Taking Time with Art: Mindful Looking for Wellbeing and Wonder

27 May 2021

Great art is one of the cornerstones of a great city. Yet around the world, the pandemic has closed galleries, leaving us to the smaller canvas of our flatscreens.

In anticipation of galleries reopening, Christie’s Education’s upcoming short course, Taking Time with Art: Mindful Looking for Wellbeing and Wonder, offers insight into different ways of engaging with art.

The programme is led by art historian Karly Allen, who co-founded Limina Collective, an organisation committed to bringing music, meditation and reflection practices to art spaces.

In an echo of recent closures, London’s galleries were also shut in 1940, their collections dispersed. It was war, and the pianist Myra Hess had convinced Kenneth Clark, the National Gallery’s director, to create a concert venue where paintings had once hung.

The concerts offered an escape from the barrage balloons and rubble outside, and in a fitting response to the surreal upheavals of wartime, music-making where visitors had quietly contemplated Old Masters.

Now it’s our turn to rejoin these shared spaces, with many of us thinking of favourite collections or new exhibitions. We might even find it helpful to use mindfulness approaches and music to focus our attention and open up to the pleasures of observation. To get us started, Limina Collective has created a Spotify mixtape as an accompaniment.

Galleries are often monastic spaces, their soundscapes composed of footsteps and whispers. Perhaps now is the time to turn up the volume and overturn aesthetic orthodoxies as we return to look at art anew.

Thanks to Steve Taylor from Limina Collective for his music selection and listings. View full playlist.

1.      First Light, Harold Budd, Brian Eno. Budd’s early music was influenced by the art of Mark Rothko, with whom he corresponded; Eno has called Budd ‘a great abstract painter trapped in the body of a musician’

2.      Went Missing, Nils Frahm. Frahm is a German pianist, composer and producer whose work includes solo and collaborative performances, soundtracks for films and video games

3.      Sunlight, Max Richter et al. Another German-born pianist and composer, Richter has collaborated with digital art collective Random International on works staged in MADE in Berlin, at the Barbican and MoMA

4.      Ulmma, KMRU. Joseph Kamaru is an exciting young Kenyan musician who uses field recordings to craft atmospheric ambient tracks. His maternal grandfather of the same name was a seminal Kenyan musician known for his radical politics

5.      Kalimba, Laraaji. AKA Edward Larry Gordon, who consciously creates meditation-enabling music. Like Budd, his owes his public profile to being recorded by Eno

6.      Still/Sound, Ólafur Arnalds. A prolific Icelandic composer, instrumentalist and performer, Arnalds has written for ballet, film, advertising and TV, including the score for Broadchurch

7.      Mass for Four Voices: 5 Agnus Dei. Thomas Tallis, The Hilliard Ensemble. Recorded in All Hallows Church, London for the aesthetically pristine jazz label ECM, the Mass is ‘one of the most stunning examples of polyphony ever composed’

8.      #17, Aphex Twin. Tracks like this, by wilfully elusive electronic musician Richard David James, were inspired by lucid dreaming and synaesthesia (and, it must be said, by pioneering American minimalists like Terry Riley and Steve Reich)

9.      A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder, Jóhann Jóhannsson et al. Another musical Icelander whose work, which embraced dance, theatre, solo recordings and award-winning film scores, successfully melded orchestration with electronics

10. Becalmed, Brian Eno. Full circle, back to the ‘inventor’ of ambient music, an artist equally at home in the sonic and visual arts. Prolific, and prolifically influential

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