Primrose Hill: Winter – Josh Chapman


Primrose Hill – Winter. Such a standout piece in the gallery. 

What do you see? I see birds, lampposts, fields. The abstract nature of the work makes it difficult to tell, especially in the bottom right – what do you think that is? 

I have tried to explore the conflict between the city and nature. 

I recorded the sounds of Primrose Hill in London, in an attempt to get an artist’s perspective and an idea of what he could have heard at the time of painting. 

The sounds of the park are ever present, separated by gestures meant to represent what it is I see – can you spot them?


I was originally drawn the Auerbach because of the sheer size and the daunting complexity of the artwork. The abstract nature of the piece and the harsh textures were intriguing.

Due to this complexity, I decided to approach the work in parts. During my initial analysis of the work, I had split the canvas into three parts including a skyline filled with birds, a middle section with lamp posts and the bottom section with a mystery object in the bottom right corner. I approached my composition in the same way and it outlines these sections before then ‘zooming out’ and playing the different sections at once to frame the piece at the end.


The piece starts with the sound of busy London in the distance as Primrose Hill: Winter depicts. Primrose Hill is a hill over 213ft with which from the summit the presence of the capital is ever-present, a feeling which I have attempted to recreate in my composition. The ‘city sounds’ in the piece were recorded on Primrose Hill itself as well as around other parts of London.


The next gesture is one of two bird gestures in the first section of the composition. The are both made up of heavily processed and modified (GRM tools, and native effects of Logic Pro 9 and Reaper) field recordings of birds from Birmingham, London but mainly Wales. After the initial editing of the recordings, I also layered copies of these gestures each slightly out of time with the other and added extra effect processing included an extra reverb channel, multiple delay channels and more. The first of these gestures (0:09) is panned 80% to the right and is slightly quieter than the second gesture (0:40) which is panned to the left to represent the direction of the birds flight and the perspective and depth of the painting.


The silence at 1:08 signals the end of the first section. This second section focuses on the lamp posts if they are lampposts, and the light and glow they add to the work. The basis of the sound is actually isolated frequencies from the bird song gestures but they have also had extensive effect treatment. To evoke a sense of glow and brightness I have also added a little bit of ‘harmony’ to the section, this familiar comforting musical element is supposed to create warmth. Again, the sounds have been panned around the stereo field to represent where they are in the painting.


The next section has a focus on the physicality of the Auerbach. You do not have to look at the painting that closely to see the harsh, rough textures and abrasive brushstrokes of the painting. This section of the artwork, to me, is also the most abstract. I also think, that behind vague, dense paint application, this is where the park, and nature and fields and trees are. Whilst attempting to represent the texture of the painting in this section I have also included some bird song, the ‘sound’ of trees and parks in the background.


2:44, another breath, another section. This is the exploration of the object in the bottom corner. Although the shape is dark, the white paint makes it one of the brightest parts of the painting. Is it moving? What is it? Here I have tried to explore those questions sonically, whilst increasing the tension before combining the separate elements and gestures of the composition together.

This last section is an opportunity to ‘zoom out’ and take in Primrose Hill: Winter by Auerbach in full. The last thing you hear is the tail of the lamppost glowing gesture. As the busy city and its surrounding nature coexist, it is the light that unifies the element and the beauty they possess.




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