Field Recordings

April 8 to May 28, 2017

Exhibition text by Manel Benchabane (curator):

The artistic practice known as field recording consists in recording sound landscapes in specific natural or built environments, in order to give sustained attention to the sounds that make up these landscapes. Developed in the 1970s, this art form may be seen as the musical equivalent of plein air painting – the practice, dating from the 18th century, of painting outdoors, directly in front of one’s subject, using observation as a basis. When visual and sound arts are combined, hearing asserts itself and becomes as important as sight. In the Western world, sight is the most highly solicited of the senses, both in our daily life and when we visit an exhibition; in the Gallery space, the marriage of visual and sound media creates balance and enriches our sensory experience.

The Stewart Hall Art Gallery is happy to present Field Recordings ‒ Captations, an exhibition of the works of visual artists Jim Holyoak and Matt Shane and sound artist Nick Kuepfer, from April 8 to May 28, 2017. These three artists, whose practices engage in harmonious dialogue, present landscape and soundscape works that come together with unequalled delicacy. Using their travels as a basis for artistic creation, they have been systematically recording and documenting, over a dozen years or more, the visual and auditory traces left by the environment.

Jim Holyoak and Matt Shane paint and draw the nature of the places through which they travel in British Columbia, Quebec, northern Europe, India, Austria, and elsewhere. The pictorial universe arising from their wanderings is full of trees, oceans, volcanoes and vegetation. They work outdoors, drawing and painting in the woods, on mountaintops, and on board ships. Although they are manifestly influenced by the romantic movement, they also distance themselves from it by the contemporary approach they use to question their natural pictorial universe: their movement through each landscape is exhaustively documented as they record on paper and canvas the qualitative data associated with places that overwhelm them. Holyoak carries the recording exercise even further, drawing on paper his musical observations at concerts. He thus provides an immediate response to the sound art of Nick Kuepfer.

Nick Kuepfer makes landscapes the object of multimedia attention. His sound and video installations transform our perception of places and strengthen a feeling of immersion. The hearing experience he creates helps us experience landscapes as something complete and sensory. Kuepfer’s recordings create a repertory of natural sounds produced by elements such as glaciers, water, forests and caves – sound material acquired during his journeys in the Arctic Ocean, Svalbard, Europe, Iceland, and Canada.

The three artists’ acts of creation, associated with acts of documentation, create a visual and auditory whole that is striking and immersive. Abundant drawings, paintings, videos and sounds reflect the mysterious fascination we feel for the natural world, its incomparable splendour, and its abiding strangeness.