Pianist interprets the sounds of music and the form of instruments in her bold paintings

Posted on September 25, 2016

The Edmonton Journal

Most people are lucky if they have one artistic skill, and luckier still if they’re able to pursue it professionally. Shirley Elias has been lucky a few times over: her first success was as a concert pianist, and now she has found another calling as a painter. She had always dabbled in the visual arts, but until about a decade ago it took a back seat to her music. But then she started receiving commissions for her work — more than 60 — and things took off from there.

MS: Is there a relationship between what you did before and painting?

SE: There is still very much a musical link. My paintings are all an interpretation of music, the sound or timbre of instruments, or the shape of instruments, which are a work of art in themselves. It’s very inspiring, particularly the strings, the resonance they have is the same as what I want in my paintings. In performance, you strive to do that onstage, make that connection. I was very much interested in big virtuosic works and new music. As a painter, I like to use lots of dramatic colour and movement in the strokes. I want to keep you moving.

MS: You must listen to music while you paint, then.

SE: I do, always. As a painter, music is a powerful medium. It releases ideas and creative thoughts, like in the audience at a concert.

MS: And does painting influence how you think about playing music now?

SE: It does influence the way I think about things. I was an interpreter before, now I’m the creator. My approach to new music especially, the thought process of composing, is a lot closer to home now.

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