“An alchemical reaction between music and oil painting,” is how local painter Katie Sarra describes her partnership with the Teignmouth-born flamenco guitarist Adam Westcott.
Calling themselves Eye of Sound, the creative duo will be bringing the fruits of their unique collaboration to local audiences at the Teign Heritage Centre on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October.
The performance is entitled ‘World on Fire: Passion, Thunder and Beauty’. In the first half, Adam will be playing flamenco and classical pieces on the guitar; in the second half, Adam and Katie will take the stage together, with Adam playing the guitar and Katie painting canvases in oils.
What arises when both artists perform together is entirely spontaneous and improvised – a wordless conversation or ‘dance’ between two creative mediums.
Describing the process, Katie says: “It’s like we’re both guiding each other so the speed, tempo and mood of the music are influencing the speed, tempo and mood of the painting. And as Adam sees what’s emerging on the canvas, his music becomes part of that, creating a visual–sound feedback loop.”
Adam continues: “It’s such a liberating feeling when we perform together. Once the journey starts, there’s no going back.”
Watching the pair work together in this way is profoundly exhilarating, leaving audiences with the sense that they too have played a part in the act of creation.
Adam and Katie forged their creative partnership following a chance encounter in a local Italian restaurant in Teignmouth where Adam was playing. Deeply moved by Adam’s music, Katie invited Adam to work with her beat-boxing son, Eddie. When the three came together at Katie’s studio at the Funky Aardvark Gallery in Teignmouth’s Artists’ Quarter, Adam suggested that Katie paint while he played and the result surprised them both.
“It was like we hit on a vein of creative energy,” Katie says. “Listening to Adam’s incredible guitar playing, I found my soul flying with the paint. I felt alive and incredibly happy. Afterwards we were both overjoyed with what had happened. We couldn’t have planned it.”
Trusting spontaneity is the philosophy that underpins all of Katie’s work, informing both her painting and her private practice as a sex and relationship therapist, where she supports people to liberate themselves into their naturalness.
The longing for liberation also lies at the heart of Adam’s creative journey. The 32-year old was mentored for two years by the world-famous flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata, who died last year at the age of 93. Fêted by Pablo Picasso in 1964, Manitas famously played the guitar while Salvador Dali simultaneously painted a horse and rider at the opening of the New York Gallery of Modern Art in 1965. Manitas went on to sell 93 million flamenco albums and became a celebrated exponent of the form.
Adam says: “Manitas changed my life. He said play for yourself and the rest will follow. That’s what he did. He didn’t play to the crowd, he played for himself and just rocked it every single time. So now that’s my philosophy too. I just go out and play for myself and that’s total freedom.”
It was Manitas’s performance with Dali that gave Adam the inspiration for Eye of Sound: “I wanted to experience what it would be like to play alongside someone painting. And that was where the idea came from for our collaboration.”
With such an illustrious precedent, the partnership between Adam and Katie crackles with excitement and possibility. Neither quite knows where the journey will lead them – after all there’s no plan – but one thing is certain: audiences are in for a rare and surprising treat.
Adam and Katie are performing ‘World on Fire: Passion, Thunder and Beauty’ at the Teign Heritage Centre on 16th and 17th October. Doors open at 7.15 for a 7.30 start. Tickets: £8.00 are available from the Teign Heritage Centre. To book, call: 01626 777041. To find out more about Adam, visit his website at: http://adamwestcott.com/; to find out more about Katie, visit: www.katiesarrapaintings.com.