I am starting this blog to document the process of my virtual artist in residence at BasementArtsProject in Leeds. In place of what would have been a physical exhibition to celebrate 10 years of BasementArt’s existence, we opted to do a virtual project that could get people involved in a way that would take them away from their zoom screens and out into the world a bit. The project I have come up with for this residency and exhibition is both an experimental departure as well as a reflective return within my practice. During the past 10 years my work has meandered between performance installation and participatory art through to the more solitary practice of painting. The current project introduces two new elements that have been sitting on the fringes of my practice for some time, but have never been fully nurtured: collage and sound.

My project explores individual experiences of sonic environments through mark-making, and I am inviting people to get involved in the process by doing some drawing, and recording some sound. The invitation is open to anyone who is interested to take part, so perhaps you, dear reader, may wish to take part too? The idea is to create a drawing of the sound you hear in a location of your choice, with your eyes closed, and press record on something that can record sound. The exercise involves using the physical art of making marks on paper as a way of tuning in to the sonic environment around you. Think doodling whilst on the phone rather than representational art; Rather than drawing a bird if you hear bird song, just tune in to the sound and allow your drawing tool to trace and interpret the textures and rhythms of what you hear as marks on paper.

I intend to use images of these drawings to create a digital collage – a kind of collective ‘map’ of multiple layers of marks and textures; and the sound recordings as samples to create an audio collage/ piece of music in multiple fragments. I intend to work with the textures and patterns that emerge in both the recordings and the drawings, looking for similarities and differences, to create both visual and sonic collages. These two elements will be presented together in a virtual exhibition space, which visitors will be able to walk around as if taking a journey through an imagined landscape.

To give a little background context; 10 years ago, almost to the day, was the opening reception of BasementArtsProject, a creative centre tucked away in the basement of a terraced house in South Leeds. It was my pleasure to be invited to make something for the opening exhibition. I wanted to create something that marked the unique nature of this art space as both a family house and a public facing gallery. I was really interested in the interplay between public and private, and the cosy togetherness of a gallery experience. For that exhibition I created a dolls house sized scale model of the house, which contained a small video on an ipod screen of the Davies family sitting on their couch repeating the words “this is our house”. When visitors arrived at the opening event, I recorded them saying the words “I am in this house”, and took a photo of them. The photos were immediately printed out and hung on strings around the dolls house, and the audio recordings entered a bank of loops where all voices mingled together on small speakers throughout the basement. For me the point of this work was really to mark what was happening at the time, to reflect on the fact that everyone was there together an an art event in a house, and how that in itself was special.

As the BasementArtsProject is now starting its 11th year, and to go ahead with the exhibition despite the current restrictions, it was decided to reflect on this moment by calling the current exhibition ‘We Are Still Here’. I wanted to create a reference to that first project I did there in 2011, partly as a way of acknowledging the journey of BasementArtsProject, but also as a way of looking back on my own creative practice over these years and how my work has changed. With the current project I see an opportunity to revisit earlier works, whilst bringing new energy and different directions.

Thus far I have created a scale model of the BasementArtsProject’s basement using the free online platform ArtSteps. The link to this will be revealed on 2nd April. The work will develop and evolve throughout April. I will be updating continuously as and when I receive new drawing and sound submissions. Artsteps has some really nice functions where you can add sound files to images as well as offering a guided tour which also plays sound at specific point. I am intending to use these functions to allow multiple layers of sound to be clicked and played, and a guided tour to create a narrative with both images and sound.

I will be creating this project entirely with the materials which are submitted and I hope to gather material from all around the world. So please, if this speaks to you and you would like to have a go at the sound drawing, please have a look at my website where I give more detailed instructions and a link to a google form to upload your materials.


I’ll be updating this blog throughout the course of the project, so do check in to see the progress! :)

Thanks! Kimbal



Making Sounds

I have always enjoyed playing with sounds, harmonising my voice with the microwave, tapping out rhythms on the table and beatboxing to myself when no one was around. I used to take a harmonica with me whenever I went travelling somewhere, and whenever I felt confident enough, I would get it out and play. Over the over the last couple of years I have become increasingly interested in working with sound, both in terms of making music as well as thinking about how I could incorporate sound into my visual art practice.


Not long before the start of the pandemic, I gifted myself a copy of Ableton and a MIDI controller, and borrowed an audio recorder. I was curious to explore mixing and layering sounds in a similar way to how I mix and layer paint. I wanted to use recordings of everyday sounds as a raw material, as if they were the pigment in a paint, to play the rhythms and melodies that I could hear inside my head. Whilst visiting my partner’s parents in Italy, I recorded some sounds from in and around their house; the sound of a creaky bathroom door, jangling keys and the clicks and whirs from machinery at a nearby factory. I wanted to capture the textures of the place I was in and then re-mix and re-imagine them as something else. By experimenting with my recordings and watching various YouTube tutorials, I figured out how to do things like turn birdsong into a baseline, a knock on a table into a kickdrum and a bottle of water into a gong. I am interested in the notion that a piece of music like this could be considered as site-specific, in the sense that it is not only inspired by being somewhere, but literally made of a place. I entitled my first track Troubled Stone Factories, as a reference to the what3word address of one of the recordings.


