TRISTAN LOUTH-ROBINS
| SUMI (2007, 2009)

Sumi (2007, revised 2009)
Installation for prints and loudspeakers.

Video documentation for this work can be found at the footer of the page.

Sumi is an installation work for suspended graphic print, loudspeakers and sound. The revised 2009 version of the work involves the broadcast of sound through a pair of loudspeakers suspended with the graphic print, one loudspeaker is visible (below the print) and is one hidden from view (positioned mid-way behind the print). Sound is broadcast from both the visible and hidden loudspeakers over a continuous duration in situ with the graphic   print. The intention here is to evoke a perceptual dialogue between the media, in turn drawing the observer’s attention to the inherent detail of the sound as well as the detail of the graphic print.

Background
Work commenced on Sumi in September 2007 following an invitation to submit a work for an exhibition in November of that year. From mid-2007 onwards the author began experimenting with arrangements of sound and visual media within the mediums of sculpture and installation. The inspiration for this working process was partially due to the use of a sculptural sound element in Infuser, but also an interest in work which examined the representation of sound in both a literal and abstract sense through the application of visual mediums – namely, small objects, drawings and painting. The visual media which led to the development of Sumi was abstract in nature, taking the form of simple ink and charcoal sketches which mimicked Japanese aesthetics, using heavy lines and negative space. The prints which feature in Sumi are developed from the print of stones dipped in ink and pressed to absorbent grade paper.

The graphic prints
Two graphic prints were made for the November 2007 exhibition; the stone prints were scanned, enlarged and re-printed on a dot-matrix printer, whereby the printed image is reproduced on A4 paper using a series of small dots. The main body of the image was reproduced faithfully, however this method of printing rendered a discrete series of dots around the main shape, compensating for the finer details of the scanned print. These hard copy images were reproduced and enlarged again as A1 prints which were subsequently cropped.

The sound composition
The sound composition for Sumi was inspired by the work of Rolf Julius, wherein his ‘small music’ consists of minimal sound textures derived from a limited amount of sources. The sound composition for Sumi is designed to compliment and interpret the graphic nature of the print – its shape, texture and the finer details of the print (such as the dot-matrix artefacts). There are two primary sound elements used in the sound composition that accompanied the 2007 version of Sumi. The first of these is an undulating sibilant sound texture that was created by filtering a white noise signal and varying the input level. The second sound element operates as an infrequent gestalt, which consists of slightly reverberated sounds derived from electrical glitches and short noise bursts. These two sound elements are played on a continuous ten-minute loop, the hissing texture can be heard throughout whilst the reverberated sounds occasionally interrupt the homogenous sound texture.

November 2007 installation
The November 2007 exhibition of Sumi was presented in a designated art space at Coriole Winery, McLaren Vale, South Australia. Two graphic prints were suspended from hooks so that the main detail of the print hung at eye level, while a single loudspeaker was placed on the floor in line with the suspended print. A stereo channel version of the composition was played back on a loop from a nearby CD player, with separate mono channels allocated to each of the loudspeakers.

Revisions 2008-2009
Upon revision of the work in mid-2008, the loudspeaker was removed from its position on the floor, and was suspended just below the graphic print, thus placing the sound and image on the same plane and creating a closer physical positioning between the two. To assist this relationship further, an additional component was added to the work in the form of the second loudspeaker to be hidden behind the graphic print. The motivation for the inclusion of the latter was partly based on a suggestion by Robin Minard, that in order for a clear dialogue between the sound and the graphic print, sound could be positioned so that it appears to be ‘coming out of the image’.

The finalised 2008 version of Sumi is regarded as a distillation of the ideas which inform Julius’ work, chiefly the suggestion of a perceptual dialogue between sonic and visual media. In the case of Julius’ work, the listener’s attention is sharpened by the observation of the visual elements, which suggests a connection with the sonic process through a combination of direct phenomena, sensation and the physical appearance of the elements being presented.

The finalised 2008 version of Sumi presents a simple (albeit abstracted) relationship between the sonic and visual media, as the observation of one element – either from viewing or listening – informs the other in terms of its textural and parametric details, which is concurrent with the act of focused listening.
A more detailed description of this work can be found in my 2010 Honours thesis, which is available to view at Academia.

  • Academia: Link


  • Original stone ink impressions which informed the basis of the Sumi prints.

    Close-up detail of Sumi print.

    Sketch for Coriole installation, October 2007.

    Initial version of Sumi installed at Coriole Winery, November 2007.

    Mock-up of revised version, December 2009. Photos: TLR