On Saturday, August 6th, it was Whitstable’s carnival, a fascinating expression of quirk and eccentricity, combining all the sea-centric elements you might expect from this long-standing tradition with more off-kilter entries.
This year, alongside the papier-mâché effigies and pirates, we were treated to an Elvis impersonator riding a mobility scooter upholstered with cuddly toys, some Oompa Loompas, a gaggle of flower-powered hippies, and a corgi-headed page-boy… The whole town came out to line the streets to wave the procession on in all its eclectic, ad-hoc glory and there was tangible sense of time travel, of witnessing something that has ‘always been’. That said, the carnival itself has been imperilled of late, seeing waning interest and investment in the event, but this year’s procession marked something of a renewal. I certainly enjoyed the strangeness and feral expressiveness, with nothing but admiration for those more performative souls who were out there making it happen for the rest of us.
I wanted to end by sharing this final image, which captures something of that sensation of time travel, for while this photograph was taken at last Saturday’s carnival, it could also have been taken a great many years earlier; the ghost of carnivals long-since passed is flickering here.
A real oldie for this week’s flashback – and a strange one at that! I made this lamp on my Foundation course all the way back in 1993, and I can’t remember the brief exactly, but I recall it was about making something new in response to the work of an existing artist (so not much has changed!).
For my source of inspiration, I chose Hieronymus Bosch and his famous painting, The Garden Of Earthly Delights (which likely surprised exactly no one, given the painting’s lewd subject matter and filmic spectacle). I decided to model my lamp after the painting’s strange rock-formations – part-mineral, part-crustacean, part-cacti – and combined a host of different techniques: annealing metal, blacksmithery, fibre-glass and resin…
Okay, so it wasn’t a very attractive lamp, and I think it ended up in a skip, but I had a huge amount of fun producing it. I dug out the few surviving photographs of it and re-photographed them for the purpose of sharing them on here, so the quality isn’t great, but the thing stood at about sixty centimetres high and was a working lamp, with that rather grim-looking sphere lighting up to glow pinkly, like some b-movie brain or cosmic egg.
These photographs were taken on the day after the UK saw those uncanny, record-breaking temperatures. We went to the beach to escape the strange temperature of our terraced house and swam gratefully in the shallowing sea. A few people wondered what I was doing with my camera pushed into a translucent bag and photographing into the sun, but I was out there, experimenting, gunning for heat haze and the shimmer. Turns out that double-wrapping the lens with gauze makes moonlight out of sunshine.
A second collection of photographs inspired by the watercolour paintings of Augustus Osbourne Lamplough, our most recent Kick-About prompt. In order to emulate the soft tonal range of Lamplough’s landscapes, I photographed this unkempt basin of umbellifers and grasses through gauze to flatten everything out and spread the sunlight liberally. In some of these images you can see the weave of the gauze producing a cross-hatching effect across the surface of the image.
I wasn’t familiar with Augustus Osbourne Lamplough’s work (our latest Kick-About muse) but I find his paintings completely magical, and can hardly believe they’re paintings at all, in so much as all that soft golden light and gauze is produced from paint and brushes onto paper.
Suitably inspired, I returned to a local bit of unadopted scrub set just back from the sea front (last seen here under very different circumstances) and indulged once more my love of grasses, in all their billowing contours. First putting my camera into an organza bag, I proceeded to photograph the scrub as the wind pushed it this way and that, and the sun illuminated every quill and strand of it. Meanwhile, the gauze served to flatten everything out and flood the subject with light, producing some Lamplough-like atmospheres from a largely over-looked landscape. There are a few more to follow in coming days.
Our last Kick-About together was fired off by the super-saturated decor of Henri Matisse’s 1908 painting, Harmony in Red, also known as The Dessert. As Vanessa Clegg observes, there is but a small difference between the word ‘dessert’ and ‘desert’, but a whole world of difference between Matisse’s spatial effects and use of colour and those distinguishing the paintings of Augustus Osbourne Lamplough. With Lamplough’s evocations of exotic landscapes as our muse this week, enjoy this latest collection of new works made in a short time.
“The magic of Lamplough’s work is all in the soft, low contrast haze. He managed to capture those dusty, golden hour landscapes with a gentleness and calmness – a painting that feels barely there. My own contribution isn’t quite as calm – perhaps a little more sickly, but an exploration at least of the similar, low contrast magic landscape.”
“One process I often use to get a composition off the ground, is to take my old paintings and remix them. I collage and collide them together to create new forms, compositions and colour harmonies. It all feels a little mad and chaotic but it is the only way in which I can find some spontaneity in the digital medium.”
“I love the mirage-like quality of the African desert paintings and was instantly reminded of fata morganas and mirages in endless landscapes. With that in mind, I just had a bit of quick fun with some minimalistic desert imagery and a simple impression of mirages. Are they distant columns of lights? An epic oasis city in the desert? Or merely just a trick of the camera lens?”
“I met this Kick-About with a beautifully decorated box, which, some years ago, was given to my father on a removal job. He said it belonged to a nun, but it’s unknown to me if it was she who presented it to dad as a thanks, or if it was just something the owner no longer needed. My dad was never one to refuse anything.
