Notes & Crosses

Michael Smither
SKU: 11992
Availability: 1 in stock



Acrylic on Canvas - 2013 Series.


1000mm x 1000mm x 35mm.

Conversations between painting and music have been a point of fascination for centuries, with each providing just as evocative a muse to each other as any romantic liaison or stormy sea. Just as composers have tried to evoke colours or conjure landscapes, artists have attempted to replicate the moods and melodies of song. For Pythagoras, the vibrations of sound and harmony held the key to the universe’s rhythms; for Kandinsky, Klee, et al., a path into abstraction.
The intangible quality of music has long been a source of mystery and experimentation, from Whistler’s symphonies to Mondrian’s boogie-woogie, to Rauschenberg and Cage’s exploration of silence and space. Since the pop era, the culture that surrounds music has become a rich resource for artists, with rock music playing a prominent role in works from the likes of Raymond Pettibon, Yoshitomo Nara, Bill Hammond or Bek Coogan, while on a more conceptual level, Julian Dashper or Michael Parekowhai have made reference to music’s modes of production, distribution or social dynamics.
With the advent of consumer electronics and digital technology, sound and video have become materials as accessible as pigment or percussion, triggering a renewed interest in image-sound experiments through the possibilities of new media. Whereas much visual music of the early 20th century relied on a subjective interpretation of one media to another, digital systems have made it possible to intertwine sound and image in various ways through the direct translation of electronic data, allowing objective and precise relationships (although these are still subject to decisions of parameters and form). Examples include Clinton Watkins feeding sound into a video signal (Landscape Distortions, 2010) or Billy Apple’s work with composer Jonathan Besser to translate weather data into music and animation (Severe Tropical Storm 9301 Irma, 2001-06)

Smither, and many visual-music artists before him is interested in synaesthesia; a condition that causes multi-sensory sensations, such as smelling a word, hearing a shape, or seeing colours in response to sound. Whether abstract or figurative, Smither’s paintings can seem to vibrate for some viewers when corresponding music is played – many derive their colour combinations from music theory or are created as visual compositions that can be played. 

But Smither is less concerned with the subjectivity of actual synaesthesia, as such, developing his own formal systems that directly map specific colours and shapes to notes. 

Smither experiments in this area, implicating the viewer in their work, sometimes as an active participant in colour-music activities, or simply seeking direct ways to communicate sensory information.

Notes and Crosses collection of works are a further development of a set of colour-coded playing cards Smither designed for Novak’s Texas project, One Song, Three Composers (2011) – a matching colour chart was placed with three keyboards as a guide for musical improvisation, but with the corresponding keys on each keyboard coloured differently to create harmonic variations. 

Smither, also highlights a network of ties, linking geographical spaces as well as the exchange of ideas that takes place between associated practices, particularly the mutual influence that passes between an established and an emerging artist.

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Independent Art Consultation Service

If your space demands something different or unique, contact Christine Rabarts Art Curator for your independent personal in-house art consultation.

M: 027 629 7408   E:

If your space demands something unique, contact Christine Rabarts for your personal in-house art consultation.

M: 027 629 7408


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