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Tim Bavington

American, born England, 1966

Surprise, Surprise, 2003

Acrylic on canvas
64 x 128 inches (162.6 x 325.1 cm)
George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, 2003

Tim Bavington calls his method of painting “theories of proportional harmony,” which incorporate both math and music. He matches the twelve-tone musical scale with the twelve -hue color wheel, assigning one color to each note. He applies the stripes in his works with a spray gun, blending and bleeding the areas of color to create a kind of visual vibration. The widths of the painted bands match the lengths of the notes in the music—the wider the band, the longer the note is held. The less intense the color, the higher the octave; for lower octaves, the colors are darker. Here, Bavington used a guitar solo from the 1965 Rolling Stones song Surprise, Surprise. On the left side are the notes of the solo translated into colors; the faint lines on the right side of the painting roughly correspond to the time structure of the solo. Many viewers assume Bavington is trying to paint music, but that is not the case. Nor is he trying to capture the “spirit of rock and roll.” As he once said, this could also be done with music by Mozart, and it could be “maybe even better.”


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