an exploration of synesthesia through sound and visual art

The Shape of Sounds

 

About The Shape of Sounds:

        "synesthesia means “joined sensation” (Greek syn = together + aisthesis = perception), wherein

          two or more senses are coupled such that a voice, for example, is not only heard, but also felt,

          seen, or tasted."                              - Richard E. Cytowic, the Synesthesia Encyclopedia (2004)

 

Every morning I have a cup of coffee while playing music. There is something very special about this activity because it is entirely mine and I allow myself to get lost in it without any expectations. I have two guitars: a steel string and a nylon string. The steel string creates dancing crystals and liquid metal that weave around me making a texture. I also experience weaving textures with the nylon string but the shapes seem softer, more like glycerine and cotton wool being pulled apart. I figure the feeling of the shapes has to do with the timbre of the sounds while the weaving links to the rhythm or patterns the sounds develop over time. I don’t always experience weaving with guitar sounds. For example, the music of the Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucia is more like amber golden pearls that melt and drip into themselves. Jimi Hendrix’s distorted guitar sounds create a multi coloured web of fibres that break off from each other and cling together again; they are sticky like cotton candy.

 

Throughout the day I let my experience of moving sound shapes flow around me like a soft breeze which is mostly pleasant and not distracting. Every now and then I hear a sound that does something unexpected and a shape will fly past me stealing my attention for a moment then vanish; gone as quickly as it appeared. At times I can be suddenly ambushed by sounds like sirens or noisy motorcycle engines that can be more aggressive like sharp stones or metallic spikes crashing down on me.

Through music I actively seek out specific sounds that create shapes and patterns I enjoy. I go to my studio and listen to music like Charled Mingus which creates shapes like exploding crystals, dark satin dripping like hot chocolate and swirling cream in a hot cup of coffee. I also like The Legendary Pink Dots, whose music contains such an array of unexpected sounds that listening to them can be like going on an alien safari where such outlandish things appear as liquid creatures chasing splintered glass.

 

I am an interdisciplinary artist who experiences synesthesia.   THE SHAPE OF SOUNDS is a series of sound and visual art. The work explores how the invisible world of sound can manifest itself visually through an overlapping of the senses.

 

There are particular kinds of sounds that give me a strong synesthetic reactions.  I capture the sounds that give me strong reactions by recording them; I carry a small recorder with me to hunt them down and capture them or I use objects and instruments to create them and capture them in my studio. With these recordings I create soundscapes.  While editing the soundscapes I create drawings that outline the trajectory and morphing of the objects. Once I finish editing a soundscape, I create a mixed media study on upon which I externalise my sense of colour and shape for the sounds, like creating a landscape. Finally I create larger mixed media paintings that give snapshots of the experience of movement frozen in time.