The Scrying Mirror (2020)


Back in late April, we took a walk into the local woods to see the bluebells and green frills of young Spring foliage, but I was very much more drawn to the sullen pond sitting in shadow below the eaves of the trees. The soupiness of this small body of water shouldn’t have been in any inspiring, and yet it seemed to slow and melt and warp the world reflected in it. The few photographs I took of these reflections possessed qualities that excited me; here was the oiliness and the grubbied silk, and the near-metallic sheen produced by the grey bloom of the water.



The Orpheus portal prompt for the Kick-About #4 sent me hurrying back to the sluggish pond in one of those rare moments of knowing exactly how I wanted to respond. The notably dry Spring meant the pond was rather smaller than before – and the water even blacker and more viscous. The atmosphere was the same – mysterious, solemn, and silent. The lone figure who haunts the resulting images was just the thing to push the idea a little further. Friend or foe? Past or future? Living or dead? I don’t know. This scrying mirror is keeping its secrets.



The Kick-About #4 ‘Orphée’


Our previous kick-about together was a game on the theme of happy shades, which originated a showcase of reflective, nostalgic and mediative responses. Phil Cooper’s Orpheus-inspired prompt has led some of us at least down some shadowier, more mysterious paths, as we consider alternate worlds and the allure of leaving this one.


Vanessa Clegg

“The sea is often described as a mirror and the mirage (Fata Morgana) on the horizon is literally looking/entering into another space. These are caused by layers of successively warmer air (shown as horizontal lines) working like a series of eyeglass lenses. It is a world that does not exist but is utterly real to the viewer.” Pencil on Fabriano. 56 cm X 56 cm.


vanessaclegg.co.uk


Tom Beg

“A Saturday stroll in the blistering summer heat turned into search for other-worlds and distorted realities, which I found in the ripples and reflections of the Ooka River in Yokohama. My final stop on this little solo journey was a lovely park that sits on the edge of Yokohama harbour. I’ve always found the waves and colour of the ocean here completely fascinating. It’s like staring into a thick undulating soup, and it was here where not so long ago the ill-fated Diamond Princess was moored up, quarantined, and its unfortunate passengers cut off from the outside world. It was as if it too had gone through the mirror where things would never quite be the same again.”


twitter.com/earthlystranger / vimeo.com/tombeg


Maxine Chester

“This response evolved from the idea of Opheus entering into an eternal dance of seduction with death. The folds start to talk about ideas around the eternal, where there is no beginning or end just what happens within the unfolding of the middle.  Hence the title ‘…and…'”


instagram.com/maxineschester / maxine-chester.squarespace.com


Charly Skilling

“As long as there have been mirrors, humanity has wondered what they are really seeing in them – spirits, shades,(usually not so happy) or alternate universes.  We gaze in the mirror – and we muse.  And being human, we muse about how such mirror worlds might affect us personally.”



Phill Hosking

“I attempted to illustrate the moment where Orpheus entered the underworld to save his wife ‘Eurydice’. Orpheus stands readying himself for what’s to come as the the dark forces of the underworld surround Eurydice in the depths. This sparked all sorts of possible dark scenarios to illustrate, but I went for a poster-like iconic angle to enhance the drama and jeopardy for the hero of the piece.”


instagram.com/eclecto2d linkedin.com/in/phill-hosking


Kerfe Roig

“Mirrors and reflections often feature in my work, but I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to approach the mirror as a portal.  I first tried a collage but it seemed too busy.  The folded Rorschach paintings I do are already mirrored, so I decided to try that approach.

As often happens, this was not the painting I had in mind when I began.  Although the paint didn’t layer the way I envisioned, it took on its own life in the process and I followed along.  This is the second painting I’ve done using handprints…perhaps the start of a series?”



someone half
remembered, pieces
of stories
overheard–
circles drumming, spiraling,
endlessly riddled

differences
held opposite by
here and there
passed midway
to now—remaining whole yet
existing as both

reflected
overflowing with
a presence
carrying
ancient songs—myths returned as
what will always be


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Marion Raper

“I began by looking at an old children’s book called The Mirrorstone (Michael Palin, Alan Lee and Richard  Seymour).   In this story a boy walks through his bathroom mirror, and what I like about it are the illustrations, which include holograms. With this in mind I used some mirror card for my shapes and made shadows using some black organza material from my stash. The pink card is actually sparkly, but this was very hard to photograph and get the same effect. Lastly I drew around my hands and stuck some chiffon over them for a more ghostly look.”



