Imperfect Transcriptions: the 24 Études of Frédéric Chopin, for Monique

David Gepp

Arddangosfeydd | 13 Rhagfyr 2008 - 14 Chwefror 2009

Imperfect Transcriptions is a new series extraordinarily vivid photographs of grasses, gorse and meadow flowers by David Gepp. The photographs are shown alongside the poetry of RS Thomas and Chopin’s piano pieces, the 24 Études. The exhibition invites us into an intimate relationship with music and the natural environment and the deep issues of life.

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Imperfect Transcriptions is a new series of colour photographs by David Gepp - extraordinarily vivid studies of grasses, gorse and meadow flowers which abound with rhythm and intense colour. The photographs are shown alongside the poetry of R S Thomas and Chopin’s piano pieces, the 24 Études. The exhibition invites us into an intimate relationship with music and the natural environment, and considers the deep issues of life – chaos and order, the everyday and the sublime, life and death, pain and beauty.

“I think it was Robert Schumann who said that Chopin's music had the quality of ‘guns buried in flowers’. That may be hyperbole, but I know what he means - pain may be buried in the beauty (and beauty in the pain). It is possible (just) to hear the music of Chopin and treat it as aural wallpaper, but if we listen to it we may discover it informs and deepens our understanding of life; of our own lives' experiences; of our relation to the Natural and the Universal. And it may also provide an explication, or at the very least, a truth filled description, of our lives - both intellectual and emotional.

The sometime oppositions of complexity and simplicity; unbearable pain and transcendent beauty; chaos and order; all are referred to by Chopin and reconciled without compromise - and in a way which opens us to fresh understandings of the seemingly fragile and complicated nature of life. The everyday with the Sublime. The holistic with the fragmented. The conclusive with the open ended.

'... Unlearnedly and unreasonably poetry is shaped,
Awkwardly but alive in the unmeasured womb.'

Patrick Kavanagh, from ‘Art McCooey’

I was listening to these 24 Études of Chopin at the end of summer, around the time of the birthday of my friend Mike Berry, who had died some months before; and I made these pictures over a period of some weeks as I walked with the dogs in Hafren forest. What Chopin's music had confirmed and illuminated for me was the energy and interchange and relationship between the most seemingly disparate of things. It began with melancholy and beauty, complexity and simplicity, and, moving in some strange way, allowed me to see the world as perfect. And then even life and death seemed reconciled for a while.

'... A humble scene in a backward place
Where no one important ever looked
The raving flowers looked up in the face
Of the One and the Endless, the Mind that has baulked
The profoundest of mortals.'

Patrick Kavanagh, from ‘The One’

This is where these pictures come from. I allowed myself to work from intuition and spontaneity, rather than any notion of technical perfection - and I am not responsible for the best of it - the part that may touch you - that is in the nature of things. As Walter Pater said, ‘All art aspires towards the condition of music’, echoing da Vinci’s:
‘Music represents the invisible.’ - and it is the invisible that moves us.’ “

David Gepp Ysgubor Ty’n Y Graig, Llanerfyl, March 2008

Originally from Belfast, David Gepp has lived in Wales for over 25 years. His work is in collections at Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; The National Library of Wales; The Tabernacle, Machynlleth and BT Irish New Media, Belfast.

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