This photograph was taken just minutes before we opened our garden to the public as part of last year’s National Garden Scheme shindig; the view here is of our little patch of seating space outside the kitchen, not usually as packed out with plants as this, but not far off.
Recently, I’ve been spending a bit of time in an old seaside department store, home to The Margate School, an art school and studio space for artists and makers. I’ve had some official duties to enact there, but found some time to roam about the building with my camera. In common with Vilhelm Hammershøi’s paintings – the prompt for The Kick-About No. 63 – there is a rich and wonderful stillness about some of the less-inhabited rooms and spaces in this big, old building, which boasts some big, old wonderful windows too.
Our last Kick-About together was inspired by continual movement and the accompanying changes of scale and perspective. This week’s showcase of new works made in a short time is, by contrast, a mediation on silence and stillness, as we explore together the hushed, pensive environs that feature in the paintings of Vilhelm Hammershøi.
“Hammershøi’s paintings feel so breathy and poetic, like you are peeking into the lives of the mysterious figures. I can’t help but think of a Victorian doll house with all its little furniture placed exactly as the collector envisions. I was initially inspired by the gorgeous light throughout Hammershøi’s paintings and awoke at the crack of dawn to capture the sun as it pooled in through the shutters and windows where the light licked the walls, doors and wooden furniture. I decided at the last minute to perch myself in areas that could resemble the people in Hammershøi’s paintings and dressed myself in a darker colour palette to match. I edited out all the ugly stuff that could resemble a modern rented house in London, including cracks and fire exit signs. Our house is very old and shows a lot of wear and tear so removing those elements was exciting to get a glimpse of probably how it once was”
“Hammershøi’s images can be empty and silent, but to me they overflow with emotion. Recently I lost someone very dear and, during their final days, I took a few short pieces of iPhone video of stuff around me while time passed by. In response to the prompt I added some animation and sound. The final image was taken at a nearby river – there were no cockatoos around me but the sound of flocks of them carried from far down the river to me, speaking of the greatness of nature and the precious planet we seem to be incapable of leaving to its perfect and self sustaining self.“
“As so often happens, this started out as something else, but I think in the end it works well for this prompt. I wanted to do a house. I started with a box, collaging the inside to be a dreamlike claustrophobic maze of doors and windows. This came out very much like I imagined it. The exterior I’m still not sure about. Is it four alternate universes, four nightmares? I think I need to add some text to clarify (or perhaps, confuse). So, a work in progress.“
“I love the serene and subdued art of Vilhelm Hammershøi. Unfortunately, this is way out of my comfort zone and I have some difficulty with the quieter colour shades and tones. However, I decided to attempt an outside view with dappled sunlight scattered across a wooden panelled house of the sort you might find in Scandinavia. With recent sad and solemn events I found creating this watercolour had a strange calming effect – I only wish I could have done it justice.”
“The silvery North-European light I’m so familiar with is captured beautifully in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s paintings. I’ve been living in Berlin for the the past three years, not very far from where he created many of his delicate, luminous canvases. I love his explorations in capturing muted light, and the pared-down domesticity of his quiet interiors. They are a little too quiet for me; my home looks nothing like this; we’ve painted our walls in dark, rich colours, every surface covered in a combination of knick-knacks, plants and the mundane detritus of modern-day living. Hammershøi often used his wife as a model in his pictures, but the reflective reserve of the woman appearing in his orderly rooms is a million miles from my husband lounging around in his underpants, eating crisps and leaving crumbs all over the sofa. So my contribution this week is a sort of anti-Hammershøi. I took some photos of my husband, Jan, one morning during a heatwave this summer. We’d closed the curtains in the living room to try and keep out the heat and the space turned into a sort of exotic underwater cave, made even more mysterious by the clouds of vape-smoke Jan was breathing into the thin shafts of molten light seeping in through chinks in the curtains. I loved our living room during that period, but now, with autumn approaching, the light is turning thinner and more brittle, rather more like a Hammershoi painting – although the clutter and the under-dressed husband are still very present.”