Graeme Daly

“I knew exactly what I was going to create when I saw the new prompt… Twas the night before my birthday and I was sitting out in the tiny garden in my previous London apartment. I was drinking red wine and smoking a cigarette and frankly feeling rather shit – not sure if it was the birthday blues or if it was an amalgamation of other things, but my neighbours behind my house were having a party; they recently installed some outside lighting that surrounded their roomy garden in a blazing warm hue that lit up the brick of their apartment like a beacon in the night. In my garden there was a full length mirror perched against a rickety garden shed that was full of art supplies and spiders. The light from the neighbour’s garden was reflecting brilliantly against the mirror – it looked otherworldly placed against the black shed and darkness of my garden, as if the light didn’t belong in the darkness. I thought to myself, I wish that was a fucking portal so I could step through it, leave this place and see some happy faces. The neighbours next door continued to dance and sing into the night.” 


@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly


Phil Gomm

“A few weeks back, I discovered a large stagnant pond in the woods, its water black, viscous and a little sinister. All this talk of magic mirrors and portals to the underworld saw me hurry back to this enshadowed pool, as haunted and obsidian as any scrying mirror…”



Gary Thorne

“This has been some challenge, having chosen the mirror’s reflection as focus throughout, with three quite different self-portraits beneath this final slightly worrying impression of entering a hot (not tropical) world. Too late for dodging the inevitable, I suspect.” Oil on board 20cm x 20cm.


linkedin.com/in/gary-thorne


Phil Cooper

“Mystic portals and doorways to other realms have often appeared in my work. I guess that’s why I chose the clip from Cocteau’s Orphée for the prompter’s this week; to me, they represent imagination, dreams, and promise.

I made the images by painting 2D elements on card, setting them up on a table-top with a painted background and then photographing them. It was all pretty low-fi; the lighting is a little torch, a candle and my iPhone, and I used a few basic photo-editing apps to add atmosphere and texture. I enjoy seeing how the painted shapes transform during the photographic process. It sometimes falls flat and occasionally something quite satisfying emerges. I’d like to continue to develop these ideas; add sound perhaps, or use video to introduce movement.”



instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com


Francesca Maxwell

“I have finally finished Orpheus. This is the second version. I must confess I am using these Kick Abouts as experimental ground, trying techniques and styles very different from my usual. Probably because I am working on a topic and with a story, I don’t usually do that in my paintings, I let images, feelings and random thoughts settle down in images and try to capture them. Only when I design for work I follow stories where there are characters and environments detached from me. For this one I used my usual abstract painting style and superimposed a baroque doorway from Puglia; an olive tree, aside from the Mediterranean feel it also represent longevity and, with the flowers, life renewal and Orpheus looking through his fingers at Eurydice who then has to turn back. I used Acrylics Inks on hot pressed watercolour paper. 30 X 40 cm.”


www.FBM.me.uk


Marcy Erb

“The first thing I thought of was “mirror neurons” – which are special neurons found (so far) only in primates and birds that activate either when the animal does the behavior or they see another animal doing the same behavior (mirroring them). No one knows why we have them or truly what function they serve, although there is much speculation. It was fun to get out some of the science images I’ve saved over the years for this collage.”



“I did go back and do another interpretation of the theme in collage – inspired by the line ‘and in it, I see an unhappy man.’”


marcyerb.com


Simon Holland

“Went a bit pencilly on this one, I wanted to capture Orpheus at the moment where he mourns the loss of Eurydice, the light of the surface world Illuminates him as the omnipresent darkness of grief and the underworld threaten to consume him.”


twitter.com/simonholland74 / corvusdesigns.blogspot.com / instagram.com/simonholland74


With thanks to fellow Kick-About artist, Kerfe Roig, I’m happy to announce the brand-new prompt for our fifth run-around together, Alice Kneel’s 1932 painting, Symbols. See below for the painting, and for our new submission date, and if you’re reading this and want to join our (very) loose collective of intrepid creatives in our continuing mission to make stuff we otherwise might not make, just get in touch at philipgomm@gmail.com


Solipsist (2012)


Directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, Solipsist is as arresting as it is difficult to categorise. It’s the film David Cronenberg would make if David Cronenberg was big into craft, or it’s a Frank Oz cheese dream.

