Consider this a sequel of sorts, as back in March 2021, I photographed and catalogued a selection of my own keepsakes, the emotional importance of which I couldn’t actually remember. Molly Drake’s small, beautiful song,I Remember isn’t so much about the fallibility of memory, but rather the different ways in which we remember the same thing. Drake’s song – prompt for The Kick-About No.61 – also captures very truthfully how the significance of something can be quite wasted on someone else – even those closest to us.
With this in mind, I turned my attention to some of the objects with which I share my home, but with which I have no emotional association, but which resonate very powerfully with my husband. I see a rather retro-looking glass paperweight, while my husband experiences a Proustian rush returning him at once to the comforts of his grandparents’ home and all the love he found there.
There are objects collected here the provenance of which is still unknown to me, and their emotional heft as mysterious, but ‘he remembers firelight’.
“My story begins with our family holiday to Dorset. It was probably early 60s and I think we were staying in Swanage. We were usually quite lucky with the weather, but it was not to be this time. As we had no car then, my parents decided on taking a nice coach trip to Lulworth Cove which was a famous beauty spot not far along the coast. My sister and I wore our summer dresses and warm hand knitted cardigans, as it was getting a bit chilly, but when we arrived at our destination the heavens opened and rain looked likely to be set in for the rest of the day.
‘Quick – let’s run up to that beach shop’ said mum. ‘We’ll buy something waterproof there for you both.’
My heart sank, as I could see at a glance it was a typical seaside shop that sold everything from buckets and spades to thermos flasks, and Mary Quant it was not!
So in we went and the kind lady behind the counter said, ‘I have the very thing – plastic macs!” My heart sank even further. She proceeded to pull out a white one for my sister, which had a small plastic headscarf, and as she was 4 years younger than me, it looked quite cute. However, despite a long search, there didn’t appear to be another in my size. Hooray!
Then just as I thought I had escaped, she found another bigger mac tucked away beneath the rest and, horror of horrors, it was luminous pink! I mean ‘day glow’ and ‘get your sunglasses on’ pink. (I know the sixties fashion was all about these bright colours, but this must have been very much a forerunner!). Even worse it had a matching hat, rather like an upturned flowerpot, that tied under the chin.
‘That’s just the job!’ said mum.
I spent the rest of the day skulking along the shoreline, trying desperately to hide amongst the overturned boats, but there was no way I could disguise myself; if I had stood on some rocks, I could have done a turn as a lighthouse beacon!
So that is my memory of Lulworth Cove, which is a place of peaceful serenity and muted beauty to many, but all I remember is psychedelic misery!“
“The source of much pain (for the individual) and much humour (for the group) lies in the gap between one’s aspirations (or expectations), and one’s achievements. This is particularly true when we are young and in love. We want to be ‘soul-mates’ with our loved one – to share the same experiences, the same emotions, the same memories. Alas, it is rarely achievable. We recognise Molly Drake’s pain, because we have felt it too. But it also raises a wry smile. For we have learnt, as we grow within a relationship, that no two people experience any shared event in the same way. So we adjust our expectations accordingly.
By the time we have aged within that relationship, we come to recognise that it is an achievement for any shared experience to be remembered by both of us at all, without several minutes of dispute over location time of year, weather, and reason for being there. And why is it that I find I cannot remember the name of a place, I cannot remember how to get there, or why – but I can remember exactly what we ate and the colour of the waitress’s nail polish? What’s all that about?”
“This one was a bit of a late starter for me. Having given some early thought to it and tinkered with water colour washes as a response to the words, the result didn’t quite live up to my expectations . Initially I was thinking in terms of printed textiles based on the stanzas and 1950’s, but a few scribbles and doodles confirmed that wasn’t ready to work for me. So it rested until almost the deadline and, as a final go at it, I tried cutting up the original into sections and rearranging in an effort to express the ‘you and me ‘ idea. That practice put me in mind of putting together a shade card.
