During this week I have had the wonderful opportunity to work alongside the Chilingirian Quartet during a week long residency at West Dean College. The Chilingirian Quartet is one of the worlds most celebrated chamber ensembles, and for 31 years the quartet has run a residential summer school at West Dean for string quartets.
For a number of years now I have been working on the theme of musicians. For much of this time I have worked during Rehearsal Orchestra courses in London and Edinburgh and occasionally during rehearsals of other London based orchestras. Many of these drawings and paintings have focused on individual players or on small groups within each section of the symphony orchestra.
A while ago I began to think about the different relationship of the players within a string quartet. This small and intimate formation is quite different to that of orchestral musicians. The players face in towards each other rather than the more formal rows of the orchestra. This began to offer up many different possibilities when considering shape, composition, form, along with the intensity of the quartet arrangement.
I have always admired the painting ‘Mary Iliff’s Viola Played by Electic Light and Drawn by Gas Light’ by Patrick Symons. The composition is striking and it is the intimacy of the ‘players’, or the motif of the solo instrumentalist repeated that made me think of the more intimate relationship of the musicians in a chamber ensemble. This was painted over a fifteen year period which I find re-assuring!
A few months ago I began to work with a string quartet locally, and to make a series of drawings during their rehearsals. I have just begun to bring these drawings together and put oil on canvas, working solely from the drawings made from direct observation.
It has been such a treat to be able to work with the quartets in the beautiful state rooms of West Dean and a privilege to be able to work with such wonderfully talented musicians who kindly allowed me to work during their rehearsals. It was fabulous to be listening to works such as the Brahms Piano Quintet and the Cesar Frank Piano Quintet while painting, and being able to work so close to the players.
Throughout the week four student quartets, both young professionals and amateur were put through their paces with intensive rehearsal schedules, masterclasses, and public performances along with the coaching from the members of the Chilingirian Quartet. To have this intensive period to work with the musicians in these magnificent state rooms of the college whilst absorbing some amazing music has been the most inspiring of experiences.
As you can see from the following photos, the quality of light falling on the players within these beautiful rooms is quite stunning.
With many thanks to Levon, Ronnie, Susie and Philip of the Chilingirian, and the Scarampella Ensemble, the Grigio Quartet, Archos Quartet and West Dean for a wonderful week. Drawings and paintings inspired by the residency will be posted in due course.