Synaesthesia is a perceptual condition in which the stimulation of one sense triggers an automatic and involuntary experience of another, such as the ability to “see” sounds, “taste” words or in more extreme cases, experience feelings or physical sensations with particular associations, such as certain smells or colours.
The kind of experience and the severity varies from one person to another, in those who experience synaesthesia.
It was in 1997 that I first realised this phenomenon I had always experienced actually had a name – thanks to the Peter Gabriel interactive game called Eve. So many things suddenly made sense, such as the way music affected my senses and imagination. Until that point, I assumed it affected everybody in the same way, and it is also impossible to imagine life without it.
My personal association with colours, textures or abstract forms with music has become a fascination, especially as an artist and musician. Synaesthesia become a crucial part of my own creative process – this ranges from the need to listen to music whilst creating artwork, or searching for particular sounds which in my mind, have certain colours or textures when I’m composing my own instrumental music.
Talk in Pictures (2004)
Synaesthetic art inspired by the music of Peter Gabriel
Having discovered synaesthesia through Peter Gabriel’s work, it made sense for me to take a selection of his songs, and ‘illustrate’ them, according to how I saw them in my mind’s eye. The idea was to listen to a song and produce a spontaneous piece of artwork whilst playing the music, and endeavouring to capture the colours, forms and textures that I saw as each song was playing. I decided to work digitally in Photoshop for speed, starting with favourite tracks from Gabriel’s discography.
I decided to call the collection “Talk in Pictures”, an evocative lyric borrowed from And Through the Wire, from Gabriel’s third album.
Green Series (2016)
In 2016, I was working on an ambient music project of improvised pieces. I had been thinking about making music that designed to be listened to whilst walking in nature; thgough forests or countryside and natural landscapes. Perhaps historical sites, like ruined abbeys, or overgrown areas where the occasional remnant of the past is visible.
However it soon became evident that this project – being improvised and somewhat abstract – was reliant on my emotions, and the colour palette in my mind. I wanted to make green music for green spaces. The task at hand was therefore to find sounds that were not only the correct colour in my mind’s eye, but that also had the right textures.
This in turn led to the creation of a series of green synaesthetic abstracts – which ultimately became the album artwork, but that also work as a series of pieces in their own right.
I was illustrating the music I was making. The resulting album was Remnants From A Lost Time.
Following on from the earlier Green pieces, Phases is a work in progress and the start of a new creative approach of creating pieces of synaesthetic artwork in tandem with music.