Artist Jake Andrew Nason shares what it feels like to see and experience music as colour through sound-colour synaesthesia or more specifically Chromesthesia. He creates his vibrant paintings by capturing the emotion, feeling and colour behind a particular piece of music. With his paintings and large scale projection and sound installations he intends to draw attention to synaesthesia and neuro-diversity and explore the relationship we have with colour and sound; getting audiences to think about sensory perception.
It’s about capturing the emotion, feeling and colour behind a particular piece of music on canvas
Your work centers around synaesthesia; translating sound into visual art. For anyone that hasn’t heard of synaesthesia, can you describe what this is?
Hey! So synaesthesia (or more specifically chromesthesia) is a condition where someone’s brain interprets sound and audio stimulus as colour, texture shape and movement. We hear the sound the same as everyone else, but at the same time experience it as one of the reactions above. There are two main kinds of chromesthesia (sound-colour synaesthesia): Associative – where we just KNOW the sound is a certain colour and texture, like a gut reaction; and Projective – which is where the cross modal sensory perception kinda bleeds into our field of consciousness or vision. The work I make draws inspiration from both of these reactions, immersing myself in sound and following the sounds path or building its texture from whatever materials I feel a resonance with. From this, I build my large scale projection and sound installations to create a “synthesised synaesthesia” for the audience.
Do certain colours represent certain musical notes?
They do yes. My early work was a series of painting experiments where I was documenting the colour and depth of simple chords on a piano. For example “A Minor” is a warm orange hue, with specks of red, green and deep purple at the low-end whereas “E Minor” is a spectrum of deep and rich blues, interspersed with a hollowed out turquoise and emerald green edges (this might not make any sense so apologies haha!).
When did you first experience it?
I’ve always experienced sound like this, I remember being a kid and driving to my grandparents house with my family. My Dad had a reggae CD we would always listen to, and every time a certain track would play all I could see was a bright aqua and turquoise glaze that felt like it had the shape of the inside of a teapot. (Again, I have no idea but that’s my earliest stand out memory!). I listened to the track again recently and my reaction was exactly the same, it felt so familiar.
How does it feel for you when you are creating art whilst listening to music?
It feels familiar; like an extension of writing music itself. A lot of people have said it must be a blessing to experience music like I do, and for the most part it is (although sometimes it can be completely overwhelming emotionally), so when I’m painting music it feels like I’m paying homage to the musicians and helping to broaden the scope of how people can enjoy music. Music and painting are so intrinsically linked for me, the music brings colour and movement, colour and movement bring emotion and the final piece is a combination of all these elements.
We all have a relationship with colour and sound, and my work is an expression of my own
You are a musician yourself, what instruments do you enjoy playing? And what are the inspirations behind the music you create?
So I was classically trained on piano, violin and guitar from a young age, but over time I’ve picked up other instruments, electronic sampling, experimental techniques and singing (although personally I don’t think I’m any good). The compositions I form through piano, experimental sampling and feedback etc are all based around a colour score that I’ll paint before performing it. The majority of them are free form, but stick to the chord sequence or tones of the colour score I’ve set out before. They’re a kind of exploration of the depths of my paintings, and finding out how far I can expand my practice from the other side.
Which genre/s of music do you most enjoy creating art from?
Honestly? I don’t have any favourites. It depends on my mood when I’m creating! I’ve painted some of the heaviest music you can possibly imagine because of the depth of saturation within it and the TOTAL immersion within the wall of sound. But at the same time I adore classical and contemporary classical pieces for the range of movements and techniques I can explore within them. Electronic music is also incredibly fun, as it lets me be a lot more fluid with my production technique.
What have been some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on?
One of the most memorable projects was a huge multi-channel projection and sound installation I was asked to build on Southbank last year – titled “ALTAR” it used a number of projectors all set to different spectrums of light and a multi channel PA system playing one of my heavier arrangements where the projections moved synchronously with the ever building sound score. That was a lot of fun. I also worked with Movember to create a huge projection installation at their Winter Fundraiser which was a huge honour, and I have ongoing projects with Creative Debuts where we’ve been working with Adidas to create bespoke trainers and pieces of work as part of their Superstars campaign. Those guys are the best, look out for what we’re up to next!
Painting is an incredibly emotional experience for me, much like playing piano
What are some of the challenges you come across in your work?
Honestly, probably explaining to people what my work actually is. Some people see my work as just abstract expressionism, and that’s absolutely fine because in a lot of ways it is and it’s a huge influence. But there’s a deeper meaning behind it than just creating abstract paintings; it’s about capturing the emotion, feeling and colour behind a particular piece of music on canvas, and then turning some of them into a lasting memory or experience for the audience.
As The Waves Crash, The Clouds Roll
How and where do you like to work/ any art rituals?
I can work anywhere, I really like taking my work out into the elements and embracing my surroundings and seeing how the sound around me works its way into the finished painting. I’ve also been experimenting with allowing natural elements (the wind, waves and rain etc) to dictate some of the movements on canvas. My piece “As The Waves Crash, The Clouds Roll” was created on the beach at Sea Palling in Norfolk during Storm Ciara – the main movements coming from when I took it into the sea and let one of the waves crash into the paint on the canvas (Although I nearly got completely wiped out, so it wasn’t my smartest move). Painting is an incredibly emotional experience for me, much like playing piano, so adding any kind of drama to the mix just makes me feel it even more. Oh, and I always listen to music as loud as possible in my paint splattered and destroyed headphones haha.
Your hopes and dreams as an artist…
I think my main hopes and dreams are to draw attention to synaesthesia and neuro-diversity, and to document how painting and art in general are so intertwined with music and peoples emotions. We all have a relationship with colour and sound, and my work is an expression of my own. An invitation to experience sound and music in a new way, and to expand how people think about sensory perception.
What have you got coming up that we can look out for?
So I had a number of exhibitions (including my first solo) planned for the coming weeks, but due to the current situation everything has been postponed. I had plans for a number of festival installations and workshops as well… But we shall see how the situation develops. In the mean time, check out my website and instagram for works in progress and new pieces. I have plans for a range of smaller works alongside my usual large scale painting pieces so I’m making the most of the isolation period!
Stay safe out there everyone, and thanks for the questions!
To view more of Jake’s work: