My Curves are not Mad


string orchestra
String Orchestra
This work was commissioned by Britten Sinfonia with generous support from the William Alwyn Foundation, additional support from the RVW Trust, and ten donors to Britten Sinfonia’s Musically Gifted campaign:
Marjorie Ayling
Linda Burgess
Stephen Green & Clare Wilson
Helen Phillips
Tim Redmond
Wycliffe Stutchbury
David Wells
and three anonymous donors
First Performance
20.3.2015, Milton Court, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, UK: Britten Sinfonia/Carlos del Cueto

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In his book Jazz of 1947, Henri Matisse writes: MY CURVES ARE NOT MAD. In determining the vertical direction, the plumb line along with its opposite, the horizontal, forms the compass of the draftsman. Ingres used plumb lines; in his studies of standing figures note the unearned line that passes through the sternum and the internal anklebone of the “leg that bears the weight.” Around this fictive line “the arabesque” evolves. I have derived a constant benefit from my use of the plumb line. The vertical is in my spirit. It helps me to define precisely the direction of lines, and in quick sketches I never indicate a curve, that of a branch in a landscape for example, without being aware of its relationship to the vertical. My curves are not mad.

I like Matisse’s approach – the shapes and lines of his cutouts are so incredibly imaginative, inventive and organic, but he suggests that they are conceived always with reference to plain vertical lines. I enjoy and identify with the idea that no matter how intricate or unpredictable the twists and turns of a piece of work, the artist must first erect the invisible, objective structures that support their material like scaffolding supports the construction of a building.


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