The Kick-About #72 ‘Les Meninas’

The last edition of The Kick-About featured the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, artists celebrated for shrouding familiar things by which to re-vivify their significance. This week, our collective creative muse is Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, another famous artwork equally shrouded to produce speculation and especial attentiveness. Enjoy this latest selection of new works made in a short time.

Charly Skilling

“I find this painting fascinating because it raises so many questions, and not just about  differing  viewpoints.  It’s not a  family group portrait, as the King and Queen are barely there. It’s not a painting to promote the Infanta’s status or prestige, as the people surrounding her are of little political or religious significance. And why is there a man standing in the doorway – is he coming or going or what?  There is a sense the artist has captured a moment on the cusp of some great event, but what could it be? As I couldn’t answer any of these questions, I decided to ignore all the facts known about this painting or this group of people, and make up my own story. There is no truth in my story, but I believe it to be true of its time.”

Gary Thorne

“Not long into KA#72 I realised a Vanitas could highlight some thoughts on Velazquez’s Las Meninas, and later came realisation that 3-D might more easily set-aside symbols of wealth associated with interiors. It is not a Danse Macabre, more a comment on the transience of life, futility of pleasure, and certainty of death. The Spanish Mastiff deserved centre-stage, not because an animal on-stage removes all attention to everything else happening around it, more likely due to the increased love extended onto dogs as result of Covid-19. (What I’ll be doing when Halloween rolls up – is anyone’s guess). ”

Phil Gomm

What really resonated with me in regards to Las Meninas is how ‘meta’ this painting is, in so much as it is a painting about painting; it deconstructs itself by signposting its own artificiality and constructedness. For me, it produces a keen mise-en-abyme effect, as one constructed reality reflects another construction, with surfaces reflecting other surfaces in plain acknowledgment of illusion and artifice. It just feels very playful to me, so with that in mind, I set about bringing together as many reflective surfaces in one space as possible to play a few games of my own.”

Graeme Daly

“I loved the self reflection and self insertion with this painting. I decided to focus on the many frames throughout the studio and, in the same manner, interject some of my own self into my illustrations by adding other photography and drawings within the frames themselves, and into a studio only an artist could make sense of.” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Marion Raper

“This painting is very intriguing, as there are so many possibilities. My ‘take’ is that Velazquez is hoping to paint a normal family picture of the Spanish Royals, but the little ‘infanta’ has other ideas and will not co-operate. Perhaps she stamped her little foot and turned her back on him so he had to reposition not only himself, but the King and Queen also. It was a Prince Louis on the balcony moment! Her ladies-in-waiting tried to coax her to behave and even brought her beloved dog along to try and calm her, whilst various other courtiers were gossiping, “What a terrible child!” Meanwhile the Chancellor has decided to make a discreet exit out of the back door.  Fascinating!”

James Randall

“Velázquez’s painting never feels comfortable to me – courtly children. I jumped off using a picture of one of my lovely nieces (all of them adults now) taken by my sister or mother. It feels full of awkward childhood happiness to me. I added the far side of the street and car to complete it and, in the end, it feels quite unnatural and weird!”

Kerfe Roig

“I know this is considered one of the Great Masterpieces of Western Civilization, and I don’t dispute that it’s painted with great skill, but I can’t muster any enthusiasm for it or any emotional connection to it. Perhaps it’s my distaste for the opulent, decadent, and callous lifestyle of its inhabitants. Still, I can make anything into a collage.”

arrangements re
flect in unintended
parody—the only
thing human is
the dog /

Vanessa Clegg

“This is low-tech verging on Blue Peter, but it was interesting to play around with the characters and change the dynamics a bit. So the dog has assumed prime position, with the infanta becoming a doll under the arm, the two others creeping away at the back, and to help it all along, a cup of tea brought in by the true ‘maid’ in all this! I’ve put myself into the first one as the recorder and included the open door, though nobody has yet appeared… The mirror reflects the back of the figures so trying to introduce the real/ unreal element. Wish I’d had more time to explore the mystery of shadows and dark spaces, which is very Hitchcock.”

