Paint the Town in Sound: Online Exhibition

In 2019, Sunderland Culture approached Mercury Prize nominated Sunderland band Field Music to see if they would like to work with us on an exhibition exploring the relationship between art and music. We were inspired by the City’s long standing independent music scene, and excited to start the countdown to the 2021 opening of a major new music and performance hub in Sunderland, The Fire Station.

Field Music were clear what they wanted from the exhibition:

“for people to see something of themselves, because we all use music and music culture as a way to construct our identities, and as a way to tell stories about ourselves. Whatever your background, the desire to make or remake your identity from songs and images seems universal.”

What emerged was Paint the Town in Sound. This online exhibition examines the direct links forged between musicians and artists, taking Field Music’s own collaborations as a starting point to explore wider themes. The artworks in the exhibition, drawn from the Arts Council Collection, offer a fascinating insight into the musical heritage of the region providing a route to examine our own cultural identity and its relationship to class, politics and place.


Listen to the Paint the Town in Sound Spotify playlist, specially curated by Field Music to accompany the exhibition.


“We all borrow elements of music culture – clothes, hairstyles, language – as a way of expressing ourselves to the outside world. What we choose and why we choose it feels like a fundamental part of human expression.” (Field Music)

“Pop music can’t really be untangled from pop imagery, and that can blur the lines between fact and fiction. Sometimes we want to be swallowed up by an entertaining vision rather than search for a mundane truth, but perhaps to tell the whole story you need both.” (Field Music)

“In every town and city, there are people putting on gigs, making records, printing flyers, forming collectives and generally putting themselves out in the hope that it’ll lift their community and change things. You might have to dig for it, but it’s there…and that might be where the art is happening.” (Field Music)

“A record sleeve might be the most immediate and effective way a band or singer can say something about themselves. If you put a group of them in chronological order – even if you only have records with a North East association – you get a sense of the sweep of music history – the ebb and flow of the music industry, of musical movements as they come and go, and of fashion.” (Field Music)

Take a closer look at…

– Susan Phillipsz’s sound installation The Internationale (1999), which is also part of this exhibition. Find it outside Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens in Mowbray Park on the terrace near Holmeside Coffee

– the Sunderland Musicians Collective / The Bunker exhibits

album covers by North East bands


This is the second in our series of Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme exhibitions. Find out more about the programme here.

Main image credit: Evan Ifekoya, The Gender Song, 2014. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © the artist.

Paint the Town in Sound installation views, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, 2020. Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme exhibition © Sunderland Culture. Photos: Colin Davison

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