New York Times MAY 2, 2016 - by Christopher D. Shea


LONDON - On Friday, the same day that Brian Eno's new album, The Ship, arrived, a small show of his artwork opened at Paul Stolper Gallery in London. It includes new pastels with slowly shifting patterns and accompanying music.

In an interview at his London studio, Mr. Eno discussed his visual art, which, along with these projects, includes forthcoming work intended to soothe patients at a London hospital. These are excerpts from the conversation.

Your gallery show began on the same day as the release of your new album. Did you plan that as a happening?

"The Ship" was due to come out much earlier, but it would have meant announcing it two days after David [Bowie] died, so I thought that would be in quite bad taste.

Have the visual art projects blossomed and become a focus of yours? Or are you always working on many projects at once?

They're all tangled up together, you know. And, in fact, because they use similar procedures, they sort of proceed in a very rough parallelism - sometimes something goes ahead a little bit, because I get an interest in it and follow it, but then the other things pick up.

If one of the horses I've got in the race at the moment looks good, then I put a lot of support behind it to see where that one can get to, and then I look back and I think, "Oh, these ones are dropping behind a bit, I'll pick up on that one."

Using light, you've been making art for hospitals. Have you talked to doctors about the impact your art could have on patients?

Certainly. It turns out [the space] in Brighton is used by the staff as much as the patients. It was originally intended for the patients, but actually the staff like going there as well. There's a heart surgeon there, for example, who goes and sits in there before big operations to chill out a little bit.

The early-twentieth-century Russian avant-garde was your favorite era for the visual arts.

Certainly that was the era that inspired me when I was at art school - sort of 1906 through 1927 in Russia. There was such a lot that came out there, and I think we're still absorbing it, actually. I keep seeing it reappearing in different ways. I suppose that was the time when painting started to do something that music had already been doing for millennia. Music has always been the only completely nonfigurative art. Music didn't start from attempts to imitate nature; music seems to have come from somewhere else completely, and, of course, in the early part of the twentieth century, painters envied that enormously. There was that famous statement, "All art aspires to the condition of music." I think it was Walter Pater who said it. And in the early twentieth century, the first abstract painting was an attempt to make something that behaved like music, in visual terms.

Is your visual artwork influenced by work from that period?

Well, very certainly, yes. The first painting I ever saw that made me think, "I want to be a painter," was a Mondrian, when I was young. My uncle showed me a little tiny book of Mondrian pictures, and I was so transported by them, I thought, "This is what I want to do." That was the first time in my life that I had any idea of what I wanted to do. I was about nine or ten at the time. And as soon as I saw those, I thought, "I want to be a painter."

You've said you like Fellini because the visuals and music in his films don't line up. In a gallery show like this, where you have visuals and music, are you composing them together or thinking about them pushing against each other?

In film music, I often think of that latter thing, trying to make something that doesn't build up what's already there visually, but sort of argues against it, gives another refraction of it.

What's next for you?

I can't tell you.

Because it's a secret?

No, no. It's not a secret. I can't tell until I see how it unfolds.