Page last updated at 10:19 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 11:19 UK

Putting the rock 'n' roll into art

Kilford says he "sees sounds" when he hears music

By Caroline Briggs
Arts reporter, BBC News

Meet Kilford. The music painter.

Quite simply, he "paints" music. On stage he's painted with the likes of the Black Eyed Peas, Deep Purple, Paul Weller and David Albarn, interpreting their music on canvas with bold strokes and a cacophony of colour.

The 33-year-old has no art degree and little interest in the "elitist" art world. For Kilford it's all about the music... and putting the rock 'n' roll into art.

"I just woke up one morning about 10 years ago and needed to paint pictures," Kilford explains, while sucking on an ever-present lollipop.

"I don't know too much about art, to be honest. I didn't study it. It's all about the music, man, that's what does it for me."

Kilford recently painted during a Baaba Maal gig for the BBC World Service Trust

Kilford, with his long hair and permanent shades, certainly looks the part of a rock star.

His process is simple: "When I feel the music I see colours," he explains.

"The picture is created based on the colours I see throughout the gig. I don't care about the end result because it is representative, the truth, of that particular moment, that gig.

"Is it pretty, is it not pretty? I'm not sure. Is it aesthetically beautiful? Some of them aren't."

It was a chance encounter with The Feeling before they were famous that launched his art-come-music career.

Gigs with Paul Weller, The Charlatans, and Deep Purple - amongst others - have followed. He can be seen on stage with the band, swaying with the music as he works.

"For a good two to three years, people were like: 'what are you doing, man?' But musicians dig it. They really get it. A lot of art people don't perhaps get it, but I don't really care."

But while the music world has embraced Kilford, his dismissal of the art world surely invites some to be equally dismissive of his work. Is it all about the image, or the desire to be involved in the music industry? Kilford, though, is clear.

Forget fine art… this is fab art, do you know what I mean? It's about getting excited about it, and getting involved in it

"I respect art, but I'm not inspired by any artist or painter whatsoever.

"The YBA stuff, okay, it's great, but I think it's yesterday's British Art, man.

"That's it. It's done, it's dusted and people should get over it. I love Damien Hirst's work, I think it's spectacularly good, I think intellectually it's fantastic, but I think the only other person getting people excited is Banksy.

"Forget fine art… this is fab art, do you know what I mean? It's about getting excited about it, and getting involved in it."

And getting involved with his work is exactly what Kilford wants his fans to do.

While his paintings fetch thousands of pounds, copies can be downloaded from his website for for free. His 800-odd Facebook friends "request" songs for him to work on in the studio.

Internet downloads

Some people ask for the song they danced to at their wedding; others may request their mum's favourite song for a Mother's Day gift. It's clear they adore his work, and the interaction they have with the artist.

And while Kilford's peers in the music industry struggle with how to cope with downloading in the internet age, Kilford has found a way for it to work.

"I love the thought of people downloading it hi-res and printing it off themselves," he says.

"Recently I had over 4,000 downloads from the Kasabian gig I did at the Albert Hall. If people want it, then it's great, man."

"I want every single person in the world to have a picture of mine, and I don't care if that's free or if its sold. It's beautiful. I get energised by it."

Kilford would like to work with Mark Ronson and Lady GaGa, among others

Some people with the rare condition synaesthesia - where senses intermingle - can "see sounds", meaning that different sounds trigger them to see particular colours.

While he doesn't know for sure, Kilford believes it's a condition he may have.

"Some people say I have it. More than likely, but I haven't been to a doctor with things zapped on my head or anything.

"I've studied it. We've assessed five of my paintings and cross-referenced the break down of the shapes and colours matched that against the pitch and frequency of the images

"I wanted to understand it a little bit more, and it was interesting to see the repetitive shapes and colours in there."

While his collaborations have so far been eclectic, Kilford is a self-confessed indie music junkie - his ideal gig to paint would be Oasis at Wembley - and there are many musicians he would like to work with.

"I absolutely love what Mark Ronson does. I see the producer and painter as a great mix. I love Lady Gaga, I would love to paint Lady Gaga, and there are some great bands on MySpace as well.

"If it makes you tingle then it's good.

"That's what it's all about. Getting out there and making art rock 'n' roll... otherwise it's boring. And I don't want to do anything boring."

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