A third set of images produced between Powerpoint and Photoshop, produced by way of a response to the cut-outs of Henri Matisse, this week’s Kick-About prompt. Something pleasingly opalescent getting started in some of these layerings, but reminded too of satellite images, and mid-century modern textiles and wall-coverings.
Our garden is increasingly full of skeletons, but not the spooky kind. One of the pleasures of Autumn is the way in which some plants continue to impress with their form and colour; never showy exactly, but comprising subtle effects inviting closer inspection and reappraisal. Taken at the end of Summer 2013, these fennel heads are a case-in-point.
More images produced as part of my response to The Kick-About No.38, which took the cut-outs of Henri Matisse as its prompt, and more images resulting from an improbably happy marriage between Powerpoint and Photoshop. In contrast to the these previous images, I enlisted one of Powerpoints ‘ready-mades’ – an off-the-peg icon of some seaweed with some passing resemblance to some of Matisse’s own plant forms. Different visual chemistry this time around, with the layerings resulting in mosaical effects, putting me in mind of Gaudi.
Henri Matisse turned to scissors and coloured paper for expediency to produce his celebrate cut-outs, which surely derive their energy from that directness. In thinking about my approach to The Kick-About No.38, I wanted to identify an equivalency for Matisse’s scissors – a ubiquitous tool – and the speediness of producing shapes, for then combining in different ways. So it was I began my image-making with Powerpoint – oh yes, the infamous ‘presentation-maker’, notorious as software for producing will-sapping slides to be shown in under-ventilated rooms.
One of the application’s off-the-peg tools is ‘Insert Shapes’ – which allows you to draw simple shapes with a quick drag of your mouse, and then colour and outline them as you see fit. I used Powerpoint to produce collections of basic shapes – circles, rectangles and squares (and later, some of Powerpoint’s cookie-cutter plant form icons) – and then brought these ‘cut-outs’ into Photoshop, where I set about layering them one on top of the other with as much immediacy as I could muster.
I started simply at first, with just circles and squares and some dotted outlines, and very quickly lots of nice things happened, with the layering producing some effortlessly nostalgic effects. My mouth began to water a bit, wishing I could occupy a few more timelines, wherein I was a textile artist, or designer of vast tiled murals in brand spanking-new tube stations, or Great Exhibition-style posters celebrating the ‘shock of the new’.
It perhaps won’t surprise you to hear I got rather carried away, so there’s a few more examples of my fantasia on a theme of Matisse-meets-Powerpoint to share over the coming days.
Our last Kick-About together introduced me to an artist I didn’t know, Peter Mungkuri, whose monochromatic and illustrative paintings simplified plant forms in feathery marks and concentric circles. This week it’s Matisse, an artist with whom we’re likely more familiar, but whose cut-outs remind us of the joy of colour, form and working directly. But just before you settle down to enjoy this week’s showcase of new works made in a short time, a few words of congratulation to regular Kick-Abouter, Brisbane-based artist, James Randall, whose painting, Card Players, is a finalist in the 2021 Brisbane Portrait Prize. Boom! Congratulations, James.
“Matisse said collage was like ‘drawing with scissors’. Having been using collage to make images for quite a few years now, I know what he means. There’s something very direct and liberating about snipping away and playing with cut up paper. I find I can create such lively and dynamic juxtapositions that I’d never be able to make any other way. I think Matisse made his paper cut-outs when he was getting old and increasingly ill. The exuberance and joy in these simple responses to nature, made by a man who was nearing the end of his life, really touch me, and they act as a powerful tonic in these increasingly fractured and unsettling times.
I made this collage using paper I’d painted myself, along with cut up fragments from old magazines I’d bought in a second-hand bookshop. It was made after a magical encounter I’d had with a hare in the forest on the outskirts of Berlin last week. It was dusk, and I was having a break during a cycle ride through the woods. As I was sat on the edge of a sandy glade in the twilight, I noticed the hare, sat upright, about ten feet away from me. We looked at each other for a minute before he loped off into the trees. I’ve never seen a hare so close, they are such beautiful creatures, so when I arrived home that evening, I got out the scissors and paper and set about trying to capture the moment.”
“The idea here was to tap into the seaweed cyanotypes of Anna Atkins by cutting into one of my own, in this case of an iceberg, but sea-related nonetheless. Sadly, time ran out so it didn’t progress from there, but maybe I’ll develop the idea at some point, as it has potential…”
“I’m a big fan of drawing with scissors, as Matisse described it. But I didn’t pick up the scissors. For one thing, the bees kept swarming! Three more times. I mean, crikey! As soon I saw the prompt for the Kick-About, I thought of seaweed, (not bees) and in particular I thought of the seaweed I painted for When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna; the book I have just finished illustrating. There are several pages featuring the sea in this book, and in three of them, I took the opportunity to create underwater scenes full of colourful seaweed. So when I was working on ideas for the endpapers, one of them featured crabs and seaweed. I never finished this concept, because it didn’t seem as apt as some of the other ideas, but after spending a whole day painting tiny crabs, and working them into patterns, I did fall in love with this little guy hiding behind his seaweed…”
“Today, I revisited the unfinished endpapers and played around a little bit more.”
