November 15 – December 10, 2017
Williams Center Lobby

Paul Deery will give an artist’s talk, Wednesday, November 15, 7 p.m., 108 Williams Center. A reception for the artist will follow the evening’s performance of  New Work for Goldberg Variations

Easton artist Paul Deery was captivated by J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations and  created a series of paintings inspired the Goldbergs.

Color Music and the Goldberg Variations

When I first endeavored to paint Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations, I focused on the first eight measures of “Aria,” which I later learned is the generative theme of the whole piece. I painted on a sheet of four-by-eight-foot plywood with each measure being a foot wide as the color patterns moved across the surface. I remember thinking the music needed the space and a larger X area for color to resonate visually. As I painted, I listened to “Aria,” and only that, the entire time. It impressed itself upon my consciousness, embedded itself, and has never left.

I am not a musician. I can play a little here and there, but would never say I understand music or can speak its language. I do, however, think my desire to understand has been the strongest driving force behind my want and pursuit to paint it.

I first heard and learned of the Goldberg Variations from a compilation of Glenn Gould’s performances called Images (of all things!). The collection, in which Gould plays the music of many composers, contained a small selection from Goldberg Variations. I liked it but didn’t fall in love until I listened to the Variations in its entirety, which didn’t happen until I embarrassed myself foolishly. In an effort to impress a new employer at the time—a very cultured man—I explained how much I loved classical music and especially the piano playing of Glenn Gould.

“Well!” he said, “you must be familiar with the Goldberg Variations.” To which I responded with a bolstered “of course!” and he proceeded to talk about them with an educated understanding, and I just tried to keep up because I, of course, hardly knew anything at all. I was just trying to make a good impression. Immediately after work that day I purchased Gould’s Bach: The Goldberg Variations, and listened. And listened. And to this day it still sounds as fresh and mysterious as those first times. From that listening experience I knew I wanted to understand the Goldberg Variations with all of their complexity and beauty. I knew I had to paint them; to “see” all of them, how they worked with each other, and see them together as a whole.

I had already been working on building a very elementary language between color and music with my paintings, cross-pollinating between the two theories to find common elements and using the rules and laws to guide my color interpretations. Paul Klee and Vasily Kandinsky were major influences at the time. When it came to what kind of music to use, I settled on piano music because of its elementary nature and ease of approach. I looked to Bach’s compositions in particular because of their essential bare quality, the lack of pedaling, etc. And although complex in many ways, it gave me simple terms to explore my investigation.

The Goldberg Variations, which captured my imagination musically, has also offered a fountain of aspects to explore visually through the investigation and translation of the score. Now that I have painted them, I can see how the structures change, and the patterns develop within the variations. I see how the palette of colors works to describe motion and dynamics within the composition. And by capturing the ephemeral in an image, I can study, learn, and discover some of its secrets. I am able to see the beauty of the music and what it creates.

That first painting, Intro to an Aria by Bach, opened a door to a lifetime of discovery and exploration. I am indebted to that piece and the experience it gave me while painting it. I can only hope to live up to and do it justice.

Paul Deery
Easton, 2017

Each image is made with pigmented ink on paper, 2014, Image size is 16 x 32 inches; sheet size is 30 x 40 inches. Working up to 4 x 8 feet, the series was executed in 2014.

Easton artist Paul Deery takes an interdisciplinary approach to his artmaking. Recent exhibitions include a one person show, Which is Which, at Refind Gallery on the Walk, Allentown (2016); Possible Realities II, Artists’ proposals for the Karl Stirner Arts Trail, Grossman Gallery, Lafayette College (2015).  His proposal for the Stirner Arts Trail, Water Way, was selected by popular vote, and installed on the trail in 2016.

Nine of the paintings can be seen in the lobby of the Williams Center, and are displayed in conjunction with a November 15 performance on the  Williams Center  main stage, In New Work for Goldberg Variations, pianist Simone Dinnerstein brings her nuanced understanding of J.S. Bach’s ambitious keyboard series together with rule-breaking choreographer Pam Tanowitz’s witty and unflinchingly post-modern abstractions of classical and popular dance forms. Deconstructing formal and traditional movement vocabularies, New Work for Goldberg Variations converses with Bach’s iconic score in a delightful interplay of rhythm, style, and idiosyncrasy, demonstrating the rich emotional world lying beneath the poised surface of the Goldbergs’ musical architecture. Dinnerstein, whose chart-topping recording of the Bach is the definitive version of her generation, performs the demanding score live.

Free pre-show talk by visual artist Paul Deery, whose own explorations into Bach’s Goldberg Variations yielded a series of striking paintings, in Room 108 at 7 p.m.

A reception for Paul Deery and Simone Dinnerstein follows the performance.

Additional information about the performance can be found  here:  November 15