Inspired by the paintings of Aboriginal artist, Peter Mungkuri, whose work was the subject of this week’s Kick-About, I returned to this Menken-inspired technique to produced some pared-down impressions of desiccated seed heads and grasses. Despite the colours some of us might readily associate with paintings evoking the Australian landscape, Mungkuri’s paintings are monochromatic, and so, in the first instance, I wanted to work in that range too. The resulting images were wintry and very much of the English cottage garden, meadow or coastal path, but much less this second group, which shimmer with heat and blaze with the colours of baked earth.
‘Monochromatic plant forms’ was the start for me, in response to Peter Mungkuri’s 2019 painting. Punu Ngura, the latest prompt for The Kick-About No.37. I was curious to see how ‘slightly’ I could depict my subject matter, how stripped down, and then use some of the techniques from this previous Kick-About response to produce particular effects. I was also thinking about the direct image-making of producing cyanotypes and how you only get one shot, and how the immediacy of the process produces happy accidents and unpredictability. The resulting images combine drawing onto painted glass (or is it etching?) with long-exposure photography, and I was happy with the resulting mood of them; plant skeletons under moonlight, or plant skeletons crisped with hoar frost.
As a bit of a gardener myself, I am endlessly enthralled by the sheer variety of plants and their various habits and habitats: our previous Kick-About featured a uniquely rare blossom, and this week, it is artist Peter Mungkuri’s celebration of the treasured trees of the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands of north western South Australia inspiring us to produce new work in a short time.
“My mind instantly wanted to create some cyanotypes, with their mesmerizing deep Prussian blue and infrared white, a process that is always a joy and I never tire of.”
I take Mr Mungkuri’s works to be about a sense of place, memory and stewardship of his country. I tried to evoke a similar sense of capturing memories and the way they integrate but change and blur.
“This image was an attempt at getting a kind of scratchy illustrative quality using the tools that I would typically use to make more polished CG work. I liked the somewhat otherworldly quality of the prompt, so this image, through trial and error, evolved into this big and mysterious organic-looking structure.”
“This work is stunning, so a huge thank you for bringing Peter Mungkuri into my world. To Australian Aboriginals, the land, and all who dwell in it, is sacred, interspersed by marks of great significance. Finding one of the nearest parallels here, I looked back at Medieval Catholicism, where people lived their belief system (sadly that didn’t stretch to the natural world) and pilgrimage was a part of that, so… the circlet of Rowan berries (symbol of the Tree of Life/ protection in Celtic lore) is a kind of ‘votive card’, a prompt on the journey; to remind us we are part of a greater whole (this is where we depart from established religion) where the Sacred truly lies. The woodland floor is ‘now’ – not a Pre-Raphaelite romance, but the reality of finding pharmaceuticals scattered among the beech maasts…”
Rowan circlet. Graphite and watercolour on paper. 6” X 6”
“Pills and Beech Maasts” Graphite on Gesso. 2’ X 4’ ( Diptych)
“I love Aboriginal Art and especially Peter Mungkuri. He paints such wonderful patterns, shapes and colours, which are indicative of his memories of his country. I also learnt he is passionate about teaching the younger generation about taking care of their homeland. Good on him! Whilst doing my research I came across a game the Aboriginies played using stones painted with symbols, with which they used to tell stories. I thought I would try doing a similar thing. Unfortunately, there seems to be a shortage of smooth round pebbles in my area and I spent more time looking for suitable stones than painting them! I tried to think of symbols young children would easily recognise and could turn into a story.”
“‘Monochromatic plant forms’ was the start for me in response to Mungkuri’s painting. I was curious to see how ‘slightly’ I could depict my subject matter, how stripped down, and then use some of the techniques from this previous Kick-About response to produce particular effects. I was also thinking about the direct image-making of producing cyanotypes and how you only get one shot, and how the immediacy of the process produces happy accidents and unpredictability. The resulting images combine drawing onto painted glass (or is it etching?) with long-exposure photography, and I was happy with the resulting mood of them; plant skeletons under moonlight?”
“This painter was a great inspiration, and I am sad not to have spent more time on it. Where I live I am gratefully surrounded by trees in the centre of a busy city. I feel their presence all the time, as I work at home. However, when I am out, the sensation of trees affected by light is what inspires me and gives me their stories. I was intrigued by the black and white of the images. Unusual for me to see Aborigine paintings in monochrome. So I have included 2 drawings in Black and White However I couldn’t resist including the tree outside my window that supplies me daily with stories in full colour, especially at this time of year.