What I relish about this film is the way it combines physical costumes and puppetry with green screen/cgi augmentation, which produces some wildly uncanny effects and a proper sense of ‘a happening’. For your interest, I’ve included the ‘making of’ video, which is delightful, in so much as it showcases a lot of technical wizardry – and also some reassuringly lo-fi aquatic feather boas.





MFT #3 The Last Time I Saw Richard (1971)


The Last Time I Saw Richard is one of my favourite things. Here’s why.

I was introduced to Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album, Blue, when I was a first year undergraduate at art college. Maybe this is when everyone first hears the album? It certainly reads like a cliché now I’ve written it down.

The person who brought Blue to my attention was an older female student, a formidably assertive ceramicist, who was bisexual long before it was a thing and gave zero fucks what people thought of her. This was back in the early nineties, so my copy was pirated for me on a plain silver disc covered in the big indelible loops of the ceramicist’s hand-writing. I don’t know why this warm, generous, hot-headed woman thought I needed this album. Obviously I was walking about the place with a Joni Mitchell-shaped hole in me, as conspicuous to everyone else as a really bad hat.

Whatever the reason, Blue arrived with me, gifted by someone older and wiser, by someone who lived and worked in London, someone who’d travelled widely, someone less inhibited, someone with more notches on their bedpost, someone trailing more damage, someone bigger, someone braver.

The first thing you notice is how immediate it sounds, as if this is music not reaching you from some recording studio in 1971, but from a more intimate pocket of space.

I like every song on Blue. If it wasn’t June, I’d just as likely be enthusing about River, ‘the greatest, saddest Christmas song of all time’, and if I was tousled and sunburned from lounging too long by the pool, I’d be likely banging on about Carey, ‘the greatest summer holiday song of all time’.

The Last Time I Saw Richard is the final track on the album, the one that leaves you in silence, the one that makes reaching for another song or album feel as unseemly as buying a puppy moments after burying your dog. The song is just three short verses long; two people sitting across from each other in a bar, one of whom, Richard, is chiding the other’s romanticism and predicting for her only disillusionment. Richard’s companion suspects Richard ‘protests too much’, that his heart, though buried beneath bitter experience, lives on no less hopefully, and she points to his choice of songs on the establishment’s jukebox as proof.


The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in ’68
And he told me, “All romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café
“You laugh,” he said, “you think you’re immune
Go look at your eyes, they’re full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies, pretty lies
When you gonna realise they’re only pretty lies?
Only pretty lies, just pretty lies”

He put a quarter in the Wurlitzer, and he pushed
Three buttons and the thing began to whirr
And a bar maid came by in fishnet stockings and a bow tie
And she said “Drink up now, it’s gettin’ on time to close.”
“Richard, you haven’t really changed,” I said, it’s just that
Now you’re romanticizing some pain that’s in your head
You got tombs in your eyes, but the songs you punched are
Dreaming, listen, they sing of love so sweet, love so sweet
When you gonna get yourself back on your feet?
Oh and love can be so sweet, love so sweet


The Last Time I Saw Richard is filmic, which is surely why it springs to life so readily in my mind’s eye. I love the description of the barmaid in her fishnet stockings. I understand everything I need to know about this supporting character; the wilt of her bowtie, the aching of her feet, her impatience with couples and their intense conversations familiar to anyone who has worked behind a bar or waited tables; someone’s life is falling apart and all you’re thinking about is slipping your feet out of your shoes.

The images which accompany this song in the picture palace of my head are pilfered from Edward Hopper, a blending of Nighthawks (1942), Automat (1927), New York Movie (1939) and Night Windows (1928). The era is wrong, but everything else feels right. This affinity is as much to do with the brevity of Hopper’s paintings as it does with their isolated subjects. Mitchell’s three short verses allude to entire lives and complex emotional realities. They find their visual counterpart in the cropped glimpses of Hopper’s compositions; both offer views fleeting as they are meaningful.




After Hopper’s paintings, it’s another room I see, the bedroom of the student house I lived in for the duration of my degree. The house itself was unremarkable, rather awful even, situated in an estate populated by smugglers – not the whiskery Cornish sort, but the sun-burned, bald, brick shithouse kind with fleets of transit vans stacked with stolen fags. As art students, my housemates and I had little in common with our neighbours, except in one regard; like them, we didn’t have a proper job between us either.

