You Saw Sound, I Heard Colour by Connor Crawford and Diva Ford
You may have a mediocre snapchat memory saved of the last concert you attended but it never quite does the artist justice or captures the emotional atmosphere you felt. Photographer Connor Crawford and Painter Diva Ford teamed up on an exhibition "You Saw Sound, I Heard Colour" after they attended nine local gigs and decided to showcase their sense-driven works alongside one another. We sat down with the two friends to learn about their collaborative experience and why this exhibition has been so important for Auckland's shifting creative landscape.
Introduce yourselves and your art form
C: I'm Connor Crawford and my art form is photography, especially live music photography. However I'm open to shooting all creative live performances. I studied photography seven or eight years ago, a year after I left school, and have been shooting ever since.
D: I'm Diva Ford and I'm a painter. I've painted my whole life, both my parents are artists so I had a very creative upbringing. I went to Elam straight out of high school and I've been out of there now for two years and have just thrown myself into painting pretty much fulltime.
Describe your style and your influences
C: Music has always been my driving force and I realised the other day that from growing up in my family home I would purchase these magazines called Twisted, these rock poster music magazines which came out once a month and were filled with photographs of live music, but basically you couldn't see the walls of my bedroom cause they were just pasted. So I kind of felt like I conditioned myself into this pathway by always waking up in a space that was surrounded by sound and colour. In terms of my practice, when I photograph an event I'm there for the event, not so much for the photographs. I'm going there as a punter and I just happen to have a camera with me and are in a position to photograph it. A lot of the time its about immersing yourself fully into the experience of live music and then capturing your own perception of it - to capture that energy you've got to be a part of the energy. So quite often I'm in the centre of the mosh pit mainly because I want to be there. This is all just a cheap ploy to see live music.
D: My style of painting would be close to abstract expressionist painting and multimedia. Until my final year of Elam I was a hyper-realist painter, so I did portraiture, landscapes, still life and I got to my final year and thought "Fuck it! It's doing nothing for me, I'm not enjoying myself." I love hyperrealist painting and I still do it, but in terms of the institution I was in, with no fucks given I thought, "How hard is abstract painting, I'll just start throwing paint at the canvas?" and turns out its incredibly hard because you have to think about every gesture, every colour choice and I'm still experimenting with that. But this was all sparked by Bobandii and the Bandii who I created album artwork for last year for Apple Music. I basically sat down, listened to their demo about a hundred times, and painted the piece. So that made me really question why I was making these certain decisions related to sound and how I was moving to the rhythm that I was feeling. That has turned into my experimentation with how the body's sensations are linked to music and how that is expressed through the medium of paint.
What sparked the idea for you to come together on this collaborative exhibition?
C: For me personally last year was quite turbulent and difficult. I hit a point when I realised I needed something to focus my attention to. I had an exhibition a year earlier that went really well and that helped with my mental health having a project to devote my time to. Diva and I were both in rocky places and we came to the realisation that this could be very beneficial, not only for us, but for all of the people in the creative scene, and just all people in general, all people of the world, and outer space aliens as well. I guess a lot of it was also fuelled by a love for music, especially local New Zealand sound.
D: Our entire friendship has been focused on music and we both have these creative backgrounds that were separate but also linked. Connor has taught me how to take photographs and I've taught Connor how to compose a painting...while on acid funnily enough... I curated Connor's exhibition last year and at the start of this year we were both focusing on our own art, and Connor mentioned he wanted to do another exhibition and I thought "I could be keen", so we got talking and came up with this crazy idea like, "What would happen if we both interpreted these local artist's music?" Then Connor approached Lowtide which started the ball rolling. So for the last two months we've just been working away on the paintings and photographs to bring it all together.
Tell us about your exhibition
C: It’s titled "You Saw Sound, I Heard Colour" so the last few months I'd been thinking about how music is integral part to most creative mediums. For me, when I'm shooting live music I synchronise to the rhythm within the moment and capture what I see at the time. When Diva paints she paints with music also and captures the flow. It’s all about the synchronicity and interconnection between creative mediums that fuel a creative sphere. So for the exhibition, people will be able to see photographs that I've taken of local artists and then will see Diva's interpretation of the artist's sounds.