In this one, ‘me’ is represented by colours for Molly’s words. ‘You’ are the stencils that stand separate until used on Molly’s colours, and that combination can be read as the ‘we’… though here, as in the poem, the two together do not represent a happy ‘we’ of Molly’s expectations.
The card is done from scratch and the colour swatches are gouache and then laminated. The script is traced from the text using a Word font. The miniature stencils are handcut and pierced oiled card. Yet another very interesting Kick-About for me and a real challenge to express an ‘abstract’ visually.”
“Both of these pieces come under the headings of love / regret / romance and memory, all of which are sparked off by this prompt…”
“Goodbye to all that” oil on gesso on board. 60cm X 60cm
“Always” Stitching on old handkerchief and oil paint on waxed paper
“Molly Drake’s words brought a tear to my eye, how such a poet can write something so striking about the melancholic juxtaposition of both light and dark. It brought back memories of people that have come and gone out of my life but also the places where those memories and faces come bubbling up when passing in a car or walking past a particular patch of land, like reveries of times I will never forget.”
“What a wonderful song by Molly Drake, and so beautifully sung. This piece of music is like a faded old photograph, looking back at a bittersweet time, the little vignettes of holidays and days out are achingly nostalgic.
I’ve been on both sides of the dynamic expressed in this song at one time or another and either position is just grim and sad. I did some sketches this week in response to the prompt about a weekend trip with one of my first boyfriends over thirty years ago. We stayed in a guest house and went for a walk to a beautiful waterfall nearby, It should have been a carefree, loved-up, fun few days, full of laughter and lovemaking, but I’d reached the point when I realised I didn’t want to take the relationship much further but my boyfriend did and we separated soon after getting home.
This waterfall makes me think of that lost weekend. I wasn’t really mature enough at the time for a serious relationship; it would be some time before I was emotionally grown-up enough for that . I hope that boyfriend is happy now, wherever he is. He was a lovely guy.”
“You might consider this a sequel of sorts, as back in March 2021, when Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities was our collective muse, I photographed and catalogued a selection of my own keepsakes, the emotional importance of which I couldn’t actually remember. Molly Drake’s ‘I Remember’ isn’t so much about the fallibility of memory, but rather the different ways in which we remember the same thing. Drake’s song also captures very truthfully how the significance of something can be quite wasted on someone else – even those closest to us. With this in mind, I turned my attention to some of the objects with which I share my home, but with which I have no emotional association, but which resonate very powerfully with my husband. I see a rather retro-looking glass paperweight, while my husband experiences a Proustian rush returning him at once to the comforts of his grandparents’ home and all the love he found there. There are objects collected here the provenance of which is still unknown to me, and their emotional heft as mysterious, but ‘he remembers firelight’.”
“Back to jugs. Hoping a narrative might be staged within a shared space, in order to portray intimacy and separation and where the suggestion of alternate ‘points of view’ (that which each jug points to) draws a parallel to Molly Drake’s poem. Respecting the natural linen and pencil line seemed the right approach in order to deliver something feeling a little more natural than a paint saturated canvas at 30x30cm.”
“I wasn’t aware of Nick Drake’s heritage, but Molly’s song immediately made me think of ‘River Man. I took the feeling I got from both songs, and made a prose poem, then some art to accompany it.”
She did not remember the way, but she remembered the times, the place. She wanted to connect present to past. She did not know how or where to begin, and yet she needed to try to construct that bridge. Words were all she had now.
Two ways, really, even though she always pretended they were the same. Or maybe it was only her longing that failed to understand that they were two, not one.
She had been dreaming of a river. A man, a boat. Trees, weeping, or was that her own voice, crying on the wind? It had been summer once. Flowered. Sweet.
But here was the river again, littered with fallen leaves. What magic word would turn back the seasons, dispel the haze, repair a lifetime that had already disintegrated into dust?
Was she coming or going? In her dreams a voice kept repeating you have to choose. But between what? Who? Did she get to choose who would be waiting on the other side of the river? Or was she to be the one left waiting?