“Stage designers jumped on the bandwagon promoting V.H.’s interiors, with some going quite big and beyond the need of the play. My inspiration credits film director Thomas Stuber, in particular his film IN THE AISLES, a most moving moody work. Making use of ‘crop’ and ‘effects’ I’ve tried complimenting the scene (25 minutes in from the start) where actor Franz Rogowski is very much alone, sat very still at his simple bed-sit desk, deep in thought. It’s a moment of great insight to a complex character. Rogowski has only to slightly shift his body knowing its plenty-enough to tell an in-depth narrative. “
“Recently, I’ve been spending a bit of time in an old seaside department store, home to The Margate School, an art school and studio space for artists and makers. I’ve had some official duties to enact there, but found some time to roam about the building with my camera. In common with Hammershøi’s paintings there is a rich and wonderful stillness about some of the less-inhabited rooms and spaces in this big, old building, which boasts some big, old wonderful windows too.”
“All I can say is these paintings made me think of moving house.”
“What I’ve always admired about Hammershøi is his control both in the colour palette and subject matter. That cool northern light casting sharp cut out shapes on a wooden floor… a soft curtain lifting in a cool breeze… sometimes just the empty room, sometimes the back of his wife… all echoing Vermeer in its quiet focus on the domestic…the silence is palpable.”
And from the soundlessness and muted colour palette of Vilhelm Hammershøi, let’s hear it for artist Nick Cave and his flamboyant soundsuits – our next Kick-About prompt.
A few more on this Friday from this 2020 trip to a curvaceous field of flax.
At the outset of 2022, I began teaching a small cohort of postgraduate students at The Margate School on the Visual Communication: Design, Society, Nature one year, part-time programme. I had the pleasure of working alongside a lovely group of individuals and, in celebration of their achievements, and likewise yesterday’s launch of Margate’s inaugural Festival of Design, I was invited to work with them again to produce a short film.
Entitled Palimpsest, the film originates from the students’ initial sketches, doodles, writings and iterations, layered together, and expressed as the restless flicker of the creative mind.
As of yesterday evening, the film is now installed in The Margate School as a projection-mapped work, animating the large wall above the independent art school’s ground floor staircase. The Margate School operates out of a former department store on Margate high street – with all the quirk and atmosphere you might expect.
Many thanks to Claire-Beth Gibson, Claudine Derksen, Emma Self, Ian Jones, Grace King, Georgia Dack, Susanne Hakuba and Zoe Artingstall for helping me put this together, and for your creative company over this last year. Congratulations on your recent graduation (at the Turner Contemporary no less!) and best of luck for the future. May your brains continue to flicker!
A second collection of creative bits produced in response to The Kick-About #62, itself inspired by the short film Powers Of Ten (1977). In short, deploying a sort of digital automatism, I repurposed this batch of photographs into something more planetary, and then, after that, started thinking about more geological or cartographic appearances.
I must have been drawn to the subtle, graphical quality of this mown path at Mount Ephraim, enjoying its scorch and desaturation, and that lovely curving line. Whatever the reason, I liked it enough to take a photograph of it back in the late summer of 2009 and squirrel it away until now.
So this one takes a bit of explaining… Short version is I wanted to produce something that got into the visual rhyming between the cosmic and the microscopic you see in the Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 short film, Powers Of Ten, and likewise the graphical quality of its art direction.
For The Kick-About #46, I subjected everyone to macro-photographs of the human litter dusting various surfaces in my home. I decided to use these same photographs as the starting point for my response, and started by spherizing them digitally (over and over again), so as to produce ‘planets’ from them (or molecules?). In part, I was prompted by another Kick-About, and this time was able to produce these little animated loops by running each of the photographs together to make footage, in which the effect of spherizing the original photographs multiple times has been too soften their respective surfaces into these seemingly ‘hand-drawn’ sequences.
