Catherine B. Parker (1926-2012), Response to Tavener (Wake up and die), 1999; watercolor, gouache and charcoal on paper, 44 x 35 1/2 inches (frame: 49 1/4 x 40 3/8 inches); Gift of the Artist, 1999
In Memory of Composer John Tavener (1942-2013)
Friday, November 22, 2013
In memory of composer John Tavener (Jan. 28, 1944-Nov. 12, 2013), we offer Catherine Parker’s painting that she created in response to his spiritually evocative work, “Wake Up…And Die” that was released as part of his cello concerto, “The Protecting Veil” in 1988. The work was selected for the first public exhibition of the artist’s abstract and musically conceptual works, Theme and Variations: The Art of Catherine Parker in 1999, which I curated.
During the late 1990s, Catherine Parker (1926-2012) painted landscapes and abstractions that responded to music she found compelling. Contemporary British composer John Tavener created music that is religiously inspired, but can be perceived as spiritual in general terms. He incorporated choral with orchestral sections that sound ancient and infinite, the kind of music associated with Eastern contemplation and the cosmos. The structure of his composition, Wake Up…And Die, is a palindrome to convey the concept that life and death are metaphysically synonymous; one leads back to the other and the cycle begins again. (“Palindrome” is defined as a word, line, or verse that can be read the same backward as forward. The most famous example is the phrase, “Madam, I’m Adam.” Visual palindromes are articulated in art through symmetry, repetition or mirroring.)
Parker’s Response to Tavener (Wake Up…And Die) is a stirring painting. Quivering rhythms illuminate the left half of the composition, while an immeasurable unknown balances the right. She was riveted by the cello passage that quickly descends a chromatic scale in a repeated motif that penetrates bone deep.
Links to two Tavener obituaries include:
Anastasia Tsioulcas, “Remembering ‘Holy Minimalist’ Composer John Tavener,” npr (Nov. 12, 2013)
Allan Kozinn, “John Tavener Dies at 69; Composer With Eye on God,” The New York Times (Nov. 12, 2013)
—Nancy Weekly, head of collections/the Charles Cary Rumsey curator