The history of decorated keyboard instruments ranges from harpsichords with Arcadian scenes to a painted piano by Damien Hirst. But when, in 2010, the Argentinian artist María Inés Aguirre (Mia) went into Steinway and Sons in Marylebone with a proposal to transform a piano into a colourful three-dimensional work of art, something very special happened. .
There was at the time a Model D concert grand for sale, one on which Alfred Brendel, Murray Perahia and Andras Schiff have performed. Steinway gave Mia the go-ahead to paint it. The only conditions were that she must do the work at Steinway Hall and not let a single drop of paint fall on the soundboard. So part of the showroom became a studio and Mia spent seven months turning a black Steinway Model D into Dancing Soul. She was supported and encouraged not only by the world's best piano makers but also by someone said to be one of the world's best paint-makers, Michael Harding, whose oils are used by artists such as Howard Hodgkin and David Hockney.
Months later, when the paint was dry, the piano was taken to Kings Place where five outstanding pianists, Alexandra Silocea, Charles Owen and Katya Apekisheva, Juan Gallego-Coin and Julian Joseph brought it to life with the excellence of their music. Dancing Soul is now safely back in Steinway's window.
As a child, Mia spent many hours painting at home while her mother, an artist and gifted pianist, played Mozart. Mia's feeling for the relationship between music and painting is deep-rooted. The brilliant light and colours of Argentina and the fusion of music, dance and visual art created by Diaghilev and Les Ballets Russes were further inspirations..
In his foreword to a forthcoming book about Dancing Soul, the critic Edward Lucie-Smith writes Rather than looking for ways to decorate an instrument...she has looked for ways to express its inner spirit...the colours and forms she has discovered clothe this superb instrument express the soul of the music that is performed on it.
The spontaneity and luminosity of Mia's work attracted the attention of the late Pierre Restany, co-founder with Yves Klein of the Nouveau-Realiste movement. In 2003 he wrote We have become too intellectual in our ways of experiencing things. The dominance of rational thought over activities based on feeling prevents us from understanding the fullest dimension of any concept...for Mia emotion is colour and colour is the virtual expression od emotions.
STOP PRESS Mia is featuring a brand-new piano festival, It's All About Piano! (22-24 March) For more information click here:www.mariainesaguirre.com