period who exploited the non-linear potential of watercolour when working onto a wet surface.
The painting above, Jazz Improvisation, exploits the flow potential of the watercolour medium, and a significant amount of the improvisation engaged and involved the wet-in-wet non-linearity of the medium. This necessitates on-the-spot decisions in real time and brings a performance aspect to the painting which, while linked to the concepts of composition and critical thinking about the emerging asymmetric balance of the whole, also, on the other hand, brings an intuitive impulse and vitality to the work.
Commentary to painting, © copyright 2002-2004 W. Roberts