WHEN LISTENING TO COLORS IS PART OF EVERYTHING

ARTICLE PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED IN SPANISH

I started painting when I was 12 years old. Obviously before then I drew and painted like any other boy, but around that age I decided to “PAINT”. My parents bought me a couple of canvasses, brushes and oil paints, and the first of my oeuvre was reproducing the image of the Church where we went to Mass every Sunday. Until a while ago I still kept it, although we moved so many times (to date I am counting 32 times and 6 countries…)  that I would not be surprised if next time I look ,I find that I lost it somewhere.

At that time, my inspiration and my desire to paint had emerged due to the fact that, my parents, had taken me to visit the most important museums in Europe, and as happens many times when we are children, that generated an outburst between playful and artistic that invited me to paint without complexes. I came back full of admiration and with my head twirling between the works of Picasso, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Leonardo, Pollock, Rothko, and all that wonderful art and creativity. Art that changed my way of seeing life forever.

paris-in-winter

It’s been a while (let’s say) since that time. Keeping that child always alive within us is one of the artist’s mandates, because that freedom and all that lack of conditioning that we have as children, if it is maintained over time, is largely what allows us to explore a little further each time.

I grew up, and I painted accompanied by music (sometimes very loud). I can still hear my mother telling me off (and the complaints from my downstairs neighbor). At that time, we were already living in Australia, on the first floor of a Victorian house in the Toorak neighborhood, in Melbourne. Like many of those older houses, it had hardwood floors, and every step – no matter how cushioned one might try to make them with rugs – could be heard below. Imagine what it would be like for the poor neighbor, to hear John Coltrane’s sax at full volume and at any time of day. Sorry Thomas! (It is said that it is never to late to say I am sorry…).

Years later, as my work became a better known, people began to ask me if I admired the great Wassily Kandinsky (Russian artist who graduated as a genius in Paris), because my art apparently had certain reminiscences of his work, particularly some forms and colors.

I confess that, on the one hand, it filled me with pride that someone would think of Kandinsky when looking at my work, but at the same time – and many of you will understand this – it annoyed me, because I felt they were asking me if I was somehow copying him. I admired his work (I still do), but I did not consciously copy it. Likewise, I never denied my admiration for him, and I even thought at some point that unconsciously, perhaps, there were things that inspired me about his work, and from there was born this similarity that generated all these questions.

In all truth, there were some common traits. We both – strangely for artists – studied law, we liked architectural drawing, we got into graphic design, and we both took up painting -professionally that is- quite late in life. Yet decades separated our existences. But it was a few years ago that I discovered the other point of contact we had with my “friend” Wassily.

Naples Marriott

He always said that he painted music. Over the years, scientists came to understand that what he meant was that he was synesthetic, that little gift that nature gives some of us (quite a few actually because it is estimated that there are at least between 3% to 4% of the population of the planet that experiences it). This neuronal condition allows sensory experiences through sound. For some it produces flavors (words or sounds “taste” of something), and for others, it allows us to “see” in our minds shapes and colors through sounds.

It turned out to be the case, that I discovered that I was also synesthetic, and that then those colors and some of those shapes that we had in common, could be perfectly explained as a product of our shared synesthesia. A lawyer would be saying next: “we found the smoking gun”.

This ability allows us to see beyond what is visible. Needless to say, human visual capabilities are limited, but seeing sound is closer to something we would assign to bats. But that is not what we see, it is not a radar that we have. It is a generator of shapes and colors associated particularly with certain sounds that, very commonly, are musical. In my case, this led to -some years ago- a well-known US newspaper to publish a very nice article about an exhibition of mine, which was titled it “A painter gifted with the art of listening” – A painter gifted with the art of listening | Naples Florida Weekly –.

And from what I see it is a subject that is always passionate because now I find out, thanks to my dear friend Fernanda Akian, that the prestigious La Nación newspaper in Buenos Aires, just published an excellent article on Kandinsky and his ability to “see” music. While Google just launched an experiment to see if anyone, through an app, can somehow tie what Kandinsky was listening to with his work.

Clearly, it is a recurring subject because it seems so unusual. Already 5 years ago, something that was mentioned un that article, I began to place next to each of my works, a QR code with a link that allows anyone to listen to the song that most inspired each work, while that inspiration is also reflected in the title of each painting, as each one generally bears the name of the song that most influenced it.

exhibit background alperin 3w

On that occasion, as at other times, the result was wonderful, as people came to see the exhibition which was large (about 45 works, some large size), and then they returned, sometimes more than once, with a cellphone or tablet and headphones in hand, to spend an hour or two with my work listening to the songs, and trying to see what happened to them when they heard the music and explored what I had painted. The experience was worth it. And the feedback from the public was a big surprise, as some discovered that, perhaps, they too were synesthetes but had never realized it.

Of course, I don’t have Google’s resources, but as you already saw, I have started doing something similar through here on my blog and social media. I am generating short videos of each work and as a background, the music that inspired it. I would love for you to see (and listen) and tell me what it is that you feel when experiencing that combination of images and sounds. I hope you like it and that you share it with your friends.

Meanwhile, I leave you with the link to the Google experiment so that you enjoy it and see what happens to you: https://artsandculture.google.com/experiment/sgF5ivv105ukhA

See you next time.

IA

Ignacio Alperin nació en Argentina, creció en Australia y vivió temporariamente en varios países alrededor del mundo. Posee una experiencia internacional extensa, y diversa, obtenida en una carrera profesional alejada de lo lineal. Hoy en día es Profesor de Entrepreneurship en los MBAs de la Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA), Profesor de Creatividad e Innovación (Grado) en UCA Internacional, es un Emprendedor serial, consultor, orador en eventos nacionales e internacionales, y artista plástico.

Ignacio Alperin was born in Argentina, grew up in Australia and lived temporarily in several countries around the world. He has extensive and diverse international experience, obtained in a professional career far from the linear. Nowadays he is a Professor of Entrepreneurship in the MBAs of the Argentine Catholic University (UCA), Professor of Creativity and Innovation (Degree) in UCA International, a serial Entrepreneur, consultant, speaker in national and international events, change evangelist, and an artist.

© 2021 Ignacio Alperin

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