Picture This: ‘The Erasing of Names, Under Black and White’

'The Erasing of Names' Jim Aitchison

‘The Erasing of Names, Under Black and White’ (Oil pastel, ink and acrylic on heavy paper, 75 x 55cm)

Jim Aitchison, composer & artist


This picture represents part of my work that explores acts of obscuring and erasing, but where the original object still affects the visual result, and where meaningful marks are rendered apparently ‘meaningless’, but in an aesthetically expressive way. As a composer, I found myself increasingly interested in the process of lesser-known composers being eclipsed and edged out by more successful figures, such as Dussek by Beethoven, and, rather disturbingly, the tragic figure of Mahler’s young composer friend Hans Rott being so cruelly put down by Brahms before his descent into mental illness and an early death in an asylum. This also feeds into another interest, the effect of mental illness upon creativity and vice versa, and the phenomenon of perceived undesirable psychological qualities and how this manifests itself in dynamics within groups and cultural organizations. The processes brought to bear on the surface obscure names of composers such as Brahms, Mahler and Rott, and fragments of music from Mahler’s abandoned early scherzo fragment from his Piano Quartet of 1876. It is rather curious that there may be other things buried under the surface which I have forgotten! In terms of artistic process, one can see indeterminacy in the sgraffito marks and dripped on paint, as well as blurring, layering and partial erasure.


Composer and artist Jim Aitchison is recognized for creating musical encounters with some of the world’s leading visual artists, including Gerhard Richter, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Doris Salcedo. In 2008/2009 Tate Modern commissioned him to respond to their large scale Mark Rothko exhibition, and also in the 2008 he created a response to Doris Salcedo’s iconic Shibboleth installation, performed in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. He is also the only composer to have been given a fellowship by the Henry Moore Foundation, which took place as the first of two research fellowships at the Royal Academy of Music. His work as a visual artist has developed out of these encounters and explores themes of disconnection, distance, erasure, enigma, figures in space, and limitations of symbol and notation.www.jimaitchison.org

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