Art About Music: “Chinese Musicians” (Anonymous, Chinese, 19th c.)

This painting is of two drummers, but it’s the stark, blank space framing them that catches our attention the most. The space has no borders and it’s almost without depth as well, save for the faint shadows next to female drummer who stands. She sways with a small tom tom strapped over her left forearm, holding long thin drumsticks in each hand with a sideways grip. There’s a small red dot in the middle of her drum’s head, showing the way and matching the color of the drum’s shell and her sleeves. He sits crosslegged on a square mat (without shadwows) with a larger drum balanced on his feet, beating the drum using a matched grip. His left hand strikes the drum on its well-worn beating spot, while his right hand waits for its turn to fall directly downwards. 

The drummers are proximally close, playing together and slightly smiling both, but don’t need to look at one another. What does their music sound like? Maybe he’s playing the downbeats as she waits for her offbeats? Their combined sound is a two tone drum talk, a high-low hocketting like a cut out against silence.  

Resonant Thoughts: Robert Irwin On Beauty, Perception, And Framing

“Beauty is all around you. You open your eyes in the morning, the world is totally formed. You haven’t done anything other than be. It’s all around you. The whole idea is being able to recognize it, and pay attention to it, articulate it.”

I’m trying to make the most beautiful thing and knock your socks off. That’s it, that’s all.”

(L.A. Times)

“The idea of containing within a frame all of our concepts and ideas and attitudes and sense of beauty and everything—that’s an amazing concept. It’s a highly stylized and learned logic. It’s brilliant—it’s lasted for centuries and is in fact true; it’s one of the ways in which we process information. But that’s not how we see at all. We don’t see in frames. Essentially, seeing is—it’s not only here, but all the way around us. It’s like we’re within an envelope of our senses and we’re being fed information at every moment by all of our senses. That’s actually how we perceive. And at some point, if you take perception as a position, the idea of a frame looks like a highly stylized, learned logic. We’re addicted to it—so much so that in an instant, we can read things on a screen, we can immediately understand and even put emotion into it.”