Drawing Sound

The idea of using a site as a source to create something is really at the heart of my practice. I am fascinated by the idea that something that has its own visual or experiential elements, can be transformed into something else entirely. Likewise by the fact that that transformation into an abstraction of the original, can be interpreted in multiple ways by different people. My recent project “Sonic Landscapes” explored how people’s experience of sonic environments could be captured through drawing. Through an open call, I invited people around the world to participate in my project by drawing the sounds around them with their eyes closed. I asked participants to tune in to the textures and rhythms of what they could hear, and to capture their perceptions of the sounds by making interpretive marks on paper. It was up to the participants to decide how to make their drawings, my only instruction was that they should try to avoid pictorial representations. (i.e., rather than drawing a sketch of a bird if they hear birdsong, they were to translate the sound on paper with marks.) Alongside the drawing I also asked participants to make an audio recording, either whilst they were drawing, or alternatively first to make a recording and then draw whilst listening back to the recordings on headphones – whichever option they felt more comfortable doing.


I then used images of people’s drawings and recordings to make an audio-visual collage consisting of a digital zoomable collage of the drawings, alongside an accompanying soundtrack. I arranged the drawings by connecting shapes, patterns and textures so that they would flow as seamlessly as possible into each other. I wanted the lines and textures in the drawings to appear as though they could be roads, contour lines and geographical features on a map.


The audio collage part of the work serves as a narrative for the image, proposing a possible journey through the map. It consists of sounds from both natural and urban environments such as waves, birds, bees, wind blowing through trees, car traffic, sirens, a ticking boiler, a barking dog, rain outside the window and the scribbling of a pencil. To make the audio work, I filtered samples down to their transients to create rhythms patterns based on clicks, scratches pops and bumps in the recordings. I created drum racks from percussive sounds and synth pads from more resonant sounds. I then worked with delays, reverbs, resonators and time warping to manipulate and enhance the sounds.

The piece in totality is an example of imaginative participatory mapping. Rather than a depiction of a place, or indeed places, it is a re-imagining of a collection of imaginings. It has its origins in reality, but it has been transformed into a fantasy world. Whilst listening to the soundtrack, viewers can explore the map and create their own journey, connecting the dots and imagining where they might be and where they might go next.


To take this project further, I developed a live version of the sound piece with looping samples that I could trigger and effects that I could manipulate while on stage. I performed this work live for the first time at Pri’s Art Salon in June, and it gave me such a rush that I really want to continue developing work in this direction. I feel like I have started a new chapter that celebrates the interdisciplinary nature of my work as an artist. Rather than trying to merge the various strands of my practice, I have created a totally new thing which I hope in turn will help to draw further connections between the conceptual aspects of my painting work and my participatory mapping projects. I am currently working on a couple of tracks using the Sonic Landscapes samples, and I aim to produce a mini EP. In the meantime, I am excited to say that I am going to have my first track released! Troubled Stone Factories is going to be released on vinyl as part of a compilation by Erbium Records this August which is now available for pre-order.


I am now more or less at the half-way point through my residency at BasementArtsProject. I have received a fair amount of contributions already in the form of drawings and audio recordings, and I have been working them in to the audio visual collage. In doing so I have encountered various creative challenges which is what I would like to dedicate this blog to writing about.

When starting this project I had it in mind that I was going to use the drawings to piece together in the form of a ‘map’. Fragments of personal experiences sonic environments from around the world would be woven together as if forming a map of a landscape. An imagined landscape that could perhaps be travelled through, using the collaged map as a guide. I wanted viewers of this map to also be able to hear sounds, or indeed a collage of sounds relating to specific details in the drawing. In my ideal scenario this map would be interactive, so that if you click on certain parts of the drawing it would play certain parts of a track. A viewer could effectively make their own journey through the landscape, and create their own piece of music in the process.

Firstly, I have had to confront my lack of technical expertise on the web development front. I am not a coder and my knowledge of HTML stretches as far as copying an embed code into an iframe! So my grand idea of an interactive map is off the cards until I find a collaborator that can help me develop this. I am all ears.. Let me know if you are interested! Since this project is initiated by my virtual artist in residence at Basement Arts Project, I thought it would be nice to have the work developing in the virtual BasementArts gallery space that I created on ArtSteps. However, this format has led me to confront challenges that I had not anticipated at first regarding the arrangement of space and time.

