At the start of 2018 I left the growing workload at RedShift Radio to start a video version of ArtsLab called ArtSwarm. I reasoned that more people could find our work on YouTube than in the quiet corner of radio's MixCloud. Regular performance or music and art became to be part of my artistic output and I began performing music with my partner Deborah Edgeley as Fall in Green.
My ideas on art were codified in my book 21st Century Surrealism, and in 2019 I began to think of my art as a method of emotional communication of complex, multi-media ideas, more like a classical symphony, or Wagner-esque Gesamtkunstwerk; thus certainly placing my work in the hands of the 'hyper-realism' strand of classical surrealism. Dreams were control systems, not subjects, and art is designed for a specific effect by the artist for the consumer.
My visual art continued to become influenced my musical structures, and my different art media began to unify. My paintings were sometimes conceived in groups, deliberately reflecting musical structures, which I called Painting Sonatas. Music is a powerful force for visual artists because it began as an abstract form, and all visual art is abstracted.
It is interesting to observe the evolution of the art-forms of music, literature, and visual art through historical phases. In the classical period of Bach to Mozart, Hayden, and early Beethoven, music was abstract with no particular representative idea. Complex structures were developed in response to this apparent freedom. The complexity of a music that can go in any direction was narrowed down, and thus simplified, by rules. One of these ideas was a theme, a short tune or phrase, that was repeated and used in different forms to make a complex work less complicated, more memorable and easy to comprehend despite having many layers. To make a concert longer, a music piece was broken up into several sections or movements. Beethoven grew to use a theme that permeated across several movements; such as the four note motif in his famous fifth symphony.
There are few forms like this in visual art, and paintings remain generally single works. Triptychs were usually designed as altarpieces to fit in practical architectural locations, and triptychs by 20th century artists like Francis Bacon ultimately owe their origins to this. In modern art paintings are often made in groups or series, but like early music sorted by idea or keys, these tend to be connected in arbitrary ways; by title, or concept, rather than any visual theme to create a unified whole work as in a musical symphony.
A sonata is a music work for one instrument, usually in several movements, so my painting sonatas are groups of paintings developed with a unifying visual theme. In my painting sonatas I chose a visual theme, a particular shape or object, and used this as a recurring motif as a musician might use a melody. Often single elements are taken and repeated across the paintings too, creating an effect like variations in music. This can be traced, in my work, to a painting called The Migraine Tree, which used a repeating eye shape in different forms, sizes, and textures.
In this way the idea becomes abstracted. In painting, the word abstract tends to mean a visual abstraction, a deconstruction of photographic reality into something less realistic. Here however, the concept is abstracted, as in abstract music. The idea, rather than the image, is pulled apart to change the meaning and feeling of the painting, with an aim of enhancing emotional contrast, and intellectual depth through the medium of the enigma. In this way, these abstract paintings can have a realistic, photographic, quality while something portraying something unrealistic or that can never be photographed.