An early foray into all things glowy and mysterious from the summer of 2013, working with 35mm film and a rather antiquated camera. This photograph was taken out in the dark arena of rough grass and old trees beyond the shambolic terrace of the old French house, where ‘noises off’ included the indignant hooting of owls and other, less identifiable rustlings and the cracking of unseen twigs under the weight of unseen things…
Back in 1998, as part of my masters degree, I developed a project outcome in which I screenprinted an original short story onto three ubiquitous wooden doors. The short story was about a man who experiences a moment of high-anxiety at the prospect of all the closed doors in his own home, and how he could no longer know what lay behind them. It was a pretty strange tale, and the technical challenge of devising a means of screenprinting using wood stain was not without its mishaps along the way. The screens themselves were massive, the medium fiendishly sticky, and the opportunity for ballsing it up were multiple. That said, the final result was very pleasing, and it excited me to think how you could apply woodstain so precisely, and, for a time at least, I imagined living in some house of wooden rooms, in which very surface offered up some reading material. No idea what happened to these doors, as these are photographs of photographs, which are all that survives of this project.
I’ve spent a lot of my time painting and decorating recently, as our house has been looking very ‘lived-in’ and was in need of some care and attention. Less poetically, this has entailed the mixing-up of lots of filler, to apply liberally to the various cracks and craters in our old walls. In truth, I actually love working with filler: I love how perfectly white it is, and how the powder transforms into something as pleasingly spreadable as cake-mixture. I wondered if I could use the filler to produce a few simple bowls (inspired by The Kick-About No.60), and set about slathering it over a balloon or two.
In lieu of any decorative glazes, I picked a few flowers from the garden and crushed some coloured chalks and squidged these elements against the surface of the balloon beneath big dollops of filler. I then used a knife to spread the filler over and around the balloon to create the rough shape of a bowl. Filler is designed to dry really fast, so you’ve got a bit of time to muck about with it – but not much.
The three bowls I’ve included here are the first three I made; there was a fourth, but I broke it. I enjoyed making them a lot and could have go on to make many, many more – but there was this other small matter of finishing the actual decorating…
I wonder if Augustus Osbourne Lamplough (our previous Kick-About prompt) ever sipped tea as he laboured at his paintings under some far-off afternoon sun? We’ll never know, but tea is clearly a tonic for the Kick-About collective, as these latest examples of new works made in a short time will illustrate.
“I constructed my chawan of tea-dyed paper—the outside of watercolor paper, the inside a coffee filter. The tea leaves took to each in a different way. I found a paper plate bowl online, and copied the pattern, then sewed my vessel together in my own (imperfect) way. It resembles birchbark baskets made by Native Americans more than Japanese ceramics, and certainly would hold no liquid. But the spirit invoked is the same.”
Rituals evolve– each step repeated, echoed, but never mirrored exactly, never complete. We construct vessels to replace our ungrown wings– imperfect, always– impossible, fragile, filled with hope—windblown, weathered, found.
“I wasn’t really aiming for any kind of authenticity with these. In fact, I believe the shapes are more appropriate for drinking alcohol rather than tea. Instead, I just had a bit of fun playing around with form and colour to generate these drinking vessel-like things, that may or may not be reminiscent of Japanese tea cups.”
“This week I decided to experiment and play around so using PVA, opened-out tea bags and cling film. I moulded a couple of containers (bowls) with loose tea trapped between the layers. After that, I used torches to light through and some of the close-ups became a bit celestial! The last image of the hand was attempting to show tea turning to gold, as Empire cashed in on the underpaid toil of hundreds of tea plantation pickers.”
