Painting and preludes

I have a very good friend called Judith White, who is a visual artist. She lives in inner-Sydney, with her photographer husband, in a converted warehouse. Their home is wonderful – it’s like walking into a gallery – there are paintings and sculptures everywhere. It’s completely wonderful. And I like talking to her about things, because she sees things completely differently to me – she’s really affected by colour, and light, and the way things are placed in a room. Watching a sunset over a beach with her is so different to watching it by myself – I almost spend more time watching her respond to the changing sky than the actual sunset itself.

I love her work – I am very proud to say that I own some, and its in my living room.

We work together sometimes, as performers, in a program called ‘The Painted Bach’. I play a cello suite, and she paints a visual response to it. Of course, this is not the same process for her as the way she ‘normally’ works, as she needs to create canvases very quickly – but it’s been really well-received by audiences, and a great thing for the two of us to do. (It’s surprisingly noisy for methough – I am playing, and there is the most amazing array of sounds behind me as she paints with brooms and huge brushes. There is the noise of dripping paint, and then squelchy sounds as she walks through the paint puddles…. She’s a very noisy associate artist!)

We’re off to perform ‘The Painted Bach’ in Perth, as part of the Perth winter festival (she also has a big exhibition there), and I suggested to her that she might consider creating some work that was a response to different Bach pieces, over a longer period of time to include in the exhibition too. I never thought she’d say yes – but she did. Last Friday was the first prelude we did together (from Bach’s second suite), and today will be another one.

So I arrived and sat in her studio. Had to wrap up warm, as there’s no heating. And played for her. I didn’t realise how many times she’d need – I must have played this piece over 20 times. Sometimes she stood and just listened, looking at the canvas. At the start she ripped paper and stuck it to the blank canvas. Other times she painted with paint, other times crayon. Sometimes she poured buckets of paint down the sides of the painting.

It was incredibly wonderful to watch my friend create art. Hard for me not to respond – I tried to keep playing the same way. It was inspiring, and exciting, and felt wonderfully authentic. And through it all, her lovely husband took video and still footage – so we’ll have something to show you all once he’s put it together. It was an excellent way to spend Friday afternoon.

And I can’t wait to do it all again….