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Resonance Paintings - Two Notes, Thaddaeus Ropac gallery, Seoul

Resonance paintings - Two notes
Thaddaeus Ropac gallery, Seoul
4 May - 11 June 2022 


View the online version of the exhibition here.

British artist Oliver Beer’s first exhibition in Korea presents an immersive new body of work, built around the ideas of duality, fusion and exchange, expressed through what the artist calls ‘the intrinsic relationship between physical form and musical harmony’.


Drawing on his background in both music and fine art, Beer’s practice explores the relationship between sound and space with a particular focus on the voice and architecture. Within and alongside his work with sound, he creates diverse sculptural, installation and film projects that are often autobiographical, yet also touch upon universal concerns.


Translating musical harmony into a visual language, Beer’s Resonance Paintings are created by positioning a speaker beneath a horizontally oriented canvas on which dry, powdered pigment has been scattered. Playing notes from the Resonance Vessels cause the canvas to vibrate, moving and shaping the pigment into visual representations of the sound waves. These appear on the surface in undulating, geometric patterns, which are subsequently frozen in place using a unique fixing technique that the artist has developed.


This recent innovation in the artist’s practice has its origins in his early experiments from 2009, when he first placed a handful of flour on a vibrating Irish drum and discovered the geometric patterns formed by sound waves. By carefully composing the notes with his attuned musical ear, Beer has built a vocabulary of precise abstract forms that reveal the harmonics of the canvas.


‘I’ve always worked at the meeting point of music and visual art and these paintings allow me to compose images by composing sounds. What is more striking still is how this imagery born of harmony so rapidly starts to resemble the language of 20th and 21st century abstract painting, and how far these sounds can take us visually.’ — Oliver Beer

Specially created for the exhibition in Seoul, the Resonance Vessels draw on techniques used in Beer’s sound installations at the Met Breuer, New York in 2019 and at the Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello during the 2022 Venice Biennale. Suspended from the ceiling with microphones positioned at their openings, the blue-and-white ceramic vessels remain silent until a visitor approaches and triggers a movement sensor, amplifying the objects' natural resonances. This prompts viewers to become more aware of their own presence, volume and motion in the air surrounding the works.

At a time when the meeting of bodies – culturally, socially and musically – has been circumscribed and transformed due to the pandemic, the performance Composition for Mouths takes on new significance. First staged at the Sydney Opera House for the 21st Biennale of Sydney in 2018, the piece asks the performers to sing through each others' faces, transforming their bodies into resonant acoustic spaces.

Live performance takes place every Saturday at 2pm through the exhibition period.

‘Joining their lips in a tight seal to create a single mouth cavity, the singers explore the resonant frequencies of each other’s faces as well as the architecture. At the meeting point of the two voices, a third voice appears.’ — Oliver Beer

Drawing on a recurrent theme in Beer’s practice, the ‘survival of objects’ returns in this exhibition with a display of his Two-Dimensional Sculptures. Made of broken vessels, many of which are blue and white to echo the pairs of ‘singing’ objects in the main gallery space, these sculptures were created using transparent resin that he tinted with black pigment.

The introduction of pigment allows the artist to control the light flow touching the vessels, creating an illusory sense of depth. These elusive pieces traverse the boundaries between mediums and become a way of freezing in time something as fragile and fleeting as sound.

‘For me, this show in Seoul is hopefully a cathartic return to being able to exchange air and ideas and music with each other.’ — Oliver Beer

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