Susan Philipsz is best known for her arresting site-specific sound installations that deal with notions of loss, longing, hope, mourning, trauma and grief. The 2010 Turner Prize winner often showcases her work both in public and gallery spaces.
Seven Tears was recently purchased for the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art with support from the Contemporary Art Society, the Henry Moore Foundation and National Galleries of Scotland. It is comprised of seven synchronised record players – modified with a specially designed software system – each playing a single tone taken from Lachrimae or Seven Tears, a collection of instrumental music composed in 1604 by John Dowland (1563 – 1626). Considered the composer’s signature work, Lachrimae is based upon the motif of a single falling tear. As with much of Dowland’s music it is melancholic in mood and follows the tradition of the Baroque lament by giving expression to the fleeting nature of happiness. To create the audio work, Philipsz took seven individual tones from Dowland’s Lachrimae and produced each on tuned glasses filled with water and played with a wetted finger on the rim. The recordings were then rendered onto transparent vinyl records.
Susan Philipsz (b.1965) lives and works in Berlin. Seven Tears is exemplary of a long-running strand of Susan Philipsz’s practice in which, rather than using her own voice, the artist employs and deconstructs the compositions of others. It is also among numerous works in which Philipsz uses physical equipment as both a means of replaying sound and as a sculptural entity in itself. In addition to being the first work by Philipsz to enter the National Galleries of Scotland collection, Seven Tears is also the first major sound and software based artwork to join the museum.