Have you ever seen a painting move?

The Noord Nederlanse dance company is dissolving. The Dutch government has decided to stop funding the company – a great shame as the dancers in the three productions worked seamlessly together. Even if there were any mistakes, and I was assured by the choreographer Stephen Shropshire that there weren’t any, it wouldn’t have mattered because of how well the dancers and movements came together last night in ‘Landslide’ performed at Dance House, Wales Millennium Centre.

Painting and performance

As a curator, most familiar with the visual arts, I couldn’t help but understand the dance through the medium I am most familiar with: painting. The dancers walked on stage, took their positions, and became elements of an artwork. They moved towards and away from each other, and in each step their togetherness, in time, became a harmonious picture. Grounded on the stage floor, the dancers were lit up by off-stage lights that accented the drama and atmosphere not only seen in the dancer’s movements but in their faces as well.

I couldn’t help but think of Georges Seurat’s late 20th century paintings. Pointillism was a key element in Shropshire’s inspiration, and this does come through on stage. As with performance art of this kind, the aural and visual came together in the space and the dancers accentuated these multiple elements of the performance.

Have you ever seen a painting move?

If we can talk about the artistry of feature length Hollywood films, then why can’t we do the same with performance art? Some people do, and give out the obvious names (Marina Abramović, Yoko Ono, Vito Acconci), but what about taking the ‘performative’ of performance art and use it to talk about painting? The Noord Nederlandse dancers did just this – they created a long lasting (albeit still) image in my head, one in which resides the beauty of the performance.  If anyone can be responsible for this innovative happening, connecting performance to visual art, then it’s Yves Klein.

People – paint – canvas – art. What more could you ask for? So yes, I have seen a painting move.

Yves Klein ‘Blue Women Art’ from 1962

And For another viewpoint on how performance and painting come together, read Adrian Searle’s article for the Guardian: A bigger splash, did performance art change painting?

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