Just before I introduce our latest prompt, I wanted to say a lovely big thank you to regular Kick-Abouter and oracle-whisperer, Kerfe Roig for so generously gifting me one of her art pieces produced for The Kick-About No.70. I just really loved Kerfe’s Hilma Af Klint-inspired image, and told her as much, and was rather thrilled to have it arrive a few days ago – along with a 2023 calendar featuring Kerfe’s animal collages, drawings and paintings. A lovely thoughtful gesture – and posted all the way from NYC too! Thanks again, Kerfe!

Now for our next prompt – a single word, but one with eight tangents at least…

Throwback Friday #140 ‘Bust, Barcelona’ 2015

Don’t quote me, but I’m pretty sure I tool this photograph at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in February 2015. I mean, I know I took it back then, during a pretty wonderful student field trip to Barcelona, but I’m not 100% sure in which museum I was at the time. What I remember much more clearly about that visit was the weather, which was wonderfully warm and sunny, and the food, and the irrepressibly upbeat company of all those bright young things.

Short Story: The Mistress’s Quilt (2023)

Better late than never, right? So this short story was inspired by the narrative quilts of Harriet Powers, the prompt for The Kick-About No.68. I wasn’t able to complete the story by the original submission deadline and have been working away on it since. Thematically, it takes the idea of patchworks to express composite identities and their complexities and the idea of individuals and their emotional lives comprising contrary shades and textures.

You can view a PDF version here.

Un-sofa #1 (2023)

The short version is we bought a new leather sofa recently, which turned out to be too big for the room it was meant for. The sofa came wrapped in plastic – and remains so while we wait for some nice people to come and collect it and take it back to wherever unwanted sofas are destined to go. We have been living with this ‘un-sofa’ for quite a few weeks now – not sitting on it, not daring too, goaded by its postponement of creature comforts. I scowl at it every morning, not least because I was responsible for measuring up and only have myself to blame. Still, what is it that insufferably chipper types say about making lemonade when life gives you lemons (or outsized sofas)? I started noticing how different types of light at different times of day produced strange mountainous terrains out of the plastic wrapping covering the sofa, so with The Kick-About No.71 firmly in mind, I set about investigating them.

The Kick-About #71 ‘Christo & Jeanne-Claude’

If our last Kick-About showcased new works made in a short time inspired by an extraordinary artist with which some of us were unfamiliar, this week’s online exhibition takes its cue from a very famous double-act, famous, that is, for wrapping landmarks and landscapes in swathes of material. Happy browsing.

Gary Thorne

“Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s trees reminded me of an Autumn ’22 visit to Eastwell in Kent, where I did these sketches. For KA, I’ve combined tree structure with architecture to produce this white-card model, but then found myself short of time. The old idiot box was on whilst modelling, conveniently offering some varied backdrops, although as an unfinished KA, I prefer the black backing. being it reminds me I’ve homework to do on this KA.”

Graeme Daly

“I wanted to make a miniature version of Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s impressive, uncanny installation art, but attempt to make it look larger, as if I had the resources to produce something of that scale. So I did some deadheading of branches and flora around my garden, wrapped cling-film around them and stuck the encapsulated snippings into styrofoam to keep them steady as I photographed the results. I loved how, in certain shots of Christo & Claude’s pieces, the sun shone through. It reminds me of poppy seed pods or Chinese lanterns. As I was taking photos, in spurts the sun broke through the clouds of the dreary sky and lit the tombs of these plants in spots and lines. Another treat was after a slight sprinkling of rain, which made me focus more on the intrinsics of the composition rather than its initial scale” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Vanessa Clegg

“This is a pretty basic response so I think you can see my thinking … that is, layers, seeing, not seeing… I found the piece of conifer on the street and, to me, it looked like a bonsai version of the “mother tree” so reflecting our prompt on a mini scale. A screen in front breaks up the image. I wanted to use elements that ran parallel to this: beetle, stone, seed.”

