A second set of photographs produced for The Kick-About No.67, inspired by the lustrous upcycled installations of El Anatsui, and fabricated from the metallicised wraps around supermarket toffees.
I can’t date this photograph exactly, though it was taken at some point in the early 2000s, but I can tell you where I was when I took it: somewhere along the banks of the River Slea in Lincolnshire on a winter’s morning. Looking like one of those heraldic banners, I was obviously drawn to this surviving crisp of grass and snapped it using my old 35mm camera.
Whenever I pop over to visit my parents, I’m heartened by the small bowl of toffee eclairs on the table in the hall. On my way back out the door, I always pocket a couple to sustain me on my journey home. The toffees come wrapped in these blue and gold twists of metallicised cellophane, many of which have found their way into the washing machine. Once washed, these wrappers take on a very pleasing patina, exfoliated of much of their original gaudiness and turned instead into these rather more translucent, opalescent swatches. I wondered if I could assemble a few of the wrappers together to produce a very small scale homage to El Anatsui’s extraordinary tapestries-come-sculptures – our prompt for The Kick-About No.67.
While not convinced I managed that exactly, I found myself instead thinking about geological strata and seams of gold, about crystalline caves and fantastical canyons.
Our previous Kick-About was an explosive affair, as Turner’s Mount Vesuvius in Eruption re-surfaced the land, sea and sky with glowing skeins of lava and fired our imaginations. No less spectacular are the sculptural installations of artist El Anatsui, whose enormous, glinting mosaics drape gallery walls like bejewelled magma. Enjoy this latest showcase of new works made in a short time inspired by Anatsui’s works.
“On seeing El Anatsui’s incredible sculptures I felt exceptionally inspired to make. There’s something about his process of turning discarded relics of human mass consumption into objects of such beauty that resonated with me. Over recent years I’ve collected bucket loads of plastic from various beaches in Kent, never really knowing what to do with them, suddenly when I laid a bucket full out on the work bench, I started pulling them together and adding some order, which is what I got from Anatsui’s work, order brought to valueless trash. As the wired-together plastic was only about a foot across, I cut out and painted a wooden frame, as if the silhouette was intentional.”
“I had some other intentions as to what could happen making use of this collection of old photos inspired by El Anatsui yet, by the end of mucking-about, this assemblage gave the impression of Rome’s Pantheon inner dome and gazing upward through the central opening to the sky. I wasn’t even thinking about it yet, I did just return last week from Rome. Might be nice to glue the whole lot to the spare bedroom ceiling.”
“I very much admire the work of El Anatsui and his amazing way of using recycled items such as bottle tops and turning them into fabulous artworks and metallic cloth sculptures. I was trying to think of a way that I could emulate such wizardry and came up with the idea of weaving some of my stash of old ties. I used some black crinkly wool for the weft threads, which I stretched over an old picture mount to make a loom. Next, I cut the most colourful ties into long strips and threaded them in and out as the weft threads. I must say I was rather surprised at how a few vividly coloured gents’ ties (from the last few decades) could transpire to resemble a wonderful African fabric, but weirdly they do!“
“I’ve reverted to a grid, echoing El Anatsui’s use of recycled materials. I wanted to sew the squares together, so I needed something fairly thin. I painted newspaper in 3 ways with watercolor–one primarily red, one blue, and one with neon spatters. I then cut them into 2 x 4 inch pieces and folded them into squares. I used embroidery floss to sew them together – the back with the threads also makes an interesting piece of art I think. There are many other different variations I could do with this, both using different papers and different ways of sewing the squares together. I’ll certainly keep it in mind for one of my monthly grids in the future.”
“I came across El Anatsui’s work many years ago at the October gallery in London. I loved their enormity and grandeur from such a humble material and maybe subconsciously some years later I found myself drawn to using cardboard, a material that I could recycle and obtain easily. Curiously, when I went to Mexico to make a sculptural piece for a contemporary dance company, I found that finding and selling-on cardboard for a poor Mexican was a way of making a living! So looking at these wonderful looping hangings I am attracted by the metallic and repeating rhythms interrupted by a fold. There is something Mediaeval about them as well like illuminated manuscripts. With these thoughts in mind I turned to a piece that I had started last year but was uncertain of its development. I have added a second row as it were that twists in an opposite direction like cable knitted jumpers. Ultimately these rows will grow but they are time consuming to complete right now. However I have been wanting to add colour to these structures for a while so here is my trial . Taking the idea of illuminated manuscripts and vaulting on Cathedral ceilings, I have painted them differently on the two sides. The result in some ways is more like an old fairground and the colour only appears as it twists round.”
