San Francisco artist, Peggy Gyulai, is in residence at the de Young Museum for the month of August, providing a wonderful opportunity for visitors to watch as she interprets what she describes as “the lyrical qualities of music on canvas”.
Music, says Peggy, is the source of inspiration for her paintings, and as it fills her studio, she listens “over and over, to understand the essence of each sound world, to try to feel its particular beauty, emotion, and its unique character, listening for architecture and form”, putting onto canvas her artistic interpretation of the music that she hears.
Peggy works primarily, but not exclusively, with great masterworks. “They’re the ones that speak the most clearly,” she says. “There’s so much material, so much to draw from…. A simple tune is much more difficult, more refined.” She quotes Eric Satie’s Gymnopedies as an example of this more refined type of music, which she describes as “very pure, with no bells and whistles …. there’s no hiding behind flashy brush strokes.”
During her residency at the de Young, Peggy will feature a different theme each week. She’ll also be working on more than one painting at a time, and each piece will reflect the music which will be streamed into her workspace. For the first week – from Wednesday, July 31 to Sunday, August 3 – the theme is Reflections, inspired by the music of Debussy, Erik Satie and jazz pianist, Bill Evans.
Night is the theme which Peggy has chosen for her second week, during which she plans to work with the virtual choir of Grammy® Award-winning composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre, on his piece entitled Sleep. She’ll also be using for inspiration John Adams’ City Noire – a work which the Bay Area composer wrote for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The following two weeks will feature music by Bela Bartok and by violinist, Gloria Justen. With inspiration provided by Bartok’s Bagatelles, Peggy will create a series of small paintings, in the form of etudes or miniatures – of which she already has seven in progress.
Gloria Justen, now a member of the San Francisco Symphony, was formerly Concert Master of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and she will collaborate with Peggy to create a new work for an electro-acoustic ensemble, which she will perform in open rehearsal. Gloria will also play a selection of the Bartok Violin Duos with one of her students, as well as selections from her own compositions.
Peggy plans a grand finale of two works for large orchestra for the final week of her residency – Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Debussy’s La Mer. She will revisit the great wave of La Mer, a work which she originally created for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Centennial Season in 1999-2000.
During her residency, Peggy’s workspace will resemble her “everyday messy studio”, she says. Thumbtacked onto the walls will be anything and everything from which she derives inspiration – ideas for the future, works by other artists, and various items which have been on her studio wall since she was at art school.
In one section of the ‘studio’, visitors will be able to watch a video which was recorded during Peggy’s collaboration with the Musical Art Quintet, and there will also be an opportunity for visitors to create their own interpretations of the music which will be streamed into the workspace. At an activity table, art materials will be provided for this purpose, resulting, no doubt, in some fascinating creations.
Peggy Gyulai is in residence at the de Young Museum from July 31 to September inclusive. Her ‘studio’ will be open from Wednesdays through Sundays, from 1.00 to 5.00 pm, with additional ‘public hours’ on Fridays, between 6.00 and 8.45 pm. On Sunday afternoons, from 2.00 pm, the mood will change completely with swing music and jazz taking over, and on Friday, August 23, from 6.00 to 8:45 pm, there’ll be a reception to celebrate her residency, with light refreshments in the Kimball education Gallery.
For more information about Peggy, her background and her work please visit her website, The Art of Painting Music. Peggy is based at the Bryant Street Studios, 1890 Bryant Street, at Mariposa, in San Francisco. She is happy to welcome visitors by appointment.