I love Lunaria annua, with its translucent paper discs and silhouetted seeds. This bunch of seed heads were harvested from the scrub at the edges of the Old French House and poked into a big pot in the hallway. That was eight years ago now – and the seed-heads remain there, likely with a fine veil of spider webs by now.
Month: May 2023
Brett’s #1 (2023)
One of the things guarding against the prettification of my home town is the presence of Brett’s aggregate factory slap-bang in the harbour. With Charles Sheeler’s flattened abstractions in my sights – this week’s Kick-About prompt – and likewise his use of colour, I went out to photograph the factory buildings, with the idea of collaging them, so moving quickly beyond this first act of recording them.
Whitstable is celebrated for its skyscapes. and on this day, the clouds were so much lace and the light was pin-prick clean. Had my camera been old school, I’d have anyway plumped for a polarising filter by which to pull more drama and detail from the clouds; in the instance of these images, I polarised my images in post and licked my lips as the skies offered up all this tonal range and texture. The dystopian vibes of these photographs diverge at once from Sheeler’s calming expressions of modernity; my photographs remind me of sets from science-fiction movies; they’re all a bit Metropolis and I don’t mind saying I’m very happy about that. I walk past this factory all the time; it’s never felt this cinematic before.
The Kick-About #80 ‘Charles Sheeler’
Textile artist, Sheila Hicks, inspired our last Kick-About together, and it was all soft, cushiony forms, meshes and string. This time out, we’re keeping company with Charles Sheeler and his crisp, clean expressions of modernity.
“I really love the work of Charles Sheeler. How exciting it must have been to live during the 1920s and 30s when industrial buildings provided such a wealth of artistic material. For my first attempt at a painting I began by sticking a lot of newspaper down and did a rough copy of some factories from a magazine, but I felt it needed to be much sharper. Secondly I used an old picture I did some time ago and revamped it. I have to be honest and say I am not altogether sure where the original inspiration came from, but the colour scheme and shapes are all my own work.“
“Sheeler’s modernist work makes me ponder the industrial revolution, the building up and tearing down of sprawling metropolises in all their in-betweens of metal, cement and beams. The shapely blocks of colour makes me think of movement, like a time-lapse of something that is always being altered. I created my film by modelling quick and dirty shapes in 3D, then tinkered with the camera to pull the focal length back and added many of the shapes in a line, through which the camera cranes. I added little movements here and there to the shapes to make things feel dynamic.”
@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly / gentlegiant.blog
“When I was browsing through Sheeler’s paintings, I was struck by how clean and colourful his painting is, while his subjects are often grim and grubby industrial sites. What’s more, many of his works look like exercises in perspective. Amoskeag Mills 2 particularly caught my eye. A few weeks ago, I decided it might be time to own up to my ignorance and signed-up for an art class to learn some of the basics. (See the effect you guys have on people!). 3 weeks into a 14 week course and perspective is much on my mind, worrying about horizons, vanishing points, and 2-, 3- and multi-point perspectives. I don’t know what the opposite of a ‘Precisionist’ is, but I think, as an “Im-precisionist”, I’ve found my genre!”
“This was interesting, as I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t come across Sheeler but liked the way he shifted between painting and photography… Wish I could have spent longer exploring the theme, but had to be satisfied by a couple of off-centre shots (lying on the ground) of the Arts complex where I have my studio.”
“One of the things guarding against the prettification of my home town is the presence of an aggregate factory slap-bang in the harbour. With Sheeler’s flattened abstractions in my sights, and likewise his use of colour, I went out to photograph the factory buildings, with the idea of collaging them, so moving quickly beyond this first act of recording them. Whitstable is celebrated for its skyscapes. and on this day, the clouds were so much lace and the light was pin-prick clean. Had my camera been old school, I’d have anyway plumped for a polarising filter by which to pull more drama and detail from the clouds; in the instance of these images, I polarised my images in post and licked my lips as the skies offered up all this tonal range and texture. The dystopian vibes of these photographs diverge at once from Sheeler’s calming expressions of modernity; my photographs remind me of sets from science-fiction movies; they’re all a bit Metropolis and I don’t mind saying I’m very happy about that. I walk past this factory all the time; it’s never felt this cinematic before.”