“Whenever I pop over to visit my parents, I’m heartened by the small bowl of toffee eclairs on the table in the hall. On my way back out the door, I always pocket a couple to sustain me on my journey home. The toffees come wrapped in these blue and gold twists of metallicised cellophane, many of which have found their way into the washing machine. Once washed, these wrappers take on a very pleasing patina, exfoliated of much of their original gaudiness and turned instead into these rather more translucent, opalescent swatches. I wondered if I could assemble a few of the wrappers together to produce a very small scale homage to Anatsui’s extraordinary tapestries-come-sculptures. While not convinced I managed that exactly, I found myself instead thinking about geological strata and seams of gold, about crystalline caves and fantastical canyons. I’ve also been thinking… I really needed to eat more of those toffee eclairs!”
“This was perfect timing for me as I did a 2 day course in collograph (no experience..total beginner) over the last fortnight and the result seems to fit the prompt. What I was aiming for was a block of specimen samples, the little glass slides that fit into a microscope. Insects and organic-like textures were my subject matter, with a lot of experimenting and, of course, mistakes but for me that’s what makes it an interesting process as the semi-lack of control can lead to surprising and unlooked for effects… More exploration in the future!”
“I had many ideas inspired by the wonderful work of El Anatsui. I love the texture and the concept. It must be amazing to see them in person, unfortunately I never have. I watched a documentary about his work and how labour intensive it is and I also love how much creativity he allows his helpers and the curators exhibiting his work. I am a scavenger myself, and over the many years working in theatre and stop motion animation, I collected all sort of rejected bits and pieces. I particularly love metal and I am fascinated by metal mesh, it looks like shimmering fabric. So I put together a mix of found and bought steel, copper and brass mesh photographed and assemble as a mosaic. I don’t have enough to do a large drape like El Anatsui.”
“What you are looking at here is the tinfoil leftover from a steak pie, coloured with multicolored markers, photographed, warped and collaged together in photoshop to mimic El Anatsui’s illuminating repurposed sculptures. For scale and grandiosity, I then popped them into an artplacer app.”
“Of course the message is our environment’s degradation. I have been trying to put together a few key words that encapsulate my concerns but it’s complicated. Let me start by admitting my own guilt: plastic and petrol are still a part of my life. I should have added apathy to my list. Nobody seems to discuss over-population or education focusing on engineering and sciences that enable petrochemical industries (at the expense of arts and humanities, which question our actions…) let alone company (not government only) reparations for years of ignorant profiteering at the expense of the world community – so my few words became several ‘dot’ points. One of the materials that El Anatsui uses is flattened bottle caps – I started my piece by drawing one on computer, then repeated it in on overlapped pattern that reminded me of Islamic art, so I fiddled with the graphic of my list to pursue Islamic text and that set my piece’s style. I think of this work as an environmental incantation.
“El Anatsui takes the discarded detritus of modern life – bottle caps, wiring, scraps of aluminium – and transforms them into something that moves and breathes and drapes like the sheerest fabric. I don’t have access to much of that type of material, but one thing I have in abundance is yarn swatches. I am always making small swatches to try out a new yarn, a new stitch, a colour combination or just to get the tension right for a new project. Sometimes these swatches get incorporated into a piece of work, but mostly they just sit in a bag in one of my work boxes. I also have some knitting needles that I haven’t used in years, dozens of excess crochet hooks and hundreds of blocking pins. So, a couple of hours of folding, twirling, sticking and pinning later, a pile of nothing very much has become something colourful and cheerful, which might, conceivably, have occurred naturally in a garden.”
… and courtesy of Charly Skilling, we have our next prompt: the narrative quilts of American folk artist, Harriet Powers. Have fun!
These photographs of the glorious foliage of a Staghorn sumac tree were taken in the garden belonging to my late grandmother at some point in the mid-2000s – can’t remember when exactly, though I remember actually taking the pictures themselves; walking down the flight of enclosed concrete steps that led down from Grandma’s first floor flat and out into the garden at the back, where this tree opened out from a small central bed like a festive umbrella.
A concluding set of photographs produced for our recent Vesuvius-inspired Kick-About – a crowd of ash-entombed individuals just passing the time.
The prompt for The Kick-About No.66 was Turner’s 1817 painting of Mount Vesuvius in spectacular eruption… which inspired this response from me; a casual gathering of ash-encased bystanders left pondering the apocalypse.
A showing here of one of the series of photographs taken at Number 351 back in the summer of 2016. At this point of my all-nighter in this old abandoned house I was sleep-deprived, but happy, searching its rooms for obedient and showy apparitions.
