Google Arts & Culture is turning paintings into music

Date:11 February 2021 Author: Kyro Mitchell

Google Arts & Culture is paying tribute to Russian artists and initiators of the abstract art movement Vassily Kandinsky in a new exhibition called “Sounds like Kandinsky”.

The exhibition brings together Kandinsky’s most emblematic artworks, opens up some rare personal archives, and because Google is involved, the exhibition also introduces a Machine Learning experiment that lets everyone “Play a Kandinsky”.

While many people will be able to recognise some of Kandinsky’s most famous artworks, the man behind the canvas is less known. To bring more attention to the artist, Google has digitized 3,700 artworks, personal photographs, and documents with Google Arts & Culture’s tabletop scanner. These include childhood memories, pictures of holidays, or Kandinsky’s studio in Neuilly, just west of Paris.

To truly understand Kandinsky’s legacy and unravel one of the defining mysteries behind his artistic style, it’s essential to understand the creative process that went into his canvases, which places a strong emphasis on synesthesia.

Put simply, synesthesia neurological condition allowed him to associate colours with certain sounds and moods. Artists such as Rimbaud, Billie Eilish and Pharrell Williams also have synesthesia.

To unlock the “Sound” of a Kandinsky Google teamed up with experimental music artists Antoine Bertin and NSDOS to create “Play a Kandinsky,” interactive experimentation that for the first time enables everyone to experience what Kandinsky might have ‘heard’ when he was painting.

Google and its partners were able to Play A Kandinsky by analysing the artists’ writings in which he outlined his synesthetic experience. They then fed that data to a machine learning program to create a tool that simulates what Kandinsky may have heard when he painted his masterwork  “Yellow Red Blue” in 1925.

By zooming in and clicking on various areas of the painting, you will be able to essentially ‘play the painting’ explore the sounds and emotions associated with colours and shapes. You can even create your own mix and share the result of your creation, as inspired by Kandinsky.

Take part in the experiment and listen to Kandinsky’s painting by clicking here.

Picture: Twitter/@googlearts

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