“Charles Sheeler created great strongly composed images. So I took off with my camera around Brisbane city and really didn’t take any inspired pics. I did take some textures; a couple were of grey black hoardings on a building site, which I overlayed with a shadow (reversed to be white) of a collapsible clothes dryer. This combination looked like search lights over a ‘war sky’ whatever that is. Thus I lost sight of Mr Sheeler and fell down the war rabbit hole – in Australia there has been so much news coverage about defence spending and new nuclear powered subs – having trouble with government’s spending of tax payer’s money on weapons, while our less wealthy citizens go homeless. Any how, I kept layering parts of my city photos and distorted or modified them and finally added a couple of quick Illustrator drawn figures.”
“I was immediately drawn to Sheeler’s Against the Sky a Web has Spun, as much for the title as the painting. I made a cosmic collage, simplifying the forms, and embroidered a web on top, then wrote a short poem to accompany it.”
beyond the webs we build to
kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com
And from abstractions inspired by concrete jungles…
Throwback Friday #150 Meadow Misc. (2015)
I’ve spent a good deal of time getting lost in fields, as for me, there is nothing more transportive than a wall-to-wall vista of meadow grass as its colours and textures are transformed by the breeze and by the light. I can’t recall where this field is or what I was doing there back in 2015, but I would have been drawn to the grid lines of the fence against that strip of rapeseed and the cross-hatching of the grass in the foreground.
After Hicks #2 (2023)
A second batch of Sheila Hicks-inspired forms providing the answer to the question no one ever asked about what happens if you load shredded cardboard with Christmas pudding-sized dollops of filler, before wrapping the whole lot in an organza bag… Produced for The Kick-About No.79, these objects are a great example of working with the stuff within easy reach and being led by doing. I wasn’t sure what I was making at the time, but the moment they were ‘there’ in front of me, all the associations crowded in and likewise ideas for replicating this kind of thing – one day – at a much bigger scale.
Throwback Friday #149 Water Lilies (2015)
I can’t recall exactly where this photograph was taken, except it was one of those lovely large houses with lovely large gardens somewhere in Kent, and it was a sunny day in 2015 and we were just mooching about enjoying the view. The breeze was doing nice things to the surface of the water, with the flowers of the water lilies looking very tastefully scattered. Click!
After Hicks #1 (2023)
I was very drawn to Sheila Hick’s fabric marshmallow-y boulders, but knew right away I didn’t have the resources or the space to emulate the scale of Hick’s installations – the prompt for The Kick-About No.79.
I did have at my disposal a large bag of crimped, shredded cardboard used for packing out parcels and I wondered if I could work with it in such a way as to produce some Hicks-inspired forms, while maintaining some of the material’s frizzy, explosive qualities. I flattened out some fine mesh bags onto a table, and on top of that, layered the shredded cardboard, and then dolloped some quick-drying filler onto the cardboard, before gathering the bag up around the mixture and tying the whole thing off like an improbable dumpling and setting it aside to dry. When I unpeeled the bag, I was left with these unravelled sculptural forms, which I then photographed against some solid colour in another nod to Sheila Hicks. Lots of fun at the arts and crafts table this week!
The Kick-About #79 ‘Sheila Hicks’
Our last Kick-About was a celebration of three year’s worth of mucking about with materials, making, inventing, re-imagining and re-purposing. As a result, I suspect some of us have spaces in our homes beginning to pile high with ad-hoc accretions of creative stuff. In terms of scale, none of us may quite have reached the heights of this week’s prompt, the giant textile installations of Sheila Hicks, though one of us is certainly pushing it…
“I have no idea why i have never seen the work of Sheila Hicks before and other women artists of this particular era! What a great discovery. Striking and powerful. Having worked myself within vast architectural spaces and in theatre, I felt a kinship with her idea, attention to spaces and love of masses of colour. I like to see through the colours and the mixing of the layers in relationship to one another as they move, held within a skeletal structure in architectural space. I have been collecting these netting pieces that hold fruit and vegetables and the metal tags that are wound round the end that have been waiting in the wings for an opportunity. Their restriction of colour bothered me at first and yet it was a release to see what i could make with them. They are bouncy and can be twisted into rather wonderful shapes that brought me back to something more organic and lively. Playing with the results on the computer to find new colours was fun if a little bit frustrating as my tech knowledge is rather limited! I was intrigued though about how the overall texture looked more like a tapestry. More food for thought!“
“It’s always harder for me to figure out what to do for a textile artist prompt. I know and like the work of Sheila Hicks, and especially admire how she has never become stuck in one way of working. I opened a page in a book I have of her work at random to a commission she did for a NYC Wine Bar that consisted of roughly embroidered circles – they look stuffed, but I decided to paint a mandala and then embroider the entire surface. My colors are brighter than hers, and my stitching is less irregular, but I think the feeling of it is the same. Start stitching and see what happens.“
kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com
“Looking at images of Sheila Hicks’ work, I was struck again by how liquid textiles can appear, and it was with that in mind I started hanging bits of yarn from a garden plant support. I became totally absorbed in the task and consequently spent far, far longer on it than originally intended, but I am quite pleased with the way it turned out.”
