I have spent a lot of time ‘drawing musicians’ recently, though I realise as with the term ‘drawing music’, this does not accurately describe what happens. When I say ‘I’m drawing Dan the Guitarist today’ I actually mean ‘I’m off to draw the wordless thing, where Dan’s music and my mind meet’.
My Boyfriend, Andrew, had an interesting way of further defining my drawings “ Marina Abromovich said that in the pecking order of art, it is music that is the most immediate and effecting, with long duration performance art being her attempt at approaching this kind of immediacy in visual arts. If that is so then maybe we can look at your ‘music drawing’ as being kind of like a net capturing some of the immediacy and pure moment of music in a drawing/piece of visual art. Maybe some bits slip through the net, but some goes down onto the paper.”
I love the visual picture of the net, what I am drawing is fast moving, ephemeral - each time I draw, the music pulls at some part of me, and within the urgency of that moment, makes me tell it.
|'Mushrooming' (Dan & Dave Improv) Naomi Kendrick 2011. Photo Andrew Brooks|
I enjoy the verbal language musicians use to describe the bringing together of people, who create something individually, simultaneously, to make a whole (through the use of musical instruments, or the voice). And so I jam with the musicians, plan gigs, ‘draw & record’. Jamming is the most appropriate term, as when I work with the musicians (at the moment 3 separate groups/individuals on a regular basis) we improvise, and with each session I make a new discovery, mark, or way of thinking about it.
I love the social aspect of the jams too, though visual artists work collaboratively, for me it has never felt quite like this. In some ways it is the perfect marriage of interests, we feed off of and encourage each others desire to experiment and play, and our individual actions and though processes are linked enough to have a shared understanding (articulated in a strange mix of bilingual audio and visual terms during the breaks), but never so close that we lose the awe for what the other person is doing, how they are expressing themselves. Often we can’t really explain what happened, we just get lost in the sound, and I in the lines.
|'Dave & Paul Improv 1' Naomi Kendrick 2011. Photo Andrew Brooks|
I find working with recorded music harder now. Being able to feel the vibrations of a guitar string, a drum, the piano key being struck rather than hearing than only hearing the note is far more exciting, as is the unpredictability of it and the moment intensified by knowing it is about now, this can not be played back and repeated. The drawings have always been an emotional response and this is heightened by ‘live’, and in some way by sharing that moment.
|The Manchester Halle Choir|
|'Halle' (Spring Large) Naomi Kendrick 2011|
|'Halle' (Untitled) Naomi Kendrick 2011|
That is not to say that it always works, Sometimes I have arranged a Jam, and the pressure to produce within a certain time frame, makes me feel like I am churning things out, but somewhere amongst each session, it comes together – the right balance of abandon and focus meet in the drawing.
The improvised nature of the music also means I keep my materials very simple during the Jams, charcoal provides me with a full vocabulary, often ending up as a smudged matter carried by my fist and fingers, without even the restriction of gripping.
I continue to experiment with colour in my drawings as a whole, but find even with the use of just one colour the decision making this requires is even harder in the speed of improvised live music. There are many discarded ‘colour drawings’ from the jams.
The solitary is still necessary. There is still an element of self-consciousness when drawing infront of the musicians despite them being a part of it rather than an observing audience. I also need that time to really push the drawings, to repeatedly listen to one piece of music if I want to, until I have ‘got it’, even if the drawing becomes of the sensation of endurance layered amongst what the music itself evoked. I have to keep working on my language.
Sometimes I just need to be alone to do it, the radio head drawings (using their latest album ‘The King of Limbs’) are one result of this way of working, with these I learned to use space, economy in marks and touch, it re-trained me to listen when I needed that.
|'Radio Head' (Codex) Naomi Kendrick 2011. Photo Andrew Brooks|
|'Radio Head' (Give up the Ghost) Naomi Kendrick 2011. Photo Andrew Brooks|
|Detail of 'Radio Head' (Morning Mr Magpie) Naomi Kendrick 2011. Photo Andrew Brooks|
Working with each musician or group evokes very different things, all traceable within the drawings. To me they represent different states of mind, mostly due to the music they play but also through knowing them.
Dan and I face each other, he on a chair me on the paper on the floor, when he plays the guitar I am often overwhelmed by how sad the instrument sounds, it has it’s own voice and tells meandering, beautifully melancholic stories, even when it tries to be happy. I can't get away from wavy lines when I draw 'with' Dan. Dan himself, is very relaxed, a calming influence, that seems to balance the sadness of drawing ‘him’. The Last time I saw him he taught me how to go for a walk without having a purpose.
|Detail -'Dan guitar 1' Naomi Kendrick 2011. Photo Andrew Brooks|
Dave and Paul’s music can be, intense, fast, as if I am running with lines and marks, it inspires movement, a rush. It gets my blood moving and charcoal crunching, snapping and pinging across the surface of the paper. I feel alive after wards. Dave and Paul buzz about us working together, we chat manically after wards, giddy.
|'Dave & Paul Improv 1 Red' Naomi Kendrick 2011. Photo Andrew Brooks|
Drawing Najia’s voice is to be exposed to her soul sometimes it is hard to ‘look’, to not be struck dumb by the beauty of the sounds she can make. My immediate response to her voice is not always to draw, perhaps fearing the intensity of what her voice may evoke. When I inevitably do make that leap, I swim, and enjoy again the surprise of an entirely new language emerging - one that I feel could turn into a series of drawings with an illustrative element running through them. Najia and I plan to draw and sing our way to New York together.
|'Najia/His Eye is on the Sparrow' Naomi Kendrick 2011|
|Top 'Najia/Untitled', Bottom 'Forest' Naomi Kendrick 2011|
|'And You Sleep' Naomi Kendrick 2011.|
More Drawings can be seen here:
David Birchall - www.davidmbirchall.wordpress.com
Dan Bridgewood Hill - http://dbhmusic.bandcamp.com/
Dave Johnston & Paul Balcombe - 'Outer Dark'http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.452770480650.376765.628050650#!/pages/Outer-Dark/214964651861186
Najia Bagi - http://soundcloud.com/najia
Manchester Halle Choir - http://www.halle.co.uk/halle-choir.aspx