The Kick-About #74 ‘Ruth Asawa’

In common with our last Kick-About together, which was inspired by cephalopods (those buoyant, ballooning denizens of the deep), this latest showcase of new works made in a short time features a further array of responses to floating, globular forms – specifically to the work of Ruth Asawa. Happy browsing.

Graeme Daly

“I was reminded very much of the fluid melting magic of lava lamps and, in certain elements of Asawa’s creations, I envisioned eyes that reminded me very much of Hitchcock and Dali’s dream sequence in the film, Spellbound. My images were created from photographing melted wax accumulated on a wine bottle over a period of time, with a couple of videos of my own eyes overlaid on top to pay homage to that surreal dream sequence.” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Tom Beg

“I like the contradiction in Ruth Asawa’s art in that her sculptures appear like they are born from geometry and mathematics but are actually delicately crafted hand-made pieces made one loop at a time. The black and white photography of her artwork really imbues the sculptures with a dreamy quality I also wanted to try and capture in these images of undulating circles.” / /

Phil Gomm

“Ruth Asawa’s sculptures at once reminded me of the sorts of drawings produced by childhood Spirographs – not so much the organic shapes, but their transparency, layering, and particularly the densifying of line and mesh as the interior and exterior shapes combine. Without recourse to an abundance of thread (or time), I wondered how I might produce some kind of equivalent impression – of volume, but also some of those wonderful floating overlaps of cross-hatching and shade. Reaching for some acetate sheets, an old wooden ruler, and a permanent marker, I marked up a few of the sheets with lots of fine straight lines, then turned the sheets into funnels and cones with a square or two of Selotape holding them in place. Turns out, when you photograph these cones, something rather lovely transpires. Who’d have thought it?”

Vanessa Clegg

“Encasing what, to me, look like eggs in the sculpture of Ruth Asawa, and combining that with the trauma of the internment camp during her childhood, led me to nests (security/home), this one being empty – the cage, rust and decay. Here’s a book: ‘When the Emperor was Divine’ by Julie Otsuka, which tells the story of an American/Japanese family interned during the war. Highly recommended.” Graphite on paper with felt tip on Perspex as top layer.

Jan Blake

“I felt a sense of a kindred spirit in Ruth Asawa’s work.  The translucence of the hanging sculptures and their derivation from naturally-occurring forms echo my own interests. How curious she was exploring this media many years before and with such versatility AND she had 6 children! She puts my productivity to shame!

I have included in the images a piece I had already started – Pod – and some experiments I have been meaning to do for a while. There is an enormous Cordyline palm that grows in my garden I brought from London nearly 30 years ago as a seeding, which I’d nurtured. It has flourished, so much so it strews plentiful dead swathes of its fronds everywhere. It occurred to me last year that, apart from burning them, I could make use of them, so bundles were made as a temporary fencing, but more kept falling. I started to collect them and strip them apart as they naturally disintegrate into thin strips. It was a bit like making daisy chains as a child, easing holes that became wider to be able to thread them and so on. Soaking them made them more malleable but still tough when I tried to crochet, as Ruth Asawa had done with the metal wire. That was very tricky and needed more time to soak and make them softer to handle… however tiny nests for tiny birds appeared anyway.”

Kerfe Roig

“I went back to my tiny shibori fabric pieces and first did three circles trying to imitate her looped baskets.  I think these were pretty successful.  Then I attempted to layer circles in chain stitch to reproduce the effect of her hanging circles within circles.  I think it might have worked better if I had used one strand of floss instead of two.  But even if it doesn’t resemble Asawa’s layering that closely, it’s an interesting idea for future embroidery explorations.” /

Phil Cooper

“When I saw the Ruth Asawa prompt I immediately thought of the lampshade in our bedroom, a bulb-shaped wire structure that looks a lot like some of her sculptures. I like Asawa’s work very much and I like our lampshade so this was an opportunity to make something for the Kick-About that drew inspiration from both.

I photographed the lampshade and then put the images through the Procreate and Snapseed editing Apps. The sculptural form of the lampshade got flattened, like a Ruth Asawa construction that had been under a steamroller and then I added colour to liven it up. I ended up with what, to me, look like designs for rugs or tapestries. The Kick-About often leaves me with the feeling that, if I could clone myself and have another three lifetimes, I’d like to be a rug-maker, potter, fabric designer, film-maker etc…” / /

Charly Skilling

“I love the simplicity of line and strength of presence of Ruth Asawa’s work and have often thought about how you could achieve something similar. Asawa often uses wire to create shapes that are both sustainable and supported. I have used wire circles to support the main shape, then used balloons and pva glue to ‘encourage’ the crochet to resist gravity.  I don’t know how long my ‘sculpture’ will maintain its shape – and next time I will  spend more time on the mathematics of the shape before starting, rather than working it out as I go along. But, for all that, I have learnt a lot from this exercise and will certainly try it again.”