“I recently heard the origins of May Day (around “Mayday”), as in the nautical context, and it was one of those ‘Of course! Why didn’t I know that?’ moments. Anyway, as we’re in May, I decided to combine that with very basic weaving and sort of create a vague story… at least, in my head, as I was re-reading Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, so the darker fairy tales were ‘woven’ in. The other is improvised!”
“Being the slacker that I am I didn’t find a great deal on the web about Sheila Hicks so I settled on savouring the online visuals and contemplating the art of weaving. Having little in the way of craft skills, I took to the computer for some photo weaving. My idea was to take one pixel wide samples from a thousand photos and as they would be both landscape and portrait oriented combine them into a roughly square image resembling woven fabric. To make them a bit softer looking, I used the warp filter on each strand. I thought I would end up with a soft greyish mass – which I did, but when you zoom in you do get fibres of colour so I think the only way to see it properly is as a high resolution printout. I feel happy to have looked at all the photos – a bit of a self-portrait in a way.”
“I was very drawn to Hick’s fabric marshmallow-y boulders but knew right away I didn’t have the resources or the space to emulate the scale of Hick’s installations. But I did have at my disposal a large bag of crimped, shredded cardboard used for packing out parcels and I wondered if I could work with it in such a way as to produce some Hicks-inspired forms, while maintaining some of the material’s frizzy, explosive qualities. I flattened out some fine mesh bags onto a table, and on top of that, layered the shredded cardboard, and then dolloped some quick-drying filler onto the cardboard, before gathering the bag up around the mixture and tying the whole thing off like an improbable dumpling and setting it aside to dry. When I unpeeled the bag, I was left with these unravelled sculptural forms, which I then photographed against some solid colour in another nod to Sheila Hicks. Lots of fun at the arts and crafts table this week!”
“After seeing this prompt a couple of weeks ago, I went and looked up Sheila Hicks’ work online. I would love to see it in person to get the full impact of those huge shapes and the wonderful colour. The pieces I was particularly drawn to were the ones that seemed to be flowing down from the gallery ceilings, they look alive. For my response, I’ve drifted rather a long way from Sheila Hicks’s joyful and exuberant big shapes and drawn something distinctly malevolent-looking over a photo of an interior space I found in a magazine. I think in artspeak terms one could say the black things are ‘disrupting the space’. It looks more like a horror film than a soft sculpture, oh dear!”
instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com
“After having to buy a new washing machine, I kept some of the styrofoam that came in the packaging. Call me a hoarder all you like, but I knew I could make something out of the grooves and shapes warped into the styrofoam mirroring the details of the machine. So I spray painted the styrofoam black and bought a bag of colourful cotton pom-pom balls to design the set of this miniature Hicks installation then lit it ablaze with some dramatic lighting and documented the process. Things took a more sci-fi, macabre turn when I decided to use some red gels.”
@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly / gentlegiant.blog
“It amazes me how Sheila Hicks could have so much time and patience to make her huge fabric sculptures. After looking at her work I embarked on making some giant size Suffolk Puffs. This takes up quite a lot of material so I decided instead of fastening them together I would just place them at random to make pleasing patterns. In some cases I added some denim strips to finish the design. It is the sort of thing that has infinite possibilities if you had the resources and I rather enjoyed just playing around.”
“I knew very little about Sheila Hicks and it was quite inspiring to look at her work and read about her life. Colours, texture and layering, what more can I ask? So here is my output, an image made by multilayered glass, my default material after inks. Although it is not soft and warm in the way of Sheila’s choice of textile, it is still very tactile.”
And for our next adventure together, the architectural preoccupations of Charles Sheeler (1883 – 1965). Have fun!
Throwback Friday #148 Whitstable Harbour (2022)
This abstract little number was taken one milky day at low tide in Whitstable in late winter 2022. The view is of under one of the quays that project out into the sea, the sun lighting the pillars and dazzling against the black waters underneath. It was a painter’s dream under there.