Eye Music is a new body of work by Melbourne-based artist Briony Barr. Barr is primarily known for her process-based drawing practice which experiments with mark-making as a system and explores the effect of rules and boundaries on pattern formation, especially within a collaborative drawing framework. This new series of paintings is grounded in a fascination with process and emergent patterns, but responds to a completely different set of boundaries.

Definition of improvisation

  •  the act of coming up with something on the spot.
  •  the activity of making or doing something not planned beforehand
  •  the act of creating a work of art extemporaneously during performance.

Eye Music explores the connection between mark-making, sound and improvisation through large-scale paintings and drawings which respond to live or recorded improvised music (from experimental sound art to free jazz) in real-time. 

“Each of the large scale paintings are made in one session, evolving over the same duration as the music or through repeated listening to the same piece. Some respond to a single improvised work and others respond to a series of very different improvised acts presented as a concert. In every case, I do not know in advance what the music will sound like. I only sometimes know how long a piece will go for.”

“In each work, I begin by creating a starting point or a set of boundaries on the canvas that I think of as a ground or a stage for what is to come. This starting point might be a pattern of marks, a grid or an area of colour which suggests space. Once the sound begins, I listen to it like a story which I must translate and transpose through the marks I make, in relation to the limitations I have set for myself. I see this as a dialogue between what is pre-planned in the work and what is unfolding in the moment. The goal is to stay open to what emerges through this process.”

The concept for this exhibition emerged through a year of drawing experimentation and online collaboration under lockdown in Melbourne, where restrictions on physical intimacy created a new set of conditions for making and performing art and music.

Over the course of 2020, Barr created several hundred small to medium drawings on paper, in response to two main sources: Make It Up Club (MIUC) performances – Melbourne’s weekly, experimental-improvised concert series which went online under lockdown conditions; and as part of the Isolation Improvisation Collective (IIC) – an evolving group of musicians, sound engineers, dancers, animators and visual artists who used Zoom (with additional audio tech) to improvise and record together throughout 2020, inspired by a range of non-traditional, visual scores and creative prompts. 

The pieces created for Eye Music expand on the methodology and vocabulary developed through these MIUC and IIC drawings. They experiment with this process at a larger, more immersive and performative scale, but maintain their connection to improvisation and openness to what may emerge. 

“The title of this exhibition has two meanings for me. Eye Music refers not just to my translation of sound into a visual form, but also to the possibility of another iteration of music generated by looking at the artwork; imagined or ‘heard’ by the viewer through their eyes.”

Eye Music - Briony Barr