James Randall

“Thank you Charly for this wonderful prompt and your lovely cephalopod tale last KA. Lots of lovely works. Ruth Asawa’s gentle pieces often feel figurative to me. So I drew up some body shapes and investigated displacement mapping lines across the shapes without a great deal of success. So I turned to filling the shapes with lines that I ‘roughen’ filtered then mirrored these shapes. I layered a couple of photos to form a background then plonked a few test shapes onto the background – they looked insect-like so I kept building up shapes and played with the colours (and line angles to reference weaving) on the rich blue greeen background (which I kept changing). Finally I thought the colour mix needed a dash of yellow green in the background so I combined a few big shapes and filled them with diagonal lines before adding layers of dark graduations left and right to keep the people bugs a bit more contained.”

Gary Thorne

“Amazing that wire can weave such intricate organic forms and leave your 10 digits intact. Local resources return into play for KA#74; as Asawa suggests, play enough with one material and discoveries unfold. Struggles to sway a material to bend your way however, demanded an alternative for the side weave, and to the rescue old-fashioned macrame 3mm cotton-wool twist, adding a pleasing colour. Not a basket for much more than Italian Grissini, but, as a lover of all things Italian, that’s just fine by me.”

Marion Raper

“I remembered I had made a lot of Irish crochet motifs over the years with wonderful designs from Irish patterns inspired by roses, shamrocks, ferns and leaves. I didn’t want to use PVA to stiffen them so I decided to weave some very fine wire around the edges so I could bend them into some unusual shapes.  This proved a rather tricky business, but when I photographed them hanging in the sunlight they appeared like a small delicate chandelier.”

And to mark the occasion of our 75th prompt, I’m inviting you to one hell of a party…

Throwback Friday #142 ‘Chromatophores’ (2023)

Today’s Throwback Friday is a short one, only as far back as a matter of weeks. For The Kick-About No.73, inspired by cephalopods, I made a short film, prompted by an octopus’s ability to change the colour of its skin. A bit of research later, and I had a new word in my vocabulary – chromatophores – which are muscle-controlled pigment cells.

As a starter-for-ten, I went about producing some chromatophores of my own on a white bathroom tile and some Sharpie pens, and after that, I went about producing a great many photographs of this self-same square tile under a shifting pattern of reflected light. Ultimately, these photographs were compiled as moving image, and from there, I went about producing the final visuals for the film itself. Not so much low-budget then, as no budget, but that’s the pleasure of the Kick-About and the opportunity to make things happen ‘by the seat of one’s pants’.

The Kick-About #73 ‘Cephalopod’

Our last Kick-About was prompted by a work of art celebrated for its complex commentary on the act of looking. The subject of this week’s showcase of new works made in a short time is no less enigmatic – the otherworldly cephalopod. Enjoy this latest dive into the deep waters of creative play…

Marion Raper

“I have to say that cephalopods are not really my favourite thing. They are rather too wriggly and slippery for my liking and have too many tentacles and suckers to grab their unsuspecting prey!  However, I do admit they are super-amazing in their ability to survive this world for so long by camouflage and cleverness. I especially like the information I read about the octopus that sneaked out of its tank, climbed over to another fish tank, ate the fish inside and then sneaked  back again! I used some yuppo paper, which I marbled to create my octopus collage, with some added acrylic paint.” 

Gary Thorne

“So fascinating, I’ve learned so much about the Octopus; its brainy capabilities, balletic physicality; capacity to mimic and play, and dodge harm coming its way. I’m now full of ‘respect’ for this amazingly exotic creature. Perhaps it’s the playful nature which inspired this simple colourful child-like 8-propellor whirligig.”

Kerfe Roig

“I wasn’t sure what to do after a drawing failed to excite me, but I found some pieces of African fabrics that I decided to make into a stuffed animal. I made no pattern but just started cutting and stitching in the manner of my collages except with fabric and thread instead of paper and glue. My cuttlefish is totally not anatomically correct, but has the general form and spirit of a sea creature with tentacles that can change the color and pattern of its skin.  I photographed it on a few different backgrounds, and also did one photo of the bottom. I wanted to do some more embroidery on it but ran out of time…” /

Lisa Fox

“How this piece came about is when I became part of a postcard exchange mail group and was making my first group of cards to mail out. I looked to a book I have called Art Deco: Design Fantasies by E.H. Raskin and took illustration #7 as my starting point for inspiration. From there, it took on a life of its own. As I put it together, I imagined two spiny sea creatures, cephalopods, if you will, reaching out for each other. Of course my mind operates in metaphors and I see them as two people who ordinarily do not do well with others but still need the comfort of human companionship, reaching out to each other. The companionship is represented by the little pink in the center.”