A few points of reference going on in these images produced for The Kick-About No.66, as inspired by Turner’s 1817 painting, Mount Vesuvius In Eruption: of course, those ash-encased bodies of Pompeii’s unlucky inhabitants, entombed where they embraced by the volcano’s pyroclastic flow, but also memories of watching the news in the aftermath of 9/11, people walking through the city streets, bewildered, made ghostly by their lamina of ash.
I sourced some of those little people architects deploy to bring their scale models to life, coated them with a few blasts of hairspray, then rolled them in wood ash from the stove. I was particularly taken by the figures’ humdrum poses and, in some strange way, find the resulting photographs comforting. It’s as if those poor Pompeiians got up off the floor one day and resumed their lives, chatting, flirting, popping down the shops…
In contrast to the sombre and sepulchral offerings of our previous Kick-About together, this week’s collection of new works made in a short time is a more explosive affair. Inspired by Turner’s painterly apocalypse, enjoy the flash and sizzle of our own creative outpourings. Boom!
“My take of an explosion of some kind, more of an emotional kind, I think, so I wanted to feel surrounded by and immersed in it. Not the beautiful and dramatic rendition of Turner’s Vesuvious one – close enough to make us feel the power of it but from some safe distance. Nor the fireworks we seem to get these days, more noise than light! I used to love watching the fireworks over the sea for Genova’s Saint Patron’s day as a child. It was a glorious spectacle of lights, colours and patterns, mirrored on the water surface – and far enough not to be too noisy. I suppose now we need to be more environmentally conscious with these things as well. Hope you all had a fun weekend!“
“It came to mind I had previously done a painting entitled “Volcano”, albeit about 55 years ago! This was when I was at senior school and the reason it has stuck in my mind… is because I never actually finished it! I had painted people trying to escape, and running away in panic from a volcano, but the thing was the bell rang for end of lesson before I had time to put in their faces! It was therefore quite a surprise for me to see, about a week later, my unfinished masterpiece hanging on the wall outside the headmistress study! It was even more of a shock when the headmistress herself happened to be walking by, as I stood with my mouth open saying to some friends “Blimey! That’s my picture up there!” She gave me a very stoney stare (which others who went to this same school may vividly remember) and said “Did you mean for all the people to be faceless?” I was always taught that honesty is the best policy so I said, in a very feeble voice, “Well actually Miss I didn’t get to finish it” Wrong answer. Next day my painting had disappeared from the wall.”
“When looking at images of volcanoes, I am always struck by the contrast between the life and heat and light and movement of the explosions and the lava flow and the cold, dark, stillness of the ash and landscape left behind. I have tried to capture some of this contrast with a freeform crochet, approximately 25″ x 38″. I used a yarn with sequins for the lava itself, the sequins reflected light giving life and movement Other yarns, with a fine silver fleck running through them, helped bring a suggestion of light and movement to the more distant volcanic cloud and the night sky. The landscape surrounding the volcano is made up of greys, charcoal and blacks, with streaks of fire giving the terrain some definition. Finally, an old tree, lit by moonlight on one side and firelight on the other, stands poised at the moment the first flames begin to lick – on the cusp of flaring into destruction.”
“1983: I close my eyes. Hearing the crunch of hardened lava… a calcified sea leading into the forest… ascending into the thinning air, straining the lungs, weakening the legs, pumping the heart… progress slowing. Six hours later: emerging into mist, temperature dropping, giant pointed succulents scattered over rubble, light failing, crawling to the crater’s lip, peering into the depths… a stomach flip from the power and scale… molten lava hidden by cloud smoke. Three metal huts… most without floors… just below the peak. Eating out of tins, curling like squirrels into a deep damp sleep… the bass notes of the mountain penetrating our dreams.”
Mt Meru, Tanzania, stratovolcano (last eruption 1910) Walk: 2001. Pen and ink on paper
Nyragongo, Congo, live stratovolcano last eruption prior to walk in1977) Walk: 1983. Pen and ink on paper
“For many years I had this desire to go up a volcano on horse-back. The fact I had never been on a horse before was not going to deter me. My dear friend Penny, who died a few months ago in Mexico, was Don Quixote to my Sancho Panza. Jesus and his little son, Simon appropriately led us up the volcano. There was no-one else for 8 hours. So the prompt this time for me was not the blazing furnace of a volcano erupting, but the life-changing experience of climbing this steaming, breathing volcano. It had grown to eruption in 10 years in 1952, enveloping the pueblo and ending abruptly at the altar of the church. From the top you can see across the whole of Mexico and the fault line runs steeply down to South America. When we arrived back to Guadalajara I made this first painting. It was as if the volcano had entered my entire body, so visceral were the feelings. We hardly spoke for hours. Here is that drawing and a detail of the core. I selected out a photo of the volcano landscape itself, so still, silent and empty on the downward slope, a complete opposite of the Turner eruption and magnitude of its flaring torment. The earth talks to us very clearly. I hope the politicians are listening. Maybe they should take them up to the top of a breathing earth next time – rather than a mega-rich paradise!”