To emulate some of the ‘maths’ in the Powers of Ten, I then composited some concentric circles over the top of these animated loops. They might be particles or elements of some periodic table, or eggs, or maps, or other sorts of diagrams, but it was a lot of fun engineering them from a largely automatistic approach to ‘seeing what happens’.
I never really got to a final outcome, so I’ll be sharing a collection of the results over the coming days.
From the internal and endlessly expansive spaces of our memories, as inspired by our previous Kick-About together, we’re this week exploring the mind-boggling extremities of different scales, courtesy of Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 short film, Powers Of Ten. Enjoy this latest showcase of ‘new works made in a short time’, the big and the small and everything in-between.
“As a youngster I recall the concept of infinity as an exciting concept that had huge at one end and tiny at the other. Then it got a bit messy and I threw in the concept of mother nature as a religion to cover the extremities. I approached this KA as a mechanical exercise where a square is 1×1 of a certain colour, 10×10 are lines across and down in the next colour wheel colour (and I varied the thickness of the lines and added some variation within the colour stop and the opacity to make it a bit more interesting), added another hatching of lines for 100×100 and another for1000x1000. I didn’t go further as this visual started to grey off. I then repeated the exercise with sets of adjacent squares and lines with an increase in colour wheel increments as I went along. Finally I went back to each layer and slightly messed up each layer either by moving or resizing them. Not unpleasant but meaningless.”
“Initially this flummoxed me despite loving the film… how do I react visually? Then, eureka,I realised the drawing I’ve been ,on and off, working on since lockdown would ‘sort of’ slot into the micro/macro thing. The idea behind it was based on my calendar where I diagonally cross off each day (otherwise I’d be walking in circles) alternating direction as I go. The gessoed board was divided into a tight grid so the lines filled each square gradually building a pattern which subconsciously reflected the curtains of my childhood home (weird. Anyway leaving areas clear or less worked and stepping back it becomes the. sky..no planes..no birds…silence…as I remember the atmosphere of 2020. Micro/macro.”
Pencil on gessoed board stained with blue oil paint. 4’ X 3’ (right hand section still being given final layer)
“The camera distance to the mirror surface is .0003 of a kilometre, the distance from mirror surface to the actual object is 150.56 million kilometres, hence it being a blurry object, and the time of day is 14:16 with a current temperature of 25 degrees celsius.”
“Whilst thinking around the film ‘Power of Ten, I came across some images of the cellular structure of a sunflower’s stem and of sunflower pollen under the microscope. These images reminded me of some odd yarns in my collection and all of a sudden I found myself building the various layers of a sunflower from the centre out. Like Topsy, it just grew and grew, and by the time I had reached the countryside surrounding the sunflower fields, I had to call a halt. It was the opposite of disappearing down a rabbit-hole – I was in danger of disappearing into outer space! Great fun, though, as always!”
“I really enjoyed watching the film by Charles and Ray Eames, it took me straight back to my ‘70s childhood and adolescence, pre-internet, when occasionally I’d stumble across films like this on the TV and it would blow my mind.
Powers of Ten got me thinking about scale – albeit in a much more modest way than in the film – and I used some sketches I’d made of a clump of sea kale I’d photographed on Dungeness to make an image about a wood in late summer. I layered a couple of sketches and the plants started to look more like trees, laden with fruit. As the sea kale was growing right next to a nuclear power station, a radiation leak could turn them mutant, just like in the films, and they would grow into giants, so that the pea-sized seeds on the original plant become as big as apples.”
“This film made me think of how minute our little planet is, and wonder about the possibilities of life many light years away. I wonder what those other planets could look like and the beings who inhabit them? I decided to create some nebulas using the textures from a previous exhilarating Kick-About and stamped them onto simple 3D spheres, superimposing them atop those same textures, while painting galactic elements to create milky ways that possibly maybe could be…”
“This amazing film by Charles and Ray Eames reminded me about the relatively recent invention of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) which is able to see further back in time than any other telescope has been able to. It was originally designed to study some of the universe’s oldest galaxies and has a mirror that detects molecules such as water, CO2 and ammonia in the atmosphere of distant exoplanets, and the ice and dust that form stars, planets and comets. Scientists say studying these molecules and learning more about the chemical reaction that happens in these places will help us to understand how planetary systems form. This information could also tell us if the conditions for life are unique to our solar system. My collage artwork this time is an attempt to capture a view from JWST of a far off galaxy thousands of light years away.”