I should make clear that I see this whole project as a form of participatory cartography – a visual and sonic expression/ representation of spaces and experiences in those spaces. When looking at a map of a place (a real map of a real place), we are able to create an imaginary journey through that place by imagining ourselves walking down the streets represented on the map. Our movement through space always follows a linear trajectory. It may not always be a straight line, we may meander and double-back on ourselves, but nonetheless we do not get teleported from place to place. Even if we fly somewhere, we are still following a line through space. Landscapes however, continue in all directions, both horizontally as well as vertically. Their existence is beyond us, we are always just wherever we are. A map of a place (traditionally speaking) covers just the horizontal plane of a landscape, but nonetheless extends in all directions. It proposes that any number of trajectories, or journeys, across it could be possible with  a point A and a point B. A piece of music, arguably, has a similar linearity, it has a start and an end. Unless it loops infinitely, or modifies itself as an ever evolving pattern.

The map I am making is not of a singular place, but a collage of many places that are not next to each other in reality. My challenge as an artist is how to link all these places and sounds together into what could perhaps be read as a map of an imaginary yet continuous landscape. A landscape that you could travel through, from place to place on a linear journey without needing to jump from island to island. How do I place and arrange the images? and how do I arrange the sound accordingly?

This got me thinking about narrative. To what extent does a story need to have a fixed narrative, and to what extent can it be fluid and evolving. Is a narrative linear, or rather a web of interconnections?

Generally speaking I have been using the image as my starting point, and the sound elements have followed. Although as the map has become more complex, I have based my placing decisions on a combination of what kind of sound is present in the audio, and what textures, shapes and colours are present in the drawings. As I receive new materials to work with, the collage has grown from a central point. Similarly in a way to the growth of a village expanding into a city. Initially my placement of drawings and sounds was purely aesthetic, but as the project has grown, I have given more careful consideration to the types of spaces that are represented – whether they are they urban, rural, quiet, noisy, indoor, outdoor etc.

I initially thought that creating this project as fragmented images in the virtual gallery space would be the perfect way to experience this work, but I have since realised that it has made things more complicated. The map grows in all directions, but in order to display in in the online gallery, I need to divide it up into sections. Partly because the images become too pixellated when they are on a large scale, but also because in order to work with the linearity of an audio track with a start and finish, there needs to be a linear progression through the map, meaning that the journey around the room becomes a linear journey around a map that is not linear in its form.

In short, I feel that the virtual gallery is not the best way to present this piece. I think it serves as a great way of presenting it for the residency, and keeping it site specific. But in this format, it works only as fragments, each of which has a section of audio dedicated to them.  Instead, my preferred format is the zooming map, an online interactive image, closer to my original vision. I have created an example of this now on my website where the zoomable map can be viewed. https://www.kimbalbumstead.com/soniclandscapes

My plan from this point onwards, for the remainder of my residency is to continue growing the map, and using the audio as a series of ‘journeys’. So rather than there being a single audio narrative that uses all the samples from all the drawings, there will be a number of different audio tracks of around 10 – 20 mins each, which take a ‘journey’ from point A to point B in the map, utilising the samples from the points in the map (drawing and sound) that the journey passes through.



We are Still Here: Sonic Landscapes

My virtual exhibition at BasementArtsProject is now open. I have created a virtual gallery to resemble the basement in which the exhibition would have taken place if there were no restrictions. Bruce Davies of BasementArtsProject has meticulously photographed every nook and cranny of the basement, which I have transposed onto the walls of this virtual gallery. It looks and feels a little like an early 00’s computer game with dodgy pixelated graphics and walls that you can walk into if you get the wrong trajectory.

This will be my virtual residency space for the next month. The work I create in there will evolve continuously throughout as and when I receive new submissions through the open call.

I have received just a handful of submissions so far, although I know that there are quite a few brewing behind the scenes so I am expecting in the next week or so, the sound map will really start to take shape. As it stands, if you visit the virtual gallery you will see and hear some fragments of the collaged sound map. Fragments of people’s drawings and some modified and layered audio recordings. This is mostly experimental at this stage, but I am aiming to work both image and sound into some form of narrative, that the viewer can be led around to guide their experience of the work.

One really cool function of ArtSteps, is that you can layer images on top of each other. I’m not sure this is the intention, but if you hover an image protruding from the wall, you can layer it over another. I’m hoping to build the multi-layered collage in this way. Likewise this multi-layering can also be done with sound. There are three possible layers of sound that can be played simultaneously. I am going to play with this so that it is possible, as a viewer to create your own sonic experience by choosing the layers. It is limited to 4mb files so I’ve got to be selective, but that is also part of the fun I guess!

Here is a link to the exhibition