The first thing I did after moving into my student house was paint my room’s old granny wallpaper with terracotta emulsion. Terracotta was having a moment, likewise anything with moons and stars on it. There was nothing to be done about the purple carpet in my room, except, Stockholm-syndrome style, grow to love it. Luxury of luxuries, my room had a double-bed, old and soft and a disaster-zone for vertebrae. I had a duvet cover of tiny flowers in shades of custard, biscuit, and the brown-pink of sticky-plasters. My room faced West. On sunny evenings, the terracotta walls blazed (my purple carpet too) and my double-bed would bake. I was conceited enough to think, by letting the plangent chords of The Last Time I Saw Richard escape freely out of my open window into the broiled air of the estate, I was providing a service to the world-at-large. I liked to imagine the song inspiring moments of respite, reflection and fugue, similar to the scene in The Shawshank Redemption when an entire prison is transported by Duettino “Sull’aria”. In reality, these plangent chords were as short-lived as mayflies, swatted from the air by the rich imbroglio of noise from our neighbours’ front gardens, where smugglers sunbathed in deck chairs, drunk as lords and ribald as vikings.

Young people like to think they’ve discovered sex, much to the twinkling amusement of everyone older than them. It must be the same when young people discover Joni Mitchell, but in my defence, there’s something more subtle to express here; sometimes you arrive at something you understand in your sinews, not because your own experience aligns with it. It shouldn’t be possible to feel pangs of nostalgia for an experience who’ve never had, and I was hardly built in the image of the characters populating Joni’s songs; I wasn’t shot through with all that super-8 sunlight. I wasn’t a restless traveller, beach-comber, spontaneous road-trip taker, or world-weary disillusioned lover. In no one’s imagination was I a carefree soul, and yet, I found Blue‘s songs recognisable, none more so than The Last Time I Saw Richard.


Richard got married to a figure skater
And he bought her a dishwasher and a Coffee percolator
And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
And all the house lights left up bright
I’m gonna blow this damn candle out
I don’t want Nobody comin’ over to my table
I got nothing to talk to anybody about
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hidin’ behind bottles in dark cafes
Dark cafes, only a dark cocoon
Before I get my gorgeous wings and fly away
Only a phase, these dark cafe days


A rare phonecall between my father and I takes place in the grim, dim hallway of that same student house with the flaming terracotta room upstairs. I’m lonely and dissatisfied in ways not completely visible to me. I’m not sure I’m on the right degree course. I’m not sure I’m on the right path. I’m not sure I’m living the life I want to. I’m not sure of very much it seems. Dad tells me to buck-up. Dad, a hard-working self-made type, shrinks the vagaries of my formless existential angst by reminding me that happiness is the quest for ‘a bigger sofa, a bigger car, and a bigger house’. I need to wake up, move on, get real, grow up. This is the last time I solicit his advice – just in case he’s right.

I think about this telephone call when I hear The Last Time I Saw Richard. The song returns me to the white-hot frustration I felt at the fatalism of my dad’s counsel. I transpose our telephone conversation to a Hopperesque bar, with my father and I sitting on opposite sides of a table; he tells me I’ll soon learn what he’s learnt and that it’s time to put away childish things. I remind him of the paintings of his I’ve seen from when he was a young man – the dinosaurs, and the Biro bats on his old satchel.

A few years later, I go to a barbecue hosted by one of my friends from art college. I’m as poor as a church mouse and can’t really afford to be socialising, but there will be other people from college at the barbecue and I’m looking forward to seeing them again. It’s fun for a short time, and then I’m holding a piss-poor excuse for a hamburger listening to multiple conversations about London house prices.

On the train journey home, I stare out at the houses neighbouring the railway line. The Last Time I Saw Richard plays in my head. It’s because I’m thinking about Edward Hopper, and all the big/little stories going on inside these houses. More specifically, it is the lines about Richard’s coffee percolator and his house with ‘all the lights left up bright’ going round and round. We’re all Richard now, I decide miserably, thinking back to the barbecue and its utter banality. I cast glances around the carriage at all the hollowed-out men and women staring out of windows. Now I’m thinking about the final lines of the final verse, as the song’s narrator doubles-down on her refusal to go this same way, even as the chords, the vocal performance, and the shape of the song lead us to suspect it’s already too late, that she is Richard too, and if not yet, then one day soon.

When I listen to The Last Time I Saw Richard, I see the paintings of Edward Hopper. I see my student room and all that took place there. I also see this awful barbecue and how awful we were, chatting boringly, our not-much younger selves looking on with withering disdain.