Inside the lid is a sticker marked ‘Relics’ and four smaller boxes are revealed. Each box, decorated all over with detailed floral sprays, contains fragments and objects collected on travels. Sadly, no body parts. In one are two pieces of building stone from the Great Pyramid… and so my rather obvious connection with the prompt. It’s a marvellous object and a bit like a transportable ‘cabinet of curiosities’. Apart from the pyramid fragments, there are some shells from the Sea of Galilee, a chunk of Fountains Abbey, and a bit of brick from the spyhole through which Wellington spied the French at Waterloo – and numerous other bits and pieces.
So the drawing (collage, coloured pencil and ink) that came out of this, is of that inner box: its contents and dedication. The obelisk (foam board, pins, beads and Pritt Stick materialised as a way of using the pattern of the red granite – useful if you happen to be staging ‘Aida’ or ‘The Magic Flute’ and you need a desk ornament.”
“Having missed the last two prompts I thought I’d try, with limited technology, to combine all three… So, drawing (Peake), dessert (Matisse) and desert (Lamplough). ‘Dessert in the desert’ (helped by an old yellow lens filter for the heat!).”
“It just so happened that the week this prompt appeared I was asked to paint a picture of the desert by a friend from Dubai. I thought it was a fairly straightforward task, even though outside my usual oeuvre, but when I started trying to paint the sand dunes in the evening light I soon discovered it was tricker than I thought. The tones and colours were elusive and everything I did ended up too warm, too cool, just not right, and so the prompt was perfectly timed for me; I didn’t know the work of Augustus Osborne Lamplough, but as I looked at images of his watercolours, it was immediately clear this man really knew how to paint sand! The delicacy of the tints he used and the skill of his watercolour painting is breathtaking; so here was the master I could learn from to try and make my Dubai painting more convincing. I found it difficult enough with oil paint, where you can correct your mistakes, so I’m in awe of Lamplough’s skill painting desert-like landscapes in watercolour, where there’s nowhere to hide if something goes wrong.”
“Using a tight colour palette with aim for a unified tonal landscape, and making use of the palette knife to harmonise structure and composition, this endeavour at 30cm square, tries to integrate tree structure as much with the air as with the ground. Spatial depth is somewhat sacrificed when a push for atmospheric effect prevails. Lamplough’s blue-saturated ‘Cairo Mosque from the Nile’ (on the Lyon&Turnbull auction website) provided the inspiration.”
“I have a book of sepia photographs I bought in a junk shop many years ago. It is full of these curious landscapes from far away places of a Grand Tour taken in the early days of photography. I was going on some short travels of my own to Cornwall by train and I was prompted to think about my previous ideas of travelling I have been musing upon for quite some time. I love these soft muted colours Lamplough uses and have tried to apply them to a short series of my journey into Cornwall. I have taken the contrast of moving so rapidly from the verdant lush quality that suddenly changes to moorland in a moment as you approach the landscape of the deserted tin mines around Redruth. As I was moving in the train it was like a stage set with moving sections. These sections move at different speeds so the furthest remains for the longest time with new images to the foreground that flash past. The perspective changes as well and I would like to continue this journey so that your eye dips into a valley… but I ran out of time!”
“I wasn’t familiar at all with Lamplough’s work (much obliged, Jordan), but find his paintings completely magical, and can hardly believe they’re paintings at all, in so much as all that soft golden light and gauze is produced from paint and brushes onto paper. In Lamplough’s landscapes, I find the impressionism and light-play I always want from my own photographs, and it was a happy coincidence that Jordan’s choice of prompt should arrive in the same week I was experimenting with physical gauzes to produce more diffuse lighting effects of my own. Suitably inspired, I returned to a local bit of unadopted scrub set just back from the sea front (last seen on here under very different circumstances) and indulged once more my love of grasses, in all their billowing contours. First putting my camera into an organza bag, I proceeded to photograph the scrub as the wind pushed it this way and that, and the sun illuminated every quill and strand of it. Meanwhile, the gauze served to flatten everything out and flood the subject with light, producing some Lamplough-like atmospheres from a largely over-looked landscape.”
“I am trying to convey the idea of heat by using very hot and luminous colours. Augustus Lamplough however, managed to portray this by a marvellous technique of softness and reflection of light and shadow. His paintings are simple but very effective and it must have been so wonderful a time at the turn of the 19th century, to wander around Egypt with your watercolours, and just explore and paint.“
“When I recently came back to London after experiencing the greens of Ireland I was taken aback with how brown and muddy the earth felt, the grass crispy under my feet, the leaves and flowers with burnt liver spots. The world was well and truly scorching alive with a wave of heat that follows your every move. Sweating, I set out with my camera in the sweltering heat to explore the torrid areas and capture similar landscapes to Lamplough’s work, the park near my house where I run every day being the main jumping off point, coupled with the coloured slats, trucks and caravans in the midst of setting-up shop for a funfair. I wanted to explore taking the photos that step further – upping the exaggeration by adding a plethora of different shapes hinting at some civilisation in the distance. But is it nothing more than a mirage?”
A second batch of rooftop shots taken during the UK’s two days of record-breaking heat, when the sun blasted down Albert Street and the heat in every room of our drafty old house was commensurate with that moment when you first step off a plane or train in some distant, foreign country and first experience the furnace of another climate. These images are not as benign as that, however, coming off as more Nigel Kneale than ‘Wish You Were Here.’