“A fun prompt with so much on-line inspiration available – thanks Evelyn and Chris! Rather than painting paper and cutting it out, I cut, curled and tore a couple of A4 sheets of blank paper then photographed them up close. Then I digitised them and Illustrator and Photoshop combined and coloured them. They evolved quite a bit over the two weeks.”
“Henri Matisse’s cut-outs got me thinking about the shapes that are left behind, not just the pieces cut out, but the effect of the space where the cut-out had been. I used first some old yarn, and them some strips torn from a magazine to glue, in a wrap, around balloons. After several coats of glue had dried and hardened, I burst the balloon and eased the remnants away from the inside of the shapes. Here are the resulting structures.”
“I also tried the same technique with some beautiful autumn leaves, but this was not very successful, partly becasue the leaves needed to be dried for longer, and partly because I cannot tie a knot in a balloon to save my life. The balloon just gently deflated long before the leaves were hard enough to support their own weight. But I could see the potential for some beautiful shapes, so I’ll just have to keep trying.“
I’ve used Matisse and his cut outs so many times as a reference; I found a cut out I photographed at an exhibition at the Boston Museum of Art, one I had never seen before then, and realized the top image reminded me of a devil mask, so that’s what I decided to do, in the spirit of Halloween. I used Mexican masks as an additional reference.
And a poem also in the spirit of Matisse:
The mask is mute—it does not
tell what lies beneath–
layers falling backward, a
way from the present–
unglued, it rearranges,
becomes paper becomes
scissors cutting through the air–
thought stilled before form
“Matisse turned to scissors and coloured paper for expediency to produce his celebrate cut-outs, which surely derive their energy from that directness. In thinking about my approach to this prompt, I wanted to identify an equivalency for Matisse’s scissors – a ubiquitous tool – and the speediness of producing shapes, for then combining in different ways. So it was I began my image-making with Powerpoint – oh yes, the infamous ‘presentation-maker’, notorious as software for producing will-sapping slides to be shown in under-ventilated rooms. One of the application’s off-the-peg tools is ‘Insert Shapes’ – which allows you to draw simple shapes with a quick drag of your mouse, and then colour and outline them as you see fit. I used Power Point to produce collections of basic shapes – circles, rectangles and squares – and then brought those ‘cut-outs’ into Photoshop, where I set about layering them one on top of the other with as much immediacy as I could muster.”
“This felt very much like a meditative practice, in which I lost myself in the process of creating such squidgy shapes with an abundance of colour. I wanted to reflect Matisse’s practice and keep things fluid, as he did in his old age. I felt very much like a kid again, by keeping things as practical as possible and avoided any overly cerebral thoughts, so a lot of these designs took on a life of their own, and I thoroughly enjoyed letting them be.”
“Working with a palette knife is refreshing, as it encourages blocking-out of form avoiding details early on in the process. Obviously quite abstracted, this is based upon a partial still-life within the studio, yet the colours were not local to the objects. Once dry I couldn’t resist a bit more control using a brush. Matisse and colour are joyous things to live with.” Oil on canvas board 25 x 25cm.
“I enjoy Matisse’s cut-outs because it’s the type of work that just makes you want to get some colour paper and scissors and get all arty and creative without any inhibitions. Unfortunately, when you use a computer it’s easy to forget all of that, and often I get lost somewhere in the fog of the minutiae of digital art and CG. To be honest, for a while I approached this in completely the wrong way, but in the end I just went with what I can only describe as the CG equivalent of some pieces of colour paper and scissors.“
“I love cut-outs. Mine rarely stay in 2 dimensions. I resisted hanging them and lay them on the background. I still want to hang them and see them moving. Time caught up with my wishing to make a little film of them spinning in space. Later maybe…”
“This was great fun! The wonderful fluid shapes of Matisse are just timeless. They fit in with today’s world as easily as when he created them way back in the 40s. I thought I would use October’s vegetable harvest for my design and chopped a red pepper and cabbage in half and made a sketch of them. Then I looked for some interesting’ Matisse like’ shapes. That actually was the easy bit! The more difficult task for me was arranging my cut out shapes and finding a colour scheme. After many alterations I was happy with my layout of some trees .I then decided to do a second picture and hey presto my shapes had turned into a vase of flowers with the help of a recycled painting that I always knew would come in handy.“
Chris Rutter & Evelyn Bennett
“Here is ‘Moss Man'”.
… and for your next hit of fortnightly inspiration, something literary with a seasonal touch of spook about it…
Artist Tereza Stehlikova’s Tangible Territory is ‘a platform that offers a space for various voices to meet and discuss themes relating to the role of the body, the importance of place and embodied experience, in giving meaning to our every day experience of life and art. By extension, it also reflects on some of the transformations initiated by technology, globalisation and now also the pandemic and to it related questions of embodiment versus disembodiment, being simultaneously here and elsewhere, present and absent in our bodies and our surroundings.’ The Tangible Territory Journal is a ‘celebration of power of creative process and as such, is an ongoing project of collective learning and improving, of sharing, collaboration, curiosity and open mindedness.’
