February 26, 2024

Singing Ribbons: Interactive audio paintings @Coningsbyg

The chests of generals sport a plumage that rivals any in the animal kingdom. To be ‘decorated’ is the ultimate accolade of military achievement and the rewards of valour are worn in the most visible way possible. At the Coningsby Gallery, In his first solo exhibition for 15 years, Matthew Maxwell examines this language of martial display and the unexpected beauty it contains.


earth_petreaus   |   digital print on glass   |    75mm x 150mm   |   2012


Maxwell turns military insignia into music by assigning each colour a musical note, with the width of ribbon-colour dictating the length of that note. The acclaimed Soprano Susan Parkes sings the scores and the resulting songs are contained within a smartphone app, downloadable from the Apple or Android App Stores.

Visitors to the exhibition will use a smartphone app to activate the ribbons using image recognition software – a first in the contemporary art world, and leave the exhibition with a unique edition of audio/visual/technology art works carried on their phones.

The ribbon paintings themselves are baked onto glass panels. Five new pieces, Air, Earth, Marine, Peace and Sea will be shown, each one derived from the decorations of prominent individuals in the various arms of military life:

For the Air Force, General Claude Robert “Bob” Kehler; for the army, retired General David Howell Petraeus (currently making the news for acts of valour more carnal than martial); Admiral Jay L. Johnson for the Navy; Lieutenant General Gaskin for the US Marine Corps and Major General Abdul Hafiz, of the UN Peace Keeping Force.

The exhibition combines technology and art to offer an aesthetic commentary on the military machine that dominates the politics of our species; a quixotic response to the celebration of conflict and the ornamentation of those who pursue and glorify it.


15 April 2013 – 27 April 2013

More information

Coningsby Gallery

300 Tottenham St


Monday – Friday 9am – 6pm

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