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A playlist for the Harry Mitsuo Kiyooka Exhibition

By Ilana van der Merwe, March 23 2024—

The Harry Mitsuo Kiyooka Exhibition running from Feb. 1 to Apr. 27 can be found in the Nickle Galleries in the Hunter Student Commons. Free entry and an accessible location have made for a relatively casual viewing experience — perfect for any curious student. 

As a university student finds the convenience of the Nickle Galleries an enticing reason to scope out its exhibits, it is important to respect the preservation of the intent of curation. Arguably the most important aspect of an artistic exhibit is the deliberate curation of its presentation. Every aspect of an exhibit is thought out. From piece selection to lighting choices and presentation order, every choice is made with intention. Art influences emotion and perception. That is why an exhibit presents a controlled space so the viewer’s mind has the freedom to explore the art purposefully.

 If a student, while listening to their everyday tunes, walks into a curated exhibit without mindfully disengaging from a playlist with no complementary connections to the art, they are altering the intended experience. So, to combat this issue while preserving the conveniences of this beautiful gallery is a playlist that can accompany the Harry Mitsuo Kiyooka Exhibition. No need to take your headphones out, simply switch your playlist while enjoying these paintings. 

Ryuichi Sakamoto was a renowned Japanese composer, bringing scores for films like The Revenant and Call Me By Your Name. His experience in creating enthralling movie soundtracks makes his works like “2021130” and  “M.A.Y. in the Backyard” perfect for viewing the isolated and abstract colours within Kiyooka’s paintings. Secluded staccato notes with simple rhythmic pulses mingling alongside somewhat strenuous harmonies perfectly complement pieces like Kiyooka’s Garden in Tangiers and Black Frost. The song “Crystalline” by Sakamoto and Alex Heffes features long and melodic piano lines that run through scales faster than Kiyooka can run through colours. This song has a wide range of tempo that perfectly mirrors the ebb and flow found in Kiyooka’s many landscapes like Ponte Marco Polo Venezia, Evening Venice and Afternoon. 

Joe Hisaishi has made his mark on film scores through anime classics like Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Howl’s Moving Castle. His songs “One Summer’s Day”, “A Town with an Ocean View” and “The Sixth Station” beautifully frame the love letter that is Kiyooka’s many portraits of his wife. The playful and lighthearted melodies share the simple but deeply emotional intentions of these paintings. Strolling through the exhibit while listening to these orchestra masterworks is wildly enchanting.  

Aside from the music by Hisaishi and Sakamoto — who have Japanese heritage in common with Kiyoota — here are additional songs that will contribute to atmosphere building at this exhibit. 

Mark Slater’s — a British film composer known for his work in electronic sound — “Next Winter” suits the celestial nature of Kiyooka’s Kalpa, Kalpa 12: Tama and Kalpa 24: Savitri.Ólafur ArnaldsPartisans feature lonesome and isolated harmonies that are equally elegant as they are mournful. The nature of this song encapsulates the message behind the piece Unititled – Venice Carnival, a painting that pictures a young boy in a clown-like dress deliberately isolated from a band of acrobats, entertainers and animals. “My Friend the Forest” by Nils Frahm preserves landscapes like Lake Michigan or Alberta’s Handhills represented in Kiyooka’s brush strokes. This song, with its reverberated piano, exudes rolling winds and hills. The tone is solemn and sweet, and suits pieces like Kiyooka’s two 1950s untitled works depicting the Handhills, Nocturnal Landscape, Sunlight and Water and Lake Michigan.  

Music and art go hand in hand. Both evoke emotions and influence perception. By altering the angle we listen to or look at a song or piece, we can change the way we interpret the stories presented. So, instead of bopping to your own tunes, take a moment to listen to the Harry Mitsuo Kiyooka Exhibition playlist in order to help preserve the intent of the curator and appreciate the art of Harry Mitsuo Kiyooka. 

For more information, visit the Nickle Galleries’ website

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