Chris Rutter & Evelyn Bennett
“Here is our ‘Tree of Life’.”
“The layering of the different elements got me thinking about an idea from Claudia McGill that I had copied and saved which I recently found when sorting out files. She took a magazine and tore pages partially out to create a new layered collage-like image. I did not have any magazines with trees, but I have lots of surfing magazines I bought on eBay because they are full of images of sea and sky to use in collage. So I layered the ocean. My poem is a shadorma quadrille for dVerse, using the word provided by Linda, linger.”
waves that cross over
in curved lines,
waves that land
inside the pause of the edge,
waves that linger cusped–
a small piece
of time, and yet it
fills me up–
holding on to tides synapsed
between spells and signs
“I have been looking at some aboriginal art for some time and thinking about how to incorporate the shapes and tones into crochet, so this prompt was just what I needed to give it a go. This first attempt is very simplistic, but I enjoyed creating it, and will definitely return to this prompt in the future.”
“The prompt could hardly have been more suited to me and my natural inclinations. It’s inky and leafy and Australian. What strikes me most is the combination of the loosest of ink splatters with far more careful and detailed patterning. I was going to explore some inkiness yesterday (Yep! Last minute again!) to see where an observation of Mungkuri’s work might take me, especially with regard to the use of white ink patterning over the top of the looser ink layers. But before I could begin something happened… Our bees swarmed! Later, I had a bit of a go at my inky exploration of Peter Mungkuri’s plant drawings, but my mind was full of bees. And joy. So it became an illustration of Hugo and me, arms uplifted to the swarming bees.”
With thanks to Evelyn Bennett and Chris Rutter, we have our all-new prompt – the cut-outs of Henri Matisse. Have fun!
Something from the not-so distant past this week: a moody-looking scrap from the work I produced in response to one of our earliest Kick-Abouts, taking Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as its muse. These images resulted from first producing a series of architectural pencil drawings, then photographing those drawings as curved or folded surfaces, before finally collaging the resulting photographs digitally in Photoshop.
Another spooky little something from my one long night in the Summer of 2016, spent within the palatial environs of No. 351. I enjoy the cinema of this particular image; you can almost imagine the team of set-dressers coming in to ensure the peeling wallpaper is peeling ‘just right’. This is the stuff of movie posters, and the covers of those Fontana books of ghost stories from back-in-the-day. This is that big book of Unexplained Phenomena we had on our bookshelves when I was a kid, still playing out in my imagination.
Taking Sheila Legge’s image and Kafka’s Gregor Samsa as equal parts inspiration, I arrived at this short story as my response to The Kick-About No.36. There’s a bit of horticultural knowledge in there too, a thing about nasturtiums thriving in the poorest conditions, and likewise, the situation unfolding in Afghanistan for women and girls. Despite the story’s seemingly outlandish premise – a woman waking one morning to find her own head transformed into a vegetal ‘lump’ – it wove itself together with surprising ease, proving once again, to me at least, how genre is placed perfectly to tell the truth.
You’ll find a PDF version here.
With its sepia tint, post-card proportions, and London landmark, this week’s prompt, Sheila Legge’s Phantom of Surrealism, might just as easily have surfaced as part of our previous Kick-About, inspired by the word souvenir – though, as holiday snaps go, this one could take some explaining. This week, Legge’s abstruse tableau has prompted paintings, collage, computer-generated landscapes, creative writing and some rather extraordinary headgear… Happy browsing!
“This prompt made me think of world conditions acting on Surrealists – where do movements come from – so my response is a meld of the flower head with environmental issues, and how I think the level of denial everyone has, to so many issues, comes into play.”
“Using the kind of desert backdrop that sets the stage of many surrealist paintings, I set out to create some of my own phantoms in the desert, and had a go at generating some suitably dreamy visions inspired by the motifs in the photograph.”
“When reading about Sheila Legge’s inspiration behind her walking real surrealist exhibition, and how she was so inspired by the paintings of Dalí, I decided to create some Dalí-esque dream-like landscapes, while paying homage to Legge’s faceful of flowers.”
