Describing a large blank TV screen he once passed as "a missed opportunity," British musician Brian Eno debuted an art exhibit inspired by that vacant electronic canvas in Calgary on Thursday.
The longtime artist and experimental music pioneer has brought his ever-evolving multimedia visual and sound-art installation 77 Million Paintings to Calgary's Glenbow Museum.
77 Million Paintings is described as a "generative" light artwork, with computer software generating slowly moving imagery from digitized slides of hundreds of Eno's paintings, scored to ambient music he composed and performed.
The installation's title references the vast number of artistic representations or combinations the software can create.
"I've been a visual artist for longer than I've been a musician, actually," Eno, who graduated with a fine art degree from the Winchester School of Art before he launched his musical career, told reporters at a media preview in Calgary on Wednesday.
Eno quipped that he immediately joined a band after graduation "as all art students do" but also continued his artistic practice. He continued making art throughout his time with glam rock band Roxy Music and his own influential, innovative solo career.
77 Million Paintings was born about a decade ago when Eno, walking home in London, noticed a posh dinner party taking place inside a home and a giant, blank plasma TV screen behind the attendees.
"I thought 'That's a missed opportunity. That ought to be a painting'," Eno said.
It provoked him to consider how he would turn his art installations into something that could be featured on an average TV screen.
Changes as it tours
Unveiled in 2006, the constantly morphing sound-and-image installation has since toured the globe — including stops in Tokyo, Sydney and St. Petersburg. It has been presented both inside arts venues as well as projected onto architecturally interesting buildings and in 2006 was released on DVD.
In Calgary, the installation plays out on 10 screens in a darkened room at the Glenbow, with black leather couches nearby for spectators. They were added because — in other locations — patrons have spent lengthy periods contemplating the work.
'I think of this [work] as the pack of seeds that I've planted, and each time, a different bunch of flowers grows from it.' — Brian Eno
Beyond the changes that 77 Million Paintings undergoes as the software generates new combinations of paintings, the piece also changes in another way as it moves from location to location because Eno is constantly tweaking it, introducing new paintings and removing older ones.
"The best work is unfinished," he said on Wednesday.
"You can think of an artist as someone who starts something rather than someone who finishes something. I think of this [work] as the pack of seeds that I've planted, and each time, a different bunch of flowers grows from it."
Eno will also deliver a lecture as part of his role as artist-in-residence at Calgary's international arts festival, the High Performance Rodeo, which runs through Jan. 30. During his time in the city, he is also slated to spend time fulfilling a music residency at the Cantos Music Foundation.