James Randall

“I had seen a ghostly pickled giant squid (and other cephalopods) at the Queensland Museum recently, so I headed back there with my camera on a 35 degree day. The museum opened at 9.30 and even then it was full of people (definitely a free public museum in need of expansion.) In the darkish venue I took my blurry pics of the decaying white carcasses. Back home I used Photoshop and Illustrator to come up wth an image. I also began reading Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith: I didn’t get far, but I noted how far back on the evolutionary tree that cephalopods branched away from humans and how their minds developed independently to ours. At that time I also listened to a podcast about AI art – How will AI change our understanding of Art? – my takeaway from that was to ask why we would engage computers to create art when that is something we simply enjoy doing (at the fundamental level of painting and writing) and can use to honestly question existence. We don’t properly question science; we just pursue all of its branches in pursuit of the mighty dollar or genuine, but sometimes flawed curiosity. I think occasionally you need to ask why and say no. I don’t think we will ask ourselves if AI should be pursued, so that generated thoughts on evolution and what hope the future holds if our next iteration is formed from minds that pursue power and profit above all else… So with that I added a couple of words to my image.”

Francesca Maxwell

“I love cephalopods, my favourite creatures. So beautiful and so intelligent. So much so, that an octopus is one of the main characters in a story I wrote years ago for a little animation film. Still working on it! It might never become a film but it has become the inspiration for a lot of my paintings. So here is my friend coming to the surface to greet, help and guide the lost girl of the story.”

Phill Hosking

“These are taken from a set of posts I made a while ago, during a time of drawing practice exploring a new subject every month. These are in various mediums, including coloured pencils, markers, inks and digital. A good subject for loose and expressive mark-making.” / /

Graeme Daly

“There was a few failed attempts at different iterations for this weeks kick about, one of which was a lot less colourful and leaning a lot towards the the horror side. I decided to salvage one of the 3D models from that attempt and use the gooey textures from a previous kick about onto the 3D models of Octopuses. Things started to take place when I laid the 3D models onto of each other – as if the octopuses are in some sort of a dance together, possibly one of the lethal kind.” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Tom Beg

“I’ve used this technique a lot in past Kick-Abouts for generating all sorts of things in a loose but still recognisable form. It feels like sketching in 3D and it’s always satisfying to see what kind of forms emerge in a natural way, and given the chameleonic nature of cephalopods. I thought I would dust it off for perhaps one last spin. Its tentacle-like quality seemed a perfect fit for creating some abstract and otherworldly octopus-like creatures… although, apparently, an octopus technically doesn’t have tentacles!” / /

Phil Gomm

“There’s a longer bit of preamble for another time in which I reveal how the images in this short film were made, but, in typical Kick-About style, no actual cephalopods were employed in the making of it. Instead, this whole thing began with a white bathroom tile, a fish bowl and a single flashing light source, lo-fi, low-budget japes ensuing! Inspired directly by this footage of a sleeping octopus, I went about imagining both the interior and exterior expression of a dreaming cephalopod, further inspired by the finale to Spielberg’s wonderful Close Encounters of The Third Kind.”

Vanessa Clegg

“I wanted to do a simple drawing for a change and approach it from a slightly sideways direction. The suckers reminded me of the ‘cupping’ the early doctors/quaks were so fond of by applying leeches for almost any ailment…also of the marks left by giant squid down in the infinite deep whilst battling with sperm whales.”

“This is a strange, calm underwater world where octopuses, and maybe a giant squid or two, roam … above, the world is in turmoil. The merman/maid has yet to be discovered.”

Charly Skilling

A few years ago, my brother Jon went on a trip to the Falklands and South Georgia. He is an avid photographer and bird watcher and came back with trillions of holiday snaps.  Amongst  these was a series of extraordinary photographs of an encounter he witnessed on the shores of South Georgia, an encounter between a seagull and an octopus. As soon as I saw these photos, I was convinced there was a story to be told.  When the KA prompt came up as ‘Cephalopod’, the phrase ‘The Seagull and the Cephalopod’ immediately came to mind and the rhythm and alliteration was stuck in my head until I’d written the poem. The photos actually show a black-backed gull, Jon informs me, but I ignored that and used the term “seagull” or “common gull”… easier for scansion and more potential for humour.  People who know about these things say it is very unlikely for an octopus to be so close to the shore in this area unless it is on the point of death, but I didn’t want to think about this octopus in that way. In other words, don’t look to my work for scientific accuracy, or indeed, any kind of accuracy at all, but the one particular photo that inspired this poem is absolutely genuine and I am very grateful to Jon for allowing me to share it with you.

With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter and conjuror of crochet, Charly Skilling, we have our all-new prompt, courtesy of Ruth Asawa. Enjoy yourselves!

Les miroirs (2023)

What really resonated with me in regards to Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (our latest Kick-About prompt) is how ‘meta’ this painting is, in so much as it is a painting about painting. Las Meninas 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.