“When I researched the art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, I found it quite amazing how much is involved. There are not just the tea bowls, but so many special whisks, pots and ladles, as well as special rooms for preparation and waiting rooms (is that while waiting for tea to brew correctly or maybe some beautiful lady to come and pour it out?). Anyway, it all involves such precision. I have tried to show this in my watercolour and fine line painting, which is a style I really enjoy doing.“
“I had to laugh a little bit when I saw Phil Cooper’s choice of prompt for this week’s Kick-About; of late, I’ve spent a lot of my time painting and decorating, as our house has been looking very ‘lived-in’ and was in need of some care and attention. Less poetically, this has entailed the mixing-up of lots of filler, to apply liberally to the various cracks and craters in our old walls. In truth, I actually love working with filler: I love how perfectly white it is, and how the powder transforms into something as pleasingly spreadable as cake-mixture. I wondered if I could use the filler to produce a few simple bowls, not suited for tea-drinking obviously, and set about slathering it over a balloon-or-two. In lieu of any decorative glazes, I picked a few flowers from the garden and crushed some coloured chalks and squidged these elements against the surface of the balloon beneath big dollops of filler. I then used a knife to spread the filler over and around the balloon to create the rough shape of a bowl. Filler is designed to dry really fast, so you’ve got a bit of time to muck about with it – but not much. The three bowls I’ve included here are the first three I made; there was a fourth, but I broke it. I enjoyed making them a lot and could have go on to make many, many more – but there was this other small matter of finishing the actual decorating…”
“I was instantly drawn to the textures of these gorgeous Chawans, I can only imagine the craftsmanship that goes into creating those intricate glazes. I am a bit of a hunter-gatherer of textures and enjoy capturing the small things that make something whole, so I decided to cherry pick from the mountain of textures I have stored in a number of hard drives and superimpose them in a way that might look like some of those textures that make up Chawans. Some textures in there include; dirt, mold, water, rust, snow, moss, plants, and a hefty amount of ice. It is always a pleasure creating in this way as there is always an air of mystery as I never know how they will turn out.”
“This still life, started in Gloucestershire around 2012 reached completion in Kent for KA60 hence, a view of Isle of Sheppey from Harty Ferry south side. My research tells me the wide-mouthed chawan is ideal for summer, as it cools tea quicker. The cast-iron Tetsubin (featured) is actually the kettle and not a tea pot so, whats missing is the brewing Dobin (ceramic pot) or the Tetsukyusu (iron pot with enamel interior) so, basically I’ve failed to portray the ritual properly! Back to the drawing board…”
“The prompt of an ancient tea cup seemed to beg for a still life painting. I haven’t painted with oils for a long time and then not very much and have kept nothing, though two paintings do adorn friends’ walls. I felt the Kick-About environment a perfect way to have another go at painting with oils. As for the subject, I have a bunch of vintage and antique tea cups, but nothing as old and venerable as the pictured prompt. However, I am total sucker for this green and white tableware from Austria. The ‘Gmundner Keramik’ factory is still producing, and traces its roots to 1492… The pictured pieces themselves are 50’s and later decorated in their ‘grün geflammt’ classic patterns.
To get to this stage of the painting was done in two short sessions: a scratchy sketch and then, the next day, the painting done in one go… sort of ‘alla prima’. The canvas was scraped and cleaned from a previous disaster, (Kick-About / Matisse) and together with the paints, came from a bargain shop. I did use a drying medium and invested in a large tube of mixing white. It was a bit wet on wet, with too short a time between the two layers for the paint to cure properly. But yet again so much learnt and so much still to learn, another great time with this one and much enjoyed. Paul Cezanne said, ‘With an apple I will astonish Paris’. In my painting there are two apples, but I doubt they will astonish anyone…”
“While exploring the art and intricacies of the tea ceremonies of Japan and China, it struck me that the British have also developed many forms of tea ritual over the centuries since we were first introduced to this fragrant tonic. Many of these rituals faded almost to extinction in the latter part of the 20th century, with the ubiquitous upsurge in coffee-drinking. But tea has made something of a comeback, evolving, fragmenting and adapting to meet the needs of the 21st century Brit. Of course, different generations and different environments require different rituals. My beloved and I went into a café once, when we were on holiday, and the following conversation took place :-
Waiter: What can I get you, sir? Beloved: Coffee for me, please. Waiter: Expresso, latte, cappuccino? Beloved: Just ordinary coffee, please Waiter: Milk or cream? Beloved: Just ordinary coffee with milk. Waiter: That would be a Flat American, sir. Beloved: Fine. Waiter: Anything else, sir? Beloved: A tea for my wife, please. Waiter: English Breakfast? Beloved: No thanks, We ate at the hotel. (At which point, the waiter gave up the struggle).
