Last time it was fairies and other flights of fancy. I think many of us enjoyed the opportunity for a spot of magical-thinking. This new edition of the Kick-About begins with the no less improbable city of Ersilia, one of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities – a conurbation of string!
“Here is my offering for this week’s prompt. Sure I’ve gone way off point on this one but was serious fun to get stuck into! When I first read the prompt, I straight away thought of those giant spiders’ webs that entomb entire trees, plus slum like city streets in Asia with endless electrical cables overhead, somehow feeding the city despite their chaotic appearance. Painted in Photoshop over the course of a weekend.”
“I found this latest kick-about very interesting and thought provoking and feel it would be a great book to read in lock down. Unfortunately I am not so speedy a reader and have done my own interpretation and this is what popped into my head: a small town dwarfed by huge poles and wires and cables, much like telegraph pylons can do across a landscape. So this would be before the inhabitants have become too fed up and decided to move on. It seems people can put up with so much and then it’s like the last straw somehow. Anyway, I began by a fine liner doodle, added a watercolour background and attached some threads and thin ribbons. The little houses were an afterthought and I tried to make them 3D with some folds. I enjoyed the process a lot and for once it all went to plan!”
“Here is a quick and dirty of my concept for “What if the strings became the reflections on buildings – ephemeral layerings that would gently blow away…”
“I’m beginning to think I might have strayed too far from the prompt, as I changed from a more literal interpretation involving Venice (as all the cities are about this) and its buildings, to the point at which the people leave therefore entering the world of refugees – the “links” being their possessions which, over time and their journey, are discarded until, on arrival at whatever destination, they are left with nothing but memories….these are the ‘strings’ that bind them. Here, each layer is placed on the next, gradually erasing all evidence of what went before.“
Graphite on paper
Graphite on fine Japanese paper on above image
Graphite on fine Japanese paper on above image
Photo on acetate under tracing paper on above image
Tracing paper over above image
“The Kick-About prompt immediately made me want to take actual thread and do something three-dimensional to represent the abandoned city of Ersilia. Cardboard boxes were my starting point. Weaving my embroidery floss with a needle between the supports I cut and folded up, it became obvious how the city inhabitants became tangled in a state of impasse, forcing them to move on. I decided to do a landscape background–the text spoke of viewing the deserted city from the mountains–and I spent a lot of time laying out possible landscapes on my floor from the collage references I had. I then dismantled and retaped a box to make a sort of diorama and glued the landscape pieces down.Then I had fun rearranging the threaded bones of the city and photographing it from different viewpoints against the background.I read “Invisible Cities” in 2016 and posted a review on Goodreads. At the end I wrote: “Certainly it inspires visions that could be transferred to paper…and perhaps some of them will come to form for me at a future time.” And so they have.”
“I was fascinated by this idea of relationships made visible, connections physical, and wondered if I could do the same for one family. I took a family group consisting of 2 parents and 5 siblings. 4 of the siblings married (2 of them twice) and between them produced nine grandchildren. 7 grandchildren married, and between the nine produced 14 great grandchildren. I created the basic blood relationships with crochet chains made up from the colours of both parents, not as a physical representation of DNA, but because the parent-child relationship is often the single biggest influence on an individual, though many other relationships will impact as life moves on. I then began to weave single filaments between grandparents, and grandchildren, between siblings, between cousins, between aunt and nieces, uncle and nephews.
This “construct” is by no means complete, and I have not attempted at this stage to integrate the webs of connections brought by those who married into the family. But the little I have done has revealed much to me about the complexity of the web that we are born into, and that we build around us. It has highlighted how some relationships are simple and straightforward, others tangled and convoluted; some are loose and relaxed, others taut, and under strain. Some connections disappear from view only to turn up later,as if they have always been there, others fray or break, or just atrophy. But all of them have some influence on the people we are and the lives we lead.
This #Kickabout 13 has probably made me think harder than any so far – and the Ersilians included trade and authority relationships as well! No wonder they upped sticks and started again somewhere else!”
“I thought of opting out for this fortnight, but then I remembered the unfinished practice run on paper. I chopped it into strips and collected my family into eight piles. Two teens, myself, Scott, and all four grandparents. Although one of them isn’t with us any more, he is already deeply woven into the fabric of our family. Then I took up a discarded piece of work from an earlier kick-about and began weaving the strands of the family together. So this is my family. Though separated by space, and even time, we are woven inextricably. Our colours harmonise and clash depending on the day and on which other threads are adjacent, but we strengthen each other over all. And a tug on one thread will summon help from several other threads.”
“Chopping sections off into small interludes was a fun follow up. Here are some mini family interactions.”
“What a great kick-about this Ersilia is! I am busy with lectures and classes but couldn’t get it out of my mind. Calvino’s narrative is always so evocative of images, and more. He is one of my heroes who has accompanied me since I started reading, and indeed sparked my love for books and stories. Unfortunately I had not much time to realise all the images that came to mind, so this is just a quick sketch – a beginning for some future work.”
“Our garden is full of threads at the moment; the elaborate, death-defying webs of the orb spiders. They made me think of the inhabitants of Ersilia, and their structures. I wanted to weave my own webs out in the garden, so I did , much to the consternation of all the house sparrows watching me beadily from the safe harbour of the hedge. My original idea was to embrace colour, but the skies above me were grey and my mood somehow more sombre than that. I imagined instead coming upon the abandoned buildings of Ersilia, an explorer taking pictures of a vanished civilisation using his unwieldy camera on some unwieldy tripod. I imagined the sound of the wind in all the wires; and how haunting a sound like that might be. I recalled my childhood fear of pylons marching across the countryside, and ultimately settled on these rather melancholy images.”
“I’ve always wanted to make a film around the uncanny. The uncanny was brought to the surface again with a previous kick about, which saw me reflect on the creepiness of my dad’s basement. The ropes and strings of Calvino’s Ersilia really stuck out to me as a place that suffocates, those ropes like fungus and disease, growing and grasping to bring back again what belongs to the earth.”
“Just a concept painting this week, but I really loved the prompt all the same. I may revisit this city sometime to explore further!
What with Ersilia being based in the plains, all I could see were golden fields bathed in golden light as the sun went down. I imagine Ersilia’s people would opt for simple structures if they knew they’d be upping sticks at some point to start again. I wonder what else they leave behind in the ruins?”
“I was intrigued by the subject and Francesca Maxwell said it reminded her of some of my work. I did not have much time to create new work as it was the weekend before the deadline. Here are the images that I felt contained some of the feeling of these deserted cities….from deserted nests and webs and the cardboard constructions I have made called ‘Fragment’. The last painting is more recent and seems to me like the unravelling of a structure seen through a web of threads.”
As the weather worsens and the daylight diminishes, I felt we needed to kick our heels up and have a bit of a boogie – so as inspiration for our next run-about together, I’m offering up Norman Maclaren’s 1941 animation, Boogie-Doodle! Have fun!