Monday, June 19, 2006

What is Synaesthesia?

Synaesthesia, a harmless condition that allows a person to appreciate sounds, colours or words with two or more senses simultaneously.

Murnau - Castle Courtyard I, 1908 by Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky is believed to have had synaesthesia.
In his case, colours and painted marks triggered particular sounds or musical notes and vice versa. The involuntary ability to hear colour, see music or even taste words results from an accidental cross-wiring in the brain that is found in one in 2,000 people, and in many more women than men.

Composition VII, 1913 by Kandinsky
Despite the lack of medical proof for Kandinsky's synaesthesia, the correlation between sound and colour was a lifelong preoccupation for the artist. He recalled hearing a strange hissing noise when mixing colours in his paintbox as a child, and later became an accomplished cello player, which he said represented one of the deepest blues of all instruments. Sean Rainbird, curator of Tate's forthcoming Kandinsky exhibition, says, "My feeling is that he was quite a natural at it. To have painted the largest work he ever made, Composition VII, in just three days, shows that this language was quite internalised."

'Kandinsky: The Path to Abstraction, 1908-1922' is at
Tate Modern, London SE1 (020 7887 8888),
June 22-Oct 1.

Bev & Mike
Landfair Furniture + Design Gallery

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