Ted Kurahara: Paintings to the Music of Morton Feldman
each painting acrylic on canvas 36"x36".    click images to enlarge

Notes by Zahra Partovi

In 2019 I had begun planning to make a new film focusing on the music of Morton Feldman, this time a longer feature length documentary entitled “Immortal Whisperer”. Since Morton Feldman felt that his music was strongly influenced by visual arts, I decided to engage a visual artist to be part of the project. After selecting “Triadic Memories” as one of the compositions, I knew just which painter would be the best match for that piece and hence I approached abstract painter Ted Kurahara.

I needed to film Ted while working and late in 2019 he called to say that I could go to his studio. At the studio Ted was working on square canvas primarily applying layers of red paint. He said he will alert me when the painting is ready. Covid delayed that visit for more than a year.

When in 2021 I walked into Ted’s studio to see the final painting, to my surprise, the painting was not red anymore and I understood that the work in progress red was just the first under-layer. By now the painting was a hue that he called Cadmium Red with UltraBlue and you could see how he had layered on from the original red to this deep ultra blue. Since the first day in 2019 when I had brought the score and the audio of ‘Triadic Memories’ performed by Karl Larson to Ted, he had been listening to the piece continuously while he was in his studio. He told me that he was very taken by the extremely high and low registers and the floating, hovering quality of the music.

When that day in 2021 I asked him if we could now announce the painting inspired by Feldman’s ‘Triadic Memories’ he said no! “I am not finished yet.” He said that he was working on 3 more paintings as part of this project.

Several month passed and in early 2023 I received a call from Ted that his new paintings are ready to be seen. All four paintings in this series have some recurrent elements, most notably rectangular markings on top, bottom and sometimes on the sides of the painting. He said the markings represent the music notes moving around in his color spheres. He also said that for the painting called Sienna, he began with a very deep charcoal black and then applied a much lighter tone of paint thus creating what he said is an old technique making the final layer floating on top. This was another representation of the ‘Triadic Memories’ Ted had felt so deeply.

Due to Covid, the original “Immortal Whisperer” film has evolved. Now there are several shorter films each representing a single composition by Morton Feldman. The section with Feldman’s ‘Triadic Memories’ performed by Karl Larson and paintings by Ted Kurahara will be “Immortal Whisperer 4” to be released spring of 2023.