“Way back in 2008 we walked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand – eight hours, 19kms – along the way reaching the top of the still active red crater. A fabulous walk full of fascinating natural wonders- a yellow lake, emerald lakes, areas of snow, waterfalls, steam rising from rocks and amazing colours. When we got home I spotted a photo I had taken of a ridge line which was part of the track and there was a row of tiny people one after the other on it. Who knows how many people walk the track every day, but it would be enormous. I wouldn’t want not to have undertaken this marvel trek, but the impact on nature must be devastating. So my image is of the pleading volcano – I suppose a comment on over population. Also time for a gouache painting I thought. And I was inspired by several of the last Art challenge submissions that took a simpler approach – not that I achieved simplicity here, but I really liked what they achieved!”
“Turner’s painting of Vesuvius is so sublime, so epic. I can’t compete with that, so I’ve gone to the other end of the scale – a bit of a damp squib compared to Turner’s fiery mountain. I photographed a fire demon who has lost his mojo. He should be running around causing mischief, but he’s over it and doesn’t quite know what to do with himself; what does a demon do if he’s not wreaking havoc? His demon friends think he’s a loser and ordinary folk run away screaming. He doesn’t fit in anywhere these days. He did go off and get a prospectus from the community college last week, so that’s a start…”
“A few points of reference going on here: of course, those ash-encased bodies of Pompeii’s unlucky inhabitants, entombed where they embraced by the volcano’s pyroclastic flow, but also memories of watching the news in the aftermath of 9/11, people walking through the city streets, bewildered, made ghostly by their lamina of ash. I sourced some of those little people architects deploy to bring their scale models to life, coated them with a few blasts of hairspray, then rolled them in wood ash from the stove. I was particularly taken by the humdrum poses of the figures and, in some strange way, find the resulting photographs comforting. It’s as if those poor Pompeiians got up off the floor one day and resumed their lives, chatting, flirting, popping down the shops…”
“I was awestruck by the colours of Turner’s painting, especially the light and darkness, and contemplated how the land after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius would have been nothing but dark ash and charred to a crisp, the poisoned, suffocating smoke billowing into the air, the wispy remains of trees, and how the lava cemented the landscape. I decided to comb through the surplus of landscape photography I have of rural Ireland, and gave a whirl to producing apocalyptic, darker hues. Here are some mixed media images created by digitally painting over my photography of those images of rural Ireland.”
“Vesuvius has always seemed cosmic to me, so I consulted my stash of cosmic reference photos in order to construct some collage. The third one didn’t work as I originally created it, so I cut it into two—much better. And when, after doing the collages, I did a little research and discovered that Venus is the patroness of Pompeii, I thought: perfect! I’ve also put together five volcanic haiku to make a cadralor. According to Wikipedia, “The root of the word Pompeii would appear to be the Oscan word for the number five, pompe”. Venus is also associated with the pentagram, another five.“
in search of Venus
what season is this?
dark, enigmatic, grown wild–
spilling from our eyes
the madness of fire–
consummation and release,
sweeping life away
inside opens out
what was not, now is
random lines break down–
the page explodes, caught trembling–
from nothing, vast light
the locus that gyres–
gravities of orbiting
become somewhere else
“KA coincided with a nice surprise of an abundance of flowers arriving to the house. Try-outs to capture the explosive nature of this group proved difficult, until the rain chucked it down beneath a heavily overcast sky. I simply rotated the vase 90 degrees, trying to capture subtle differences. I find it is with zoomed-in examination that things appear really sensual. Zoom-away to freely discover your own hidden treasures. ”
And for our 67th run-about together, feast your eyes on the extraordinary sculpture-come-wall-hangings of the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, who uses recycled materials to produce huge, sumptuous installations: “Anatsui refers to himself as both a painter and a sculptor. He essentially ‘paints’ and builds up colour and pattern with the bottle-caps – with his works have been compared to traditional Ghanaian kente cloth, Western mosaics, tapestries and paintings by Gustav Klimt…”