I digress. So back to British tea rituals and the proliferation of varieties and styles in serving tea. One area of ritual that never entirely died away, especially amongst a certain sub-sect of English middle-class women (myself included) are those rituals surrounding “Hosting a Committee Meeting in One’s Own Home”. I am sure the following will seem quite bizarre to some of you, but I hope it chimes, however faintly, with some of you.”
And for our next Kick-About together, a melancholy wisp of a thing from Molly Drake…
We tramped the open moorland in the rainy April weather And came upon the little inn that we had found together The landlord gave us toast and tea and stopped to share a joke And I remember firelight I remember firelight I remember firelight And you remember smoke
We ran about the meadow grass with all the harebells bending And shaking in the summer wind a summer never-ending We wandered to the little stream among the river flats And I remember willow trees I remember willow trees I remember willow trees And you remember gnats
We strolled the Spanish marketplace at 90 in the shade With all the fruit and vegetables so temptingly arrayed And we can share a memory as every lover must And I remember oranges I remember oranges I remember oranges And you remember dust
The autumn leaves are tumbling down and winter’s almost here But through the spring and summertime we laughed away the year And now we can be grateful for the gift of memory For I remember having fun Two happy hearts that beat as one When I had thought that we were “we” But we were “you and me”.
On Saturday, August 6th, it was Whitstable’s carnival, a fascinating expression of quirk and eccentricity, combining all the sea-centric elements you might expect from this long-standing tradition with more off-kilter entries.
This year, alongside the papier-mâché effigies and pirates, we were treated to an Elvis impersonator riding a mobility scooter upholstered with cuddly toys, some Oompa Loompas, a gaggle of flower-powered hippies, and a corgi-headed page-boy… The whole town came out to line the streets to wave the procession on in all its eclectic, ad-hoc glory and there was tangible sense of time travel, of witnessing something that has ‘always been’. That said, the carnival itself has been imperilled of late, seeing waning interest and investment in the event, but this year’s procession marked something of a renewal. I certainly enjoyed the strangeness and feral expressiveness, with nothing but admiration for those more performative souls who were out there making it happen for the rest of us.
I wanted to end by sharing this final image, which captures something of that sensation of time travel, for while this photograph was taken at last Saturday’s carnival, it could also have been taken a great many years earlier; the ghost of carnivals long-since passed is flickering here.
A real oldie for this week’s flashback – and a strange one at that! I made this lamp on my Foundation course all the way back in 1993, and I can’t remember the brief exactly, but I recall it was about making something new in response to the work of an existing artist (so not much has changed!).
For my source of inspiration, I chose Hieronymus Bosch and his famous painting, The Garden Of Earthly Delights (which likely surprised exactly no one, given the painting’s lewd subject matter and filmic spectacle). I decided to model my lamp after the painting’s strange rock-formations – part-mineral, part-crustacean, part-cacti – and combined a host of different techniques: annealing metal, blacksmithery, fibre-glass and resin…
Okay, so it wasn’t a very attractive lamp, and I think it ended up in a skip, but I had a huge amount of fun producing it. I dug out the few surviving photographs of it and re-photographed them for the purpose of sharing them on here, so the quality isn’t great, but the thing stood at about sixty centimetres high and was a working lamp, with that rather grim-looking sphere lighting up to glow pinkly, like some b-movie brain or cosmic egg.
These photographs were taken on the day after the UK saw those uncanny, record-breaking temperatures. We went to the beach to escape the strange temperature of our terraced house and swam gratefully in the shallowing sea. A few people wondered what I was doing with my camera pushed into a translucent bag and photographing into the sun, but I was out there, experimenting, gunning for heat haze and the shimmer. Turns out that double-wrapping the lens with gauze makes moonlight out of sunshine.