6 – 13 December 2007 (noon – 6pm)

The Cello Factory

33-34 Cornwall Road

London SE1 8TJ

View by appointment from 14 to end December


"In that part of the book of my memory before which little can be read, there is a heading, which says: ‘Incipit vita nova: Here begins the new life’."

--Dante Alighieri

Click on images to enlarge

Susan Haire, painter, and Stephen Dydo, composer, collaborated for the first time in an exhibition taking place in December of 2007, at The Cello Factory at Waterloo in London, an exciting new gallery and events space. The exhibition could be described as a single work made to embrace the space which will be occupied by installation paintings and spatial sound. The paintings comprise series, multiples and polyptychs on different scales. A single piece of music plays as the visitor walks round the gallery but its thematic materials metamorphose as the viewer/listener explores the space. There is both a central sound source and individual elements to the music which will be identified with each group of paintings, with loudspeakers set beside the paintings. The core sound is audible from anywhere in the gallery, but the character and emphasis of the music change in front of different paintings.

This collaboration is a response to Dante's La vita nuova, a unique combination of poetry and narrative. In it, Dante uses both vehicles to describe his reaction to Beatrice Portinari, with whom he barely spoke. Although he fell obsessively in love with her in the course of his youth and early manhood, he regarded her as upholding all that is good and blessed – beata – as in her name. He was quite self-conscious about the effect of this feeling towards her not only upon his emotions, but also on his view of life, his quest for purity and beauty. This was his new life and its resulting change of course led, before too long, to The Divine Comedy.   

Dydo and Haire were introduced to La vita nuova through their involvement with Rebus Touring Arts' multi-disciplined performance project (involving theatre, film, dance, music and painting). The play, by Alison Atkinson, explores Dante's transformation during his youthful love for Beatrice. In the most significant and powerfully graphic parts of La vita nuova, Dante describes the visions he has when Love, whom he has personified, speaks to him and advises him. In the Rebus production, dancers represent Love, and Haire embraces this and paints the dance as repeated curving forms on individual panels, celebrating “the new life.” She creates myriad layers and a mesh of fine lines made with white paint drawn with a medicine dropper. These layers conceal and expose rich pinks and reds, some delicate and fragile and others with a more raw quality, the latter in response to the famous words in one of Dante’s visions, "Vide cor tuum" ("behold your heart").

The music explores the layering of the images with its own layers of sound, all interacting within the space; the sound source for each picture projects its own characterization of the whole. The contrapuntal layers of music in the acoustical space reflect the layering of colors in the paintings. At the same time, there are layers of a different kind, with computer-generated sounds interacting with instrumental ones, and with contemporary harmonies reacting to fragments of trecento melodies.  


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