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.
Another off-cut from early 35mm experiments out in the sultry gloom of the environs of the old French house, from the summer of 2013. There’s little doubt you could produce commensurate effects by layering-up images in Photoshop – an old house composited together with a squiggle of digital light – but the analogue mechanics behind the production of this moment include a clunky old film camera, a camping light encased in an empty blue water bottle on the end of a piece of string, and a human being whirling it about while dashing from one side of the composition to the other – and much to the consternation of the local wildlife!
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’.
Our last Kick-About together was a celebration of the idea of tea-making, tea-drinking, and its various rituals. Without this activity, with its powers of comfort and displacement, I wonder sometimes how we would otherwise negotiate some of life’s disappointments, large and small. Disappointment is one of the themes of Molly Drake’s I Remember, and it is Drake’s delicate, if devastating song that has this week inspired us to produce new works in a short time.
“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?
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, Tom Beg, we have our latest prompt, the short 1977 film Powers Of Ten, directed by Charles and Ray Eames.