Tereza Stehlikova works as ‘an artist, filmmaker and a senior lecturer. She holds a PhD from the Royal College of Art, where she researched the tactile language of moving image. She is currently engaged in a cross-disciplinary research, investigating how moving image can be used to communicate embodied experience. Stehlikova is a senior lecturer in still and moving image theory and practice, at the University of Westminster and also supervises PhD students at the Royal College of Art. She is a founder of Sensory Sites, an international collective based in London, generating collaborative exhibitions, installations and research projects that explore multi-sensory perception and bodily experience. She also co-founded Artesian, a journal for committed creativity, featuring the writings of John Berger, Don DeLillo amongst many others. Stehlikova has presented her research at a number of international conferences and her films and performances have been shown at a variety of film and music festivals around the world. More about her projects here: cinestheticfeasts.com‘.
Responding to Tereza’s call for submissions for the third edition of her Tangible Territory Journal, I shared Fundus, the short film made in response to The Kick-About No.30, and likewise wrote a short accompanying piece about lock-down, The Kick-About and of ‘making directly’ and ‘doing quickly:
“A few weeks back, the prompt for the Kick-About was ‘Fundus Photography’, with fundus pertaining to categories of retinal photography. Challenged to respond to imagery that was both ‘of the human body’, but also suggestive of more galaxial realms, I set about inflating a latex glove with water and floating it in a goldfish bowl filled with water coloured with some old black ink cartridges I found at the back of a drawer. As I was assembling these ad-hoc components (only let’s call it ‘playing’, for that is what it was), I had no idea I would soon be making a short experimental film in collaboration with another artist, Deanna Crisbacher. As I was holding the latex glove under the tap, I had no guarantee (or indeed much hope), that my idea would come to anything at all. Importantly, I suppose, I didn’t care. I didn’t know then, as I turned the water black with squirrelled ink, that I was in the early stages of making a strange little film offering up expansive, cosmic impressions born from a combination of domestic objects. I didn’t know then I might be writing about this project, even going as far as drawing out from it some final conclusion about the transformative and transportive power of creativity, of making directly, of doing quickly, and the value of community.”
Fundus was a collaboration between myself and Deanna Crisbacher, a short abstract film comprising images I’d produced for The Kick-About No. 30. Fundus has been selected for Motus Imago, a new film festival going by the subtitle, a ‘Showcase of Shapes, Puppets & Moving Things’ – which I’m very happy about. Fundus is indeed a ‘moving thing’, but what sort of a moving thing I’m not sure! This is from the festival organisers: “Motus Imago – Showcase of Shapes, Puppets and Things in Motion, operates in the scope of programming artistic projects that operate in a vast interdisciplinary field, in the scope of multiformat manipulation, from puppet theatre to moving image. Through works that move between current and traditional techniques, dramaturgies and animated forms and animation cinema. It values the experimental nature of artistic works for adults and children and is presented with a set of educational actions that will take place from October 2021 in Aveiro.” Sounds like fun! Thanks again to Dee for the wizardry, and to The Kick-About community for giving me the get-up and go to keep doing stuff and sharing it.
As the sun slinks lower and the evenings start earlier, I’m contemplating the prospect of winter with a touch of melancholy. Back in the high Summer of 2013, my friends and family paid Whitstable a visit, and it was all fish and chips, wind-burn, and the flying of kites. I look at these photographs today, and even though they are black and white and somewhat dramatised, I remember the heat, the way the noise carried across the shingle, and what a bloody nice day it was.
Another song, written years ago, the tune for which I’ve long since lost, likewise the chords, though when I read these words, the ghost of a melody is playing in some other small room of my inadequate memory palace. This ditty is upbeat and defiant. I was obviously feeling less heart-broken when I wrote this, and imagining for myself some kind of more dynamic trajectory. Looking back on these songs is like looking at a photograph of myself and not really remembering where I was at the time, or what I was doing, or who I was with; a snapshot, yes, but poorly archived. One day perhaps, I’ll return to some of these phantom songs and drag them back into their corporeal form.
i’m like a clock – tick tock – i’m like a clock that got stopped
like a pocket watch, like a pocket watch dropped
and my face got knocked and my hands, my hands kept still
I think it’s killing me, this time to kill
like a rocket-ship – dan dare – i’m a rocket-ship docked
got fins, big fins, but my rocket-ship’s locked
I can’t pull free, my countdown freezed, by gravity
I can see the stars but they can’t see me
but something in me is coming to be
like the crest of a wave on a listless sea
i’m spreading my wings, i’m leaving this nest
don’t look for me here, I won’t be with the rest
i’m that glint in the sky, hey, you keep the pie
the waiting is done, it’s my turn to fly
like a summer storm – flash bang – like a summer storm soon
got fire, enough fire, I could light up this room
but the horizon’s dark, though the air is charged and my heart’s in sparks
but let the lightening strike, let me make my mark
like tnt – stand clear – like tnt sticks
got a fuse, a short fuse, got a switch I can flick
my dial’s in the red, I’ve been juiced, I’ve been fed
now it’s my turn to lead ‘cause I won’t be led