“I enjoyed the video, but I really have no coherent explanation for the thought process that led me from there to here. I do know I think in circles, not boxes, when considering time and space. And it was such a bombardment, I felt I needed to be minimal. I used a variegated grey thread to try to create some shimmer. For my pantoum, I took part of an old poem about zero and combined it with words and ideas I wrote down from the narration.”
zero, or: without limits
the direction is lost–
waver and shift–
approach and return–
light years converge
with approach and return,
light years converge,
at the center of nowhere
at the center of nowhere
inside time’s pocket
inside time’s pocket–
the direction is lost
“This Kick-About submission ended up with a lot false starts and the remains of ideas scattered amongst the bits and bytes of a computer hard drive. A downfall of my own making perhaps. The deceptive simplicity of the depiction of scale and movement in Powers of Ten combined with the retro graphic design-ness of the imagery has always appealed to me, so in the end I just tried to tap into that and make something that appeared to be at once microscopic, abstract and graphical.”
“After a bit of research into the works and inventions of the Eames, I put together something from the prompt film (space/movement) and married that to one of the company’s products – in this case, a deck of building cards. This deck consists of 45 cards, in nine sets of five sequential images. Each set starts with an image, then, from the same distance point, zooms in the five times until it ‘disappears’. As for the initial images, they are simply a record of what is in ‘spaces’ in the house, in cupboards or drawers…
For the backs, rather than a single icon, it’s more like the heavens of the original film, at least that’s where the idea came from. The photographs were not edited, so each sequence of five represents a single event. Each image was stuck onto ready-made blank playing cards, then laminated with transparent plastic and each one trimmed. The same for the backs. I don’t own a laminator but did invest in a cunning little hand-trimmer that rounded the corners. As for the cuts in the cards, they are not particularly beautiful and done with the help of two bits of wood marked with a 1cm line, two ‘G’ clamps and a junior hacksaw.
This Kick-About prompt was one which gave me lots of practical problems to solve in order to visualise what I had set out to do, and like so many ideas, this was one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration! For all that it was very satisfying and fun to be able to use them for building structures as originally intended.”
“So this one takes a bit of explaining! Short version is I wanted to produce something that got into the visual rhyming between the cosmic and the microscopic you see in Powers Of Ten, and likewise the graphical quality of its art direction. For The Kick-About #46, I subjected everyone to macro-photographs of the human litter dusting various surfaces in my home. I decided to use these same photographs as the starting point for my response, and started by spherizing them digitally (over and over again), so as to produce ‘planets’ from them (or molecules?). In part, I was prompted by another Kick-About, and this time was able to produce these little animated loops by running each of the photographs together to make footage, in which the effect of spherizing the original photographs multiple times has been too soften their respective surfaces into these seemingly ‘hand-drawn’ sequences. To emulate some of the ‘maths’ in the Powers of Ten, I then composited some concentric circles over the top of these animated loops. I don’t really have a final outcome, so what I’ve gathered here are a collection of results. They might be particles or elements of some periodic table, or eggs, or maps, or other sorts of diagrams, but it was a lot of fun engineering them from a largely automatistic approach to ‘seeing what happens’.”
And so, from the infinite bounds of the cosmos and abstractions of innerspace to the pensive domestic subjects that feature in the paintings of Danish artist, Vilhelm Hammershøi. Have fun and see you on the other side.
A random bunch of umbellifers – dates and locations long-since forgotten – but likely dating from the early noughties, and all photographed on 35mm slide film originally.