Brian Eno is an English musician, composer, record producer and visual artist known as one of the principal innovators of ambient music and generative painting. He attended Roy Ascott’s influential and experimental ‘Groundcourse’ at Ipswich College, which sought to reinvigorate art education as a cybernetic process and where tests were designed to disrupt creative preconceptions. He joined Roxy Music as synthesiser player in 1971. Leaving in 1973 to record a number of solo albums, coining the term ‘ambient music’ to describe his work on releases such as Another Green World (1975), Discreet Music (1975), and Music for Airports (1978). He also collaborated with artists such as Robert Fripp, Cluster, Harold Budd, David Bowie on his ‘Berlin Trilogy’, and David Byrne, and produced albums by artists including John Cale, Jon Hassell, Laraaji,Talking Heads and Devo, and the no wave compilation No New York (1978). Eno has also continued to record solo albums and work with artists including U2, Laurie Anderson, Grace Jones, Slowdive, Coldplay, James Blake, and Damon Albarn.
As a visual artist he has been exhibiting regularly since the late 1970’s. His work is dedicated almost exclusively to the possibilities that the medium of light provides. In 2009, Eno was given the very rare invitation to exhibit on the iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House in Australia, achieved by using powerful projectors to throw the light across Circular Quay.
His current body of work includes light boxes, etchings and lenticular printing as well as sculptural and sound works. His light boxes seamlessly phase through infinite combinations of seductive self-generated ‘colourscapes’ using a series of interwoven LED lights. Their minimal compositions, the first of which he made at Ipswich Art School in 1966, make reference to early Russian art, Mondrian, and Suprematism in particular. Eno writes, “I’ve been trying to slow music down so it became more like painting, and to animate paintings so that they became more like music…in the hope that the two would fuse in the middle”.
Although recognised internationally for his art and music, prior to ‘Light Music’ at Paul Stolper Gallery in April 2016 described in one review as “a masterclass in the power of sound and vision”, Eno had not exhibited a gallery show in the UK since White Cube’s ‘Music for White Cube’ in 1997. Brian says of his practice ‘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 non-figurative 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 20th century, painters envied that enormously. There was that famous statement, “All art constantly aspires to the condition of music.” I think it was Walter Pater who said it. And in the early 20th century, the first abstract painting was an attempt to make something that behaved like music, in visual terms.’
Michael Bracewell in his essay for Eno’s ‘Light Music’ book, 2017, describes Eno’s art as “a space for the contemplation of individual experience”, where one is “encouraged to engage with a sensory/aesthetic experience that reflects the ever-changing moods and randomness of life itself”, and likens “the call of Eno’s art to that of, for instance, Matisse or Rothko at their most enfolding”.