Summer, 2009: a day trip to Shellness, on the Isle of Sheppey, noted around these parts for its nudist beach, but what I enjoyed about our visit was the beach’s silence and its strangeness. Another one of those end-of-days places with an atmosphere all of its own.
A few evening’s back, we went out to Sheldwich to see the field known as Church Plantation, with its dazzling crop of echiums. We weren’t the only people drawn to the improbable spectacle of blue, pink and white flowers, with its thrumming of bees, a young couple parked up and staging photographs for their Instagram accounts. We got there late, the sun all but gone, which meant the echiums were kicking out an almost neon-like glow, their green stems making for welcome contrasts, and the white echium flowers smattering the rolls of blue waves like foam.
Another quartet of Rutenberg-inspired abstract photographs, inspired by the Kick-About No.32. Once again, the images are the result of first fabricating and painting some cardboard maquettes, which were then used as ‘Lego bricks’ to produce the sorts of three-dimensional terrains suggested by Rutenberg’s panoramic painting, Low Dense.
A bit of good news re. the Kick-About-inspired short film, When I Was A Boy, I Collected Pebbles From The Beach; it has just made the official selection for the Nature & Culture – Poetry Film Festival 2021, which means it will be screened in Copenhagen on the 21st and 28th of November at Kulturhuset Islands Brygge and added to The Poetic Phonotheque archive.
What with the influence of the Kick-About No.32, things have been rather abstracted on here of late, so I was minded to share these twenty-eight year old paintings for today’s retrospective post. They date from the very first week of my Art Foundation course and we were challenged to draw a still life of bottles, vases and kitchen crockery in a cubist-style. The original paintings – such as they were – are long destroyed, so these are photographs of photographs, but I can easily recall how nervous I was, sitting before my A2 drawing board on the studio floor, not knowing anyone in my class, and hoping I wasn’t about to balls everything up.
The Kick-About No.32 introduced me to the paintings of American artist, Brian Rutenberg and his loose, vibrant abstracts. What followed for me was an ongoing exploration of form and colour, starting with cardboard maquettes and ending with the production of a series of abstract compositions produced by photographing the maquettes. Different installations under different lighting conditions produced a range of interesting results. This set was created by photographing the assembled maquettes through a sheet of glass, which itself had been painted with a few expressive strokes of a fat, dry brush. More to come.
After the first big hit of colour, the next most immediate thing I got from Rutenberg’s painting (the prompt for The Kick-About No. 32) was its three-dimensionality, that strong sense of folded planes and faceting, as if we’re stood on the floor of some Technicoloured canyon, staring off into the distance, or more precariously, standing with one foot on either side of a rainbowed crevasse, and looking down between our feet at the prismatic chasm below. This was a vista I could feel with my fingers and I found the desire to build some Low Dense-inspired ‘chunks’ irresistible.
Fabricated quickly by folding cardboard and taping it into shape, and reaching once again for some tried-and-tested PVA goop, I whipped up some ‘Ruten-Bergs’ and then painted them up in a manner meant to emulate some of the characteristics of the painting.
That done, I pushed my Ruten-Bergs together in different configurations and photographed them in various different ways, under various different lights, until I was achieving some suitably painterly effects. I tried it lots of different ways, including photographing the Ruten-Bergs through a sheet of glass also daubed brushstrokes. Not all the resulting images were ‘on brief’, but I found some of them interesting enough nonetheless. I’ll be sharing a few more examples and different iterations on here over the coming days.
This cruel-looking apparatus dates from my Art Foundation course back in 1993. I even remember the brief giving rise to it, or rather the typically nebulous phrase selected by our tutors to so inspire our creative exertions: ‘Information Gathering’. I must have been reading a bit of Edgar Allan Poe at the time, my imagination taking me, in a few short bounds, to The Pit and the Pendulum. I imagined a sort of portable torture chamber (like you do) – part toolbox, part-music box – and I was thinking about movie props and set-dressing and production design for stop-motion animation, which is where my head was at the time. The box itself – long since consigned to a skip – stood about 2.5 feet high maybe, its various contraptions cobbled together from found objects – an old band-saw blade from the college workshop, the screw from my mum’s old meat-mincer… I presume I asked permission before swiping it from the cutlery drawer, though I can’t be 100% sure!