System of a Down’s Serj Tankian mixes music and painting in a new art exhibition

When people walk into Serj Tankian’s new art exhibition in La Cañada Flintridge, the Grammy award-winning singer of Glendale-based rock band System of a Down doesn’t just want them to enjoy the visual representation of his mostly abstract and mixed media paintings.

He also wants them to put on earbuds and bob their heads along to the artwork, since these pieces were designed to include an audio element as well.

“One of the things that always interested me was the idea of scoring a painting,” the 55-year-old rocker and artist said during a recent phone interview of his new “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” exhibition, which opened at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada Flintridge on Oct. 9 and runs through Nov. 1. “At first I thought of doing it for another artist, another painter. And then eventually I thought to myself, ‘You know what, I wonder what music would look like if I painted it?’”

Visitors take in paintings on opening day of Serj Tankian’s “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada running from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Serj Tankian, the lead vocalist and lyricist for System Of A Down discusses his artwork with fans during the opening of his art exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada. The show, which runs from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1, is called “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” and is made up of paintings that each come with its own musical score that people can listen to as they view the work.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Serj Tankian, the lead vocalist and lyricist for System Of A Down poses for a photo during the opening of his art exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada. The show, which runs from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1, is called “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” and is made up of paintings that each come with its own musical score that people can listen to as they view the work.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Serj Tankian, the lead vocalist and lyricist for System Of A Down poses for a photo with Mariam and Kristina Ghazaryan during the opening of his art exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada. The show, which runs from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1, is called “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” and is made up of paintings that each come with its own musical score that people can listen to as they view the work.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Marine Attarian uses her phone to listen to a musical score while enjoying a painting while touring Serj Tankian’s “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada running from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Visitors take in a painting and musical score while touring Serj Tankian’s “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada running from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Serj Tankian, the lead vocalist and lyricist for System Of A Down is opening an exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada running from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1 called “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity.” It’s made up of paintings that each come with its own musical score that people can listen to as they view the work. October 9, 2022.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Visitors use cell phones to listen to musical scores while enjoying paintings at Serj Tankian’s “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada running from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Visitors take in a painting on opening day of Serj Tankian’s “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada running from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Carlo Baghramian and Seven Sardinian take in a painting and musical score while touring Serj Tankian’s “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada running from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Serj Tankian, the lead vocalist and lyricist for System Of A Down is opening an exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada running from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1 called “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity.” It’s made up of paintings that each come with its own musical score that people can listen to as they view the work. October 9, 2022.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Serj Tankian, the lead vocalist and lyricist for System Of A Down signs an autograph for a fan during the opening of his art exhibition at Stephanie’s Art Gallery in La Cañada. Running from Oct. 9 – Nov. 1 called “Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity” is made up of paintings that each come with its own musical score that people can listen to as they view the work. October 9, 2022.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

of

Expand

The exhibition is made up of 18 original pieces, each embedded with a musical score created by Tankian.

“More than what you’re going to see, what I’m interested in is what you’re going to feel,” he said. “You’re going to listen to each piece.”

The music that coincides with each of the paintings features a variety of genres including rock, electronic, classical, acoustic an ambient-style works. Some of the musical pieces are all instrumental, while others may include poetry and other vocals.

“I think the music and art both co-inspire,” Tankian said. “Mostly I’m inspired by the music to create the painting, but there are times where I’ll paint freeform and I’ve done a lot of it recently and I’ll say, ‘What is the score of this painting? What is the musical tone of this painting?’ And I’ll go and either compose a piece or pick a piece from my own library that I’ve never used before that really speaks to these paintings.”

Related Articles

Music + Concerts |


Elton John will perform at the 11th annual LACMA Art+Film Gala

Music + Concerts |


Graham Nash talks new tour, Joni Mitchell, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Music + Concerts |


Blink-182 reunites with Tom DeLonge, announces Banc of California Stadium show

Music + Concerts |


Crypto.com Arena reveals new food concepts, walk-out concessions, other upgraded amenities

Music + Concerts |


Dr. Dre, Lil Baby and Jimmy Iovine back Prop. 28 to dramatically boost arts schools

The corresponding music will be accessible to the viewer through an app called Arloopa. As guests stand in front of the paintings, they can point their phones at the artwork and listen to the original compositions. If they purchase the piece, they’ll be taking the song home as well.

“If they want to walk away with a piece, they can go and put it up on their wall and still listen to the music using the app,” he said. “They’re the only ones who will be listening to that music with that painting when they take it home.”

Tankian originally had the idea of combining paintings and music years ago while hanging out with friends who were also painters. He’s now created more than 100 musical paintings since he began pairing the audio and visual arts back in 2013.

And for Tankian, he said becoming a painter was as natural as creating music; all he had to do was let himself go and surrender to the moment.

“When I play music or when I do art, there is absolutely nothing going through my mind,” he said. “I am completely at the will of the muse, completely at the will of the moment and I go where my arms go. I don’t think about things.”

He also finds equal satisfaction in both his music and painting.

“It’s really the same thing,” he said. “It’s no different if someone connected with a piece of art you’re doing, art being music, then that’s rad because that had an effect on someone, it reached someone. It’s the same thing with a painting.”

“Shapeshift: A Dynamic Dive Into Diversity”

When: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Stephanie’s Art Gallery, 466 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge

More information: 818-790-4905 or stephaniesgallery.com