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Harriet Carter

Visual Arts, Birmingham City University

Thesis title:

Beyond Transposition? Exploring painting and the metaphysical through birdsong and Olivier Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseaux.

The research interrogates the mechanisms of transposition between the auditory and the visual. Painting practice is undertaken to explore ways for the intangible transience of birdsong to be encountered in the still, silence of painted surfaces. Investigations of Messiaen’s soundscapes in field trips undertaken in the South of France provide material of auditory, visual, and other phenomena and is explored through the construction of painted surfaces. The painted surfaces seek the unknown and intangible ephemera of natural birdsong that metamorphosise between painted layers, in comparison with Messiaen’s imaginative musical responses in his field notebooks and ‘Catalogue d’oiseaux’. The stillness and silence of the paintings attempt to apprehend fluctuating sound, located somewhere between abstraction and figuration, pushing the boundaries of transposition as both method and concept. 

Research Area

  • Visual Arts


Carter, H. (2020) Drawing birdsong: A comparative analysis between the electronic and the human. Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice, 5(2).

Carter, H. (2020) Shared birdsong? Exploring Messiaen's Relationship with Place and Birdsong through Drawing. In: M. Collier, B. Hogg, J. Strachan, eds. Songs of Place and Time: Birdsong and the Dawn Chorus in Natural History and the Arts. [e-book] Manchester: Gaia Project. 


'Painting as birdsong? Transposition as method of research practice between the auditory and the visual', 8th December 2019, CARU Arts re Search Conference 2019, Oxford, UK.

'Birdwatching', co-authored with Dr James Fisher of University of Gloucester, 14-15th May 2020, Research in the Arts, the Arts in Research, Cultural Literacy in Europe, Lodz, Poland [Zoom].

Public Engagement & Impact

Invited talks

'Writing workshop: Peer-review, publishing, and editorial roles', 17th November 2020, Material Encounters Research Cluster, Birmingham, UK.

'Paris, Tuscany, South of France 2019', 25th September 2019, M4C Residential Induction, Warwick, UK.

'Confusing, Tricky, Research Defining', 13th March 2019, ADM PGCert in Research Practice's workshop for part-time students, Birmingham, UK.

'OneNote in a painting practice-led doctoral research project', 20th February 2019, PGR Studio's Filtering the Universe, Birmingham, UK. 

Group organised events

Coordinator of creative showcases, M3C Research Festival, May 2019

Co-organisor of 'Spice-Up Your Write', Eastside Projects funded through the PGR Studio Researcher's development Award May, 2019

Volunteer organisor, PGR Studio's 'Inside//Out Research Festival', January 2019

Selected group exhibitions
'Light and Shade', Christmas Steps Gallery, Bristol, June 2018
'A Study of Colour', The Gallery, Kenilworth, July 2017
'Moving On, Staying On', Blok Studios, Worcester, 2017

Other Research Interests

Print making

The visual voice

Practice as research


Cultural Literacy in Europe. 2019-present

Material Encounters, Birmingham School of Art. 2018-present.


SEDA, Learning and Teaching in HE, March 2020

Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice, January 2019