Natalia Black, known for her self-assured, impasto, abstract paintings, inspired by everything from subatomic particles and the Northern Irish coastline to Eastern and Western philosophy and astronomy, presents new paintings, prints and the installation, Musica Universalis, in her first solo show at Green on Red Gallery, Dublin.
Musica Universalis (also known as Music or Harmony of the Spheres), is an ancient philosophical concept that regards the proportions of the movements of celestial bodies—the Sun, Moon, and planets—as a form of musica. Rather than this “music” being thought of as audible, in the literal sense, it is usually considered as a mathematical, harmonic or religious concept.
It is believed the idea of Musica Universalis originated in the time of the ancient Greeks. In a theory known as the Harmony of the Spheres, Pythagoras proposed that the Sun, Moon and planets all emit their own unique hum, based on their orbital revolution, and that the quality of life on Earth reflects the tenor of celestial sounds which are physically imperceptible to the human ear. This theory intrigued Johannes Kepler, who in 1619 published Harmonices Mundi, positing that musical intervals and harmonies described the motions of the six known planets of the time. He believed that these harmonies, “this music in the imitation of God”, while inaudible to the ear, could be heard by the soul, affording a very agreeable feeling of bliss to the listener. In Harmonices, Kepler laid out an argument for a creator who had made an explicit connection between geometry, astronomy, and music, and that the planets were arranged intelligently to this end.
Black is intrigued by the ideas of the Harmony of the Spheres; with interesting techniques she urges us to reconsider this almost forgotten idea, known to almost every medieval and renaissance thinker and artist from Leonardo Da Vinci, Issac Newton and Emmanuel Kant to J. S. Bach.
She would like her paintings to emit an ineffable music. In the words of one critic, “the paint is pushed, bunched, stretched – its materiality made evident while the colours both flow serenely and clash vividly and noisily. There is noise as well as music coming from each of the images.”