Conversations with Ghosts – Images Inspired by the Music

Last year I went to a concert called Conversations with Ghosts, which was a collaboration by Paul Kelly, James Ledger and about 10 or 15 classical musicians including Genevieve Lacy on recorder.  I had no idea what to expect. (Click here to go to conversations with ghosts YouTube)

Drypoint by Shana James inspired by the Song Bound to Follow
Drypoint by Shana James inspired by the Song Bound to Follow

The music was haunting and full of imagery, I was hooked, I bought the CD and started listening in the car. Some of the lyrics were from famous poetry and some were Paul Kelly’s distinctive story telling. Parts of it were discordant, others melodic – it extended me a bit, but the more I listened, the more I appreciated it. The art I make, has always been narrative, so I guess it’s no surprise that I am attracted to music with such a rich narrative. In the catalogue Paul said, when speaking of the process involved in creating these songs Genevieve’s recorder was “a guide throughout a kind of Ariel.”

“You need a guide in broader country. It can get dangerous out there.”

I am no stranger to the dangers of falling (and failing) during the creative process – or being lost in the desert:)  This music became my guide, a guide to the fantastic visual world of the imagination, introducing me to poetry I wasn’t aware of, transmitting me without fail to the space where pictures are created. I listened to the music over and over, while driving to and from the Fremantle Arts Centre (where I teach art ). At one stage I remember I took the CD out – scared that if I listened too much I would lose the magic and the imagery would disappear before I had time to record it in my sketch book. Lost like a dream which you hopelessly try to recall after it has dissolved in the harsh light of the waking world. I needn’t have worried, the images continued to flow in like water when the space was created.

The other worldliness of these images is perfectly suited to the medium of dry point. A printmaking process where the drawing is scratched into a plate (traditionally metal, now more commonly plastic) and printed intaglio – the same way an etching is printed. This process is labour intensive but quite addictive and totally worth it when you see the rich furry line and the atmospheric results. I have finished 2 so far one is from the song Bound to Follow which you can hear some of on this link. This is one of several pieces I think I will make inspired by the song.   The second is from Sailing to Byzantium  the poem by WB Yeats. The undercurrent of the harp giving the song a circular flow. The momentum  and movement, creating pictures which I seemed to pull out of the air as I listened.

Drypoint by Shana James inspired by Sailing to Byzantium
Drypoint by Shana James inspired by Sailing to Byzantium

I plan to continue the series, based on this music I already have some scribbles in my sketch book. So I’ll post more as they are finished.

You can contact me through my website www.shanajames.com or leave a comment below.

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