“Taking Sheila Legge’s image and Kafka’s Gregor Samsa as equal parts inspiration, I arrived at this short story. There’s a bit of horticultural knowledge in there too, a thing about nasturtiums thriving in the poorest conditions, and likewise, the situation unfolding in Afghanistan for women and girls.”
You can find an online PDF version here
“I’m not sure if this is surrealism or the stuff of nightmares! I think, subconsciously, I was reflecting on the plight of women under the Taliban regime ,and on other women who are trying to break free from cruelty etc. Don’t ask me what the blue doughnuts symbolise – maybe hunger? Enjoyed doing this and definitely made me think and be thankful.”
“I was surprised to find this photo was taken as early as 1936. When I first saw it, it reminded me strongly of a 1950-60’s fashion shot. I have no references for this, it was just what came to mind. However, it got me thinking about fashion, face-coverings, Gertrude Shilling and Afghanistan’s women, and I started working on hyperbolic crocheted decoration for an old straw hat. However, while hyperbolic crochet makes amazing, wonderful shapes, the process itself can be tedious, and as I worked on it, my brain ran on to thinking about what had prompted Sheila Legge to create that image in the first place. What was she trying to convey? What was I trying to convey? The old straw hat was discarded, a new hat structure created, and as my hands worked on the hat, my brain worked on the process, resulting in the short poem below. The poem came after the hat, so it may make sense to read it after viewing the images. Or not at all. Up to you.”
It starts as a glimmer, little more than a glow,
A smouldering fuse that might spark or no.
But then it starts burning a hole through your brain,
And scuppers your routines, sleep derailed like a train.
Once it colours your vision and pounds in your ear,
Ties you up in the passion, the self-doubt, the fear,
And even your loved ones decide to steer clear –
Then you’re in the grip of a Brilliant Idea!
“Robert Benayoun suggested that while Surrealism exalted ‘la femme’, the Surrealists did not equally revere ‘les femmes’. The histories of female Surrealists have often remained buried under those of male Surrealists, who have gained wider public recognition. Well, Sheila Legge with her head covered, sums this up nicely, as does the Magritte painting surrounded by the above. Referencing their artwork and naming all the mainly, “forgotten” women, I felt went somewhere towards redressing the balance!”
René Magritte, I Do Not See the [Woman] Hidden in the Forest, 1929
Vanessa Clegg, Ink and watercolour over print, (2021)
Chris Rutter & Evelyn Bennett
“Here’s a drawing called ‘Leigh Bowery Look 8’.”
“I had a lot of ideas for this, but only had time for one. Perhaps I’ll get to the others for some future collage. The statuesque quality was what stood out for me, and of course, I can never resist birds…”
into borrowed wings eclipsed
by casting out light
“So there’s a coincidence! Just when I was reading the short stories of Leonora Carrington, who met Max Ernst and became involved with the surrealists in 1937 at the age of 20, the Kick-About veered into the very same territory with Sheila Legge. All I have to offer the Kick-About today is the beginnings of a… something… featuring some bird-headed, flower-headed women. They will possibly eat one another. I may add colour if there’s anything left of them by tomorrow…”
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, James Randall, our new prompt for our thirty-seventh run-around: Peter Mungkuri’s Punu Ngura (2019). Have fun and see you back here soon for another celebration of creativity, process and lateral-thinking. As ever, looking forward to it.
I’m happy to report When I Was A Boy, I Collected Pebbles From The Beach (2021) has been selected for the Crossings Poetic International Film Festival 2021. Thanks very much!
In the old house, No. 351, there is, remarkably, and old internal chapel, with blue walls and stained glass. The whole set-up is filmic and theatrical, like something from a children’s book, in which amazing spaces reside behind rather ordinary doors. For this week’s retrospective offering, a few more images from my residency at 351, not seen or shared before.
Back in early December 2015, I travelled out to Hirson, France, to oversee the screening of this animation in concert with the Orchestre de Picardie. It was coming up to the end of the autumn term and I was knackered, but not especially. On the trip out to France, I had the makings of a stye in my right eye. My eyelid was red and a bit swollen, but again, this was hardly remarkable after the long first term of the academic year, after all the screen work, late-nights and usual running around after undergraduates.