Jan Blake

“These enormous sculptures in the landscape and city scapes that Christo and Jeanne Claude have created over the years have highlighted our attention to these landmarks in a different way, allowing them to be reconsidered/reawaken us when they are revealed again after the wrapping up. ‘Lock-Down’ during the past few years has personally given me the feeling of being wrapped up like an insect in a cocoon. So I started to try and create a kind of cocoon and failed miserably!  However, this searching turned my attention to butterflies and moths that create these extraordinary constructions as a chrysalis. In the past I have used  a translucent silk (organza) to create sculptures to transform internal public spaces, and the silk has come from  the silk worms that feed on bushes so… I took another look at how millions of these moths or butterfly cocoons wrap up trees, bushes and grasses in the landscape. Here are a couple of photos taken in our countryside.”

James Randall

“I’m afraid, although they created beautiful works, the scale and materials Christo and Jeanne Claude used have always made me uncomfortable, as we show little respect for our world’s resources. So I began this KA thinking I’d use some previous pics of tied-up pillows to collage into a tied-up earth, but it looked nothing like the earth or anything tied-up. There was something good happening visually so I returned to the tortured pillows and added an angry Spanish fountain lion head and a lizard leg; it felt angry (about wasting resources). I backgrounded it with pristine rainforest images (abused resources). By this point it wasn’t looking very Christo and Jeanne Claude and my mind was turning to the big industries that manufacture toxic products (like some of the materials Christo and Jeanne Claude used) and I added a power figure wrapped in a couple of cotton sheets, which looked appropriate. Of course, the question arises why we continue to abuse the earth, and then I heard a podcast with Adam Alter on judgement, decision making and social psychology, which threw social media into my mind and resulted in the addition of icons left and right of the figure. Oh, and the halo of fire is a nod to petrochemical industries.”

Phil Gomm

“The short version is we bought a new sofa recently, which turned out to be too big for the room it was meant for. The sofa came wrapped in plastic – and remains so while we wait for some nice people to come and collect it and take it back to wherever unwanted sofas are destined to go. We have been living with this ‘un-sofa’ for quite a few weeks now. I scowl at it every morning, not least because I was responsible for measuring up and only have myself to blame. Still, what is it that chipper types say about making lemonade when life gives you lemons (or outsized sofas)? I started noticing how different types of light at different times of day produced strange mountainous terrains out of the plastic wrapping covering the sofa, so with the Kick-About in mind, I set about investigating them.”

Marion Raper

“I decided I would apply my ‘wrapping’ technique to some old plastic bangles I have in my stash of ‘possibly useful things!’ The first one I covered with net, followed by a thread in a variety of colours to add a bit of sparkle. The second I wrapped in strips of pink chiffon and then put some glittery material over the top. Lastly, for the third, I used the hem I had trimmed off a denim dress to wrap around the bangle, followed by a long silver chain. The necklace was recycled from an old pendant, wrapped in threads and some embroidery added. I really enjoyed this project and may well have a go at doing some more.”

Kerfe Roig

When ‘The Gates’ were installed in Central Park in February 2005 there was a lot of criticism and complaining from the Powers That Be.  But for my daughter and I, and all the other people with us inside of the installation, it was a wonderful experience.  This prompt returned me to that time and the photos I took.  I printed out some of them and cut them into squares, which I turned into grids.  Mother Nature had even co-operated, and the vibrant colors shadowed with black branches, moving in the wind against the snow, was truly magical. /

With many thanks to regular KA-er, Vanessa Clegg, we have our latest prompt – a celebrated mediation on the art and act of looking…

Throwback Friday #138 ‘Centaurea’

More old-school 35mm flower photographs from the early 2000s or thereabouts, celebrating the gorgeous blues, pinks and purples of centaureas, and here, served two ways: the first being an image of the field cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, and the second, Centaurea montana, or perennial cornflower. Both press my buttons and produce an impatience in my January bones for a lovely blast of heat.