Editor’s Note: Since June 2016, Oliver Norden has served as Artist in Residence for the Design Center. Here, he describes the unique ideas and talents that he brings to his music, sculpture, and other artistic pursuits. Come out for ArtWalk on July 29th, 2016 between 7pm and 10pm to meet the artist Oliver Norden.
Creating an Emotional Landscape in Music and Art
by Oliver Norden
For my first thirty years, I lived in Europe, growing up in Belgium. During my childhood in Antwerp, I was profoundly influenced by my parents’ artistic interests and the importance they placed on culture. The placed a high value on the richness and variety that life has to offer.
Growing up, I visited museums all over Europe and viewed the great works by the old masters. Music and art filled our home always. My parents liked to listen to world music. But more than anything, we listened to classical music.
My mother is a sculptor now living in Antwerp, Belgium. My father was an antiques dealer. My brothers are still antiques dealers and living in Europe.
At the age of fourteen, I began to study piano. I was classically trained in my twenties. As a teenager, I spent entire afternoons in the library in Antwerp where I could listen to vinyl recordings of the great composers and at the same time read original sheet music by the composer. I was especially influenced by Chopin, Beethoven, and Mozart. As a young adult, I studied art in college and eventually earned my Master’s Degree in sculpture.
I remember going to auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s with my mother. Once, I saw a Kandinsky painting for sale. Like Kandinsky, I was interested in the colors and shapes that can be found in abstract art and music.
Kandinsky once wrote, “Music is the ultimate teacher.” He sometimes used musical terms to label his works, calling them improvisations and compositions. Music had a strong influence on the early development of abstract art. Music and abstract art do not describe the exterior world, but rather the internal world of emotions. Kandinsky’s series of paintings called compositions were primarily concerned with evoking a spiritual resonance between the viewer and artist. In the same way, I explore emotional expression in my music and art, creating a resonance between my piano and my listeners.
I moved to the United States in 1999 and settled in Florida, because I had family living here. I began to develop my visual art, working mostly in airbrush and sculpting. Profoundly influenced by my new environment, I began to explore improvisational variations of my favorite composers on the piano.
My piano improvisations have much in common with my sculpture. Using harmonic chords influenced by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart, I weave a free flowing, textured, and three dimensional form for the listener. Interwoven through the piece, I insert moments of dissonance and then pull you back in the harmonic. In this way, I give my audience and emotional landscape that we both can explore. I create an emotional vibration that resonates through my audience.