But as my trip continued, it soon became clear something more serious was going wrong with my face. The swelling of my eyelid increased, then the first of the blisters appeared, and the top right quarter of my face began to puff-up in different places. I was stuck in France without the ability to come home early, and anyway, the show had to go on, so I skulked in the shadows like the guy from Phantom of The Opera. The orchestra’s stage-manager began calling me ‘monster face’ and insisted I go to A&E, whisking me away in his car to a filmically deserted French hospital, where I was looked at with naked curiosity by the doctors on duty – who, it seemed, had never seen anything quite like it before. They (mis)diagnosed me with a bacterial infection and gave me antibiotics. Then, with one more day to go before the long road trip home and back through the tunnel under the channel, I began to feel very unwell indeed. My colleagues, who’d accompanied me on the trip and were due to sit in the same car with me for the journey back to the UK, were compassionate, but wary. My face, it seemed, was beginning to slide from my skull and no one was talking about just how unpleasant I was starting to look.
Home finally, my husband putting me to bed and hiding his distress at my sudden and unexpected transformation, I slept. Never have I been more grateful to be in my own bed and safe. The following morning, I shambled to the doctors; by now, something odd was happening to my nervous system, in that I was struggling with noise, and with light, hanging on my husband’s arm like an elderly person, flinching at every passing car. I was diagnosed with shingles immediately – chicken pox essentially – a virus more usually suppressed very effectively by our immune systems, but which had now attacked my trigeminal nerve on the right side of my face. Soon afterwards, I was on powerful anti-viral drugs and my situation improving. The portrait above was taken a few days after that treatment had started. I actually look much better in this photograph, which isn’t saying much, but should give you some idea as to just how gruesome I was looking when my shingles was at its worst.
I share all this for this week’s Friday retrospective, not to simply put you off your food, but rather to reflect wryly on the irony of this particular illness, or rather on how apposite a malady it was. Even as I suffered with it, too weak to eat more than a teacup’s portion of mashed potato, the fried nerve-endings of my face misfiring with a sensation like the crawling of ants, a part of me was amused at the specific aesthetic of my predicament. After all, the best Christmas present I ever had was Dekker’s Movie Horror Make-Up – a Do-It-Yourself self-disfigurement kit of highly questionable taste, its popularity with a particular sort of child riding high on the horror-boom of the late 1970’s and early 80’s, so ignited by the box-office and critical success of The Exorcist and parallel publishing phenomena of Stephen King. When I was given the horror make-up kit, I certainly hadn’t watched The Exorcist or read any Stephen King, for I was much too young, but my creative imagination had already been fired by the idea of spectacular transformations and rubbery technologies designed to corrupt human flesh or monsterise it.
The kit itself was straightforward enough: you mixed up your ‘Flex Flesh’, a sticky goop deriving from powder and water, which you then poured into ‘wound moulds’, which, once set, produced Haribo-like exit wounds, gashes and lesions ready for sticking to your own face with spirit gum. Happy as a pig in mud, I enacted terrible simulations against my own face, my mum soon tiring of finding me ‘dead in the broom cupboard’, or lurching from behind my bedroom door, fake blood oozing from the bullet holes in my forehead.
Years later, my Horror Make-Up Kit long since consigned to the wheelie bin of history, I still found excuses to disfigure myself in the service of special occasions, like Halloween parties requiring zombification. With no handy sachet of Flex Flesh at my disposal, I turned to the famously fishy, eye-watering stink of latex adhesive, applying the stuff directly to my face from the glue bottle. Once touch-dry, it then becomes possible to fold your skin together, nipping and tucking to produce scarring, blisters and dreadful-looking delaminations.
As recently as last week, I was at it again for The Kick-About, splashing the Copydex about my much older, much saggier person to produce a series of canonical mutilations in the pursuit of some postmodern tomfoolery. This time, I was applying layers of latex to parts of my face damaged and discoloured permanently by the Human alphaherpesvirus 3. Even as I did so, I couldn’t decide if this was funny, or just deeply insensitive to my own self, or, more worryingly, if I was once again inviting the cosmic joker to play at ‘life imitating art’. I’ll tell you this for nothing though; one of the big differences between me as a child gluing rubbery things to my body, and me at forty-six doing the same, is the no small issue of then extricating said same rubber things from your own excess body hair… And I thought shingles was painful.