Hear the colors of his most famous painting like Kandinsky

A virtual experience offered by the Pompidou Center, in partnership with Google Art & Culture, allows you to “play” musically the largest painting by Vassily Kandinsky, drawing inspiration from his synesthesia.

Painter behind immense colorful masterpieces, Vassily Kandinsky is considered the modern father of abstract art. His gift was increased tenfold by a neurological phenomenon of synesthesia: the ability to connect certain senses to each other. Kandinsky linked colors and sounds – as if he could see the music and hear the colors, which influenced the way he worked and, thus, all of his work. He believed that sounds and colors echoed specific emotions deep within us. In doing so, art is for him an intimate dialogue with the soul of each and every one.

The Pompidou Center has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to create a unique virtual exhibition entitled In the privacy of Kandinsky. In addition to the digitization of sometimes unpublished images from the endowments of Nina Kandinsky – his wife – at the Pompidou Center, the highlight of the show is found in an interactive experience, Play a Kandinsky, which allows to “play” musically his most famous painting, Yellow-red-blue.

With each movement of the painting, associated sounds recreated by machine learning. // Source: Kandinsky / Center Pompidou / Google Art & Culture

« It is not such an instinctive art, it is very codified, theorized, thought out, because it expresses very complex emotions. », Explains Pierre Caessa, project manager. And Kandinsky had indeed developed a real reflection around pictorial creation, which we find moreover in his work Spirituality in art. Immersing oneself in Kandinsky’s mind could only be done with the help of an expert: Angela Lampe, curator of the painter’s works at the Pompidou Center.

She has thus supported artists such as Antoine Bertin and NSDOS in the design of an algorithm aiming to reinterpret Yellow-red-blue. Since synesthesia is an individual phenomenon, it applies differently to each person. Over the course of two years of work, Angela Lampe had to guide the artists of the project so that they fully grasp how the famous painter interpreted shapes, colors, sounds; how he tied all these elements together in great “movements”. Algorithmic technology has been added to this human collaborative process.

“Kandinsy used to paint to music”

« Kandinsy used to paint to music. Synesthesia had a major influence on what he painted. We took the records of what he listened to while painting in his workshop, we integrated them into the algorithm, which extracted the scores and reinterpreted them in modern music. », Pierre Caessa develops with Numerama. From these scores that Kandinsky listened to while painting, the machine learning algorithm, trained by the artists of the project, was able to reproduce what the famous painter probably heard when he painted. Yellow-red-blue.

The experience first allows us to discover to which emotions and sounds Kandinksy associated certain colored movements (combinations of shapes / colors). A yellow rectangle represented, for Kandinsky, daring, excitement if not rage, madness; triggering a jazzy atmosphere based on trumpets. A deep blue circle generates the penetrating sound of an organ, musically inspiring a supernatural transcendence, from mourning to inner peace.

After this discovery, you can then experience your own emotions through the painting. A selection panel invites you to choose the emotions that characterize you today. They will be played by highlighting, symphonically, the parts of the painting that this triggers. Moreover, if you trigger all the parts of the painting at the same time, you will then hear a sort of cacophony, plunging you into Kandinsky’s mind and how he represented the work in its entirety when creating it.

Yellow inspired Kandinsky with excitement, joy, a form of madness. He heard a jazzy atmosphere. // Source: Kandinsky / Center Pompidou / Google Arts & Culture

The experience allows you to soak up all the nuances of Yellow-red-blue, and, in these circumstances, technology becomes a support to forge an intimate relationship with the painter. It is neither better nor worse than seeing the painting without this virtual and interactive filter: it is simply a sensory evocation totally different than usual. In any case, we take the measure of the impact of synesthesia in Kandinsky’s work to appeal to emotions. Pierre Caessa tells us that he perceives this particularity as ” some kind of super power “. The father of abstract art could ” associate and codify things that no one else could associate “. For the leader of this project, Kandinsky was able to ” overcome certain barriers to take us further in understanding the world, its understanding ».

“This is your home”

To this interactive experience, Google Art & Culture and the Pompidou Center have associated other virtual “rooms” to deepen Kandinsky’s work. One page allows in particular to sort 3,000 works of Kandinsky by dominant colors, as if to re-read his work after having understood its content through the interactive experience of the painting. Yellow-red-blue.

Even if the tone of the project remains scientific in terms of art history, with the omnipresence of Angela Lampe, “ we wanted the tone to be light », According to Pierre Caessa. He hopes that the interactive technological support can help break down physical barriers to immerse himself in the work of Vassily Kandinsky. ” It’s a way of saying to everyone: look, you can enter Kandinsky’s world other than in a museum. This is your home, you don’t have to wonder whether or not you are fit for entering a modern art museum, then you can give Kandinsky and abstract art a chance », Before going afterwards to a museum, when they reopen, to discover the collections firsthand.

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Source: Numerama by www.numerama.com.

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