D: It's been interesting seeing people's responses to the works and many people thought that my paintings were a response to the photographs because our interpretations had some similarities. The local artists we've depicted are a huge variety of different sounds but they're all artists that have influenced us in some way in our creative practises so they're all very dear to our hearts.
What genres do they cover?
C: There's everything! We've got Connan Mockasin, The Beths, Miss June (straight angsty punk), Mermaidens (Wellington sea-punk themed psychedelic band), Aldous Harding (very ethereal), Friends of All the World (House and Techno), Skilla (Jazzy R&B Soul), Wax Chattles (experimental sound), and then lastly Wukong the Monkey King (amazing jazz fusion).
Describe your selection process
D: After the gigs we looked at the photos together and discussed which ones we wanted to show, and then I went away and worked on the paintings. So we both attended the gigs for each artist, both experiencing the same atmosphere and the vibe, and the venues. The venues were a huge part of it because we have a real variety of venues including Golden Dawn and Kings Arms which have both closed down. It’s kind of about capturing that sense of the Auckland music community as well all these places where people feel a real sense of familiarity. It’s very much about capturing a moment; a physical moment, but also an emotional moment which I can relate to when I'm painting also. And Connor and I have a very open and communicative creative relationship so there's never been a disagreement when we've been working together. It’s always an open discussion but it helps to be on a very similar wavelength.
What is your favourite piece from the exhibition and why?
C: My favourite piece is the photo take of Wukong the Monkey King because it the centre piece of the gallery. But out of all the bands, Wukong have been the one that we're closest to and feel like family to us. That particular photo was photographed in a flat known as 432 in Mt Roskill which is this beautiful household filled with beautiful people who are constantly on a wholesome, creative buzz. It’s that accepting, loving, progressive ethos within that flat that we are trying to push out to the rest of the world because we can live in utopia, we just need to be honest and work together. When you say "You Saw Sound, I Heard Colour" and look at that piece it’s like "BAM!"
D: My favourite painting is the one for Aldous Harding because it was such an emotional experience and I actually painted it all in one night. I just sat down and didn't stop till it was done. And it was a really physical process in the fact that I was moving around the large canvas the whole time, had some wine, and was feeling the music - it was a spiritual time!
Describe what your working relationship has been like working on this project
D: Our working relationship is a lot of wine drinking.
C: A lot of sedation.
D: No, a lot of meetings discussing our vision. From the get go we sat down and wrote a proposal together and what we wanted this exhibition to be about. We didn't want to create an awkward gallery space where you feel a bit uncomfortable. It’s very much a sense of family and community, the whole project is about bringing creative souls together through music, through art, through photography, and the interconnectivity of practises.
What’s next ? Are you planning to do another collaboration?
C: Definitely, everyday we're collaborating! Cleaning the house...
D:...jamming out, pretending we're musicians rather than making art about music. I'm feeling inspired by the whole experience and definitely the experience of running an exhibition has made me want to create more opportunities for creative collaboration with other artists. It’s just been the two of us and we know each other very well so it’s made us wonder who else we could get involved. What are these big ideas we can do to embrace the fact that the creative scene in Auckland is changing and there is a real energy at the moment. There are resources being shut down like the Elam library unless we can do something to stop it. There's a sense of urgency because artists and musicians are being forced out of these spaces that they're able to do create in and that is creating this new surge of making so I'm excited to see where that goes and I'm excited to be a part of it. It'll be cool to embrace that feeling and hopefully make a change to create these spaces where artists can live and make more.
C: I really just want to create projects, not only with photography, but with videography, with dance, with music, with art. I pretty much want to dedicate the rest of my life to not only creating art but inspiring other people to create art. I think its integral for expression because if you can't express shit inside and keep it bottled up your head will likely explode.. into space. With the aliens.
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