Clockwise, from top left: Natalie Haas (USA), Emma Nixon (Australia), Dougie Maclean (Scotland) and Alasdair Fraser (Scotland/USA).
One of the non-music events taking place during the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention in June is an exhibition of paintings of famous living fiddlers called Fiddle Icons.
This show is by Australian painter and musician Nicole Murray (of the folk duo called ‘Cloudstreet’, currently on tour in the UK). The fiddle players she has painted are Nancy Kerr, Natalie Haas, Alasdair Fraser, Martin Hayes (all of whom are playing at NAFCo) Dougie Maclean, Emma Nixon and Ado Barker.
Murray was at a fiddle workshop in New Zealand last year when the idea for the exhibition crystallised: ‘A concept for a show which had been simmering in my mind suddenly achieved clarity … portraits of influential fiddle players and their instruments, borrowing some of the iconography of traditional Byzantine icon painting … [which] has the advantage of being a beautiful form, features gold leaf, and conveys a sense of the subject being revered.
‘In order to make an expressive portrait, I am interviewing my subject on video. I ask them two questions: “What gives you joy in your music?” and “Tell me about your instrument.” … [They] become poetic and philosophical in a fascinating way when finding an answer to these questions. And it shows in their expressions.
‘I then parse through the video and select individual frames which seem to express my subject’s personality. I’m seeking the essence of who they are as a musician, rather than a candid image.
‘From there, I create a portrait… The second part of the project is to paint the instrument. It may be a full painting of my subject’s instrument, or it may be a detail of the part they talk about or favour in their interview. The third part of the project will be to transcribe the interview, and select quotes which inform the viewer about the musician’s philosophy.’
The exhibition will run at the Millennium Forum in Derry for the duration of NAFCo from 26 June to 1 July.
Published on 22 May 2012