When I listen to The Last Time I Saw Richard I make and re-make promises, swearing I’ll ensure my eyes will remain as ‘full of moon’ as I can manage. I’ll do the job of Joni’s narrator too, challenge Richards when I find them, prove them wrong and re-enchant them. I’ll do this for myself too, and when it’s difficult, like it’s difficult now, I’ll try and remember what is temporary about dark cocoons and what is transportive about Joni’s gorgeous wings.



Throwback Friday #9 Meadow (2014)


I know, I know. There’s been a whole world of grass-themed posts on here over the last few weeks. Blame the good weather. Blame the lock-down. Blame the Kent countryside. Blame Monet’s and his fetish for haystacks. In my defence, this particular grass was snapped all the way back in the late Summer of 2014 and eschews pastoral impressionism for something markedly more extraterrestrial.

Bringing about these images was a typically lo-fi affair: some lovely slow slide film, an old 35mm camera, a few garden lights with coloured gels held in place with elastic bands, and between ten and twenty minute exposures. The photographs were taken up in the meadow at the old French House, where once again I was making the very most out of the warm still nights and complete absence of light pollution.

Memorably, it was while taking these photographs that I encountered a very large Alsatian dog, that loped silently out of the darkness of the nearby wood to eyeball me with baleful intent. It was all a little bit too Red Riding Hood for comfort. To my credit, I stood my ground and instructed the Alsatian to fuck off – which it did. The short walk back to the house I managed on jellied legs. I wanted to take more photographs. These are okay. They’re beginning to do nice things, but strictly between you and me, I’d completely lost my nerve!



Night Flyers #2


Lilium ‘Night Flyer’ in the late afternoon sun was an impressive sight – nearly black flowers revealing the deepest, richest reds and licks of orange flame. Lilium ‘Night Flyer’ in the early morning after the night’s rain, lit by the soft-box of the clouds, was something else again; black petals reflecting white, droplets of water like garnet beads, and anthers like moist chocolate orange eclairs.



Artist In Residence: Tom Beg #4


Phil: Hey Tom. Nice to catch up with you this week. I always look forward to seeing what you’ve been up. This image is joyous – like a shoal of outlandish helium balloons. It looks to me like you enjoyed translating your Miro-verse ‘anchovies’ into 3D existence…

Tom: Yes, the Miro cinematic universe, otherwise known as the Miroverse, is starting to come together but there is still a long way to go. I don’t consider the creatures and critters I’ve made so far to be finished, but now I have a pipeline of sorts established, it’s certainly quite enjoyable to be able to pop them into an empty scene and play around and pose them, or see how they interact with light and shadow. This has always been my favourite part of the 3D process. Also, all of this is a bit of testing and planning for when the time comes that I have to make these things come alive. It’s good to get a feel for what the possibilities and limitations might be.



Phil: I have many questions when I look at your characters, and they create an impatience in me to see them come alive and exhibit their signature behaviours. Any thoughts on how these critters might express their physicality? They look as cheeky and social as house sparrows…

Tom: Each of the creatures have their own bespoke control system that allows them be animated and manipulated in various ways, so this will certainly give a lot of opportunity for them to be able move and behave uniquely. That being said, there is likely going to be a lot of these things inhabiting a scene at any one time, and I’m a one-man studio making this in my free time. I’m going to have establish a kind of formula for animating them and giving them personality.

Phil: Another of my ‘many questions’ regards vocalisation – what these creatures might sound like? What are your current ideas in terms of potential sound design strategies?

Tom: I’m not a musician and I’ve never created sounds or soundscapes from scratch myself so it’s definitely going to pose a big challenge. I’m thinking about how I can use existing sound libraries to my advantage by manipulating, layering and distorting them until something interesting emerges. When I look at these creatures there are so many real-life sounds that immediately spring to mind, and since Miro’s paintings are an expression of the real world, it would make some thematic sense to use the real word in humorous and interesting ways.



Phil: A bit of an aside here, but producing work like this on the computer is a long-haul; what do you listen to while you work to keep mind and body together?

Tom: I like to stick to my comfort listening when I’m building stuff and doing somewhat repetitive tasks in computer software. I’m not sure it’s the right time to branching off and dabbling in some 1980s experimental Japanese noise rock or something like that. Here’s a little selection of the movie soundtracks that are often circulating around on my YouTube playlists while I’m moving the vertices and orienting the joints. Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Jerry Goldsmith, Walkabout by John Barry, The Empire Strikes Back by John Williams, Aguirre: The Wrath of God by Popol Vuh, Cannibal Holocaust by Riz Ortolani, and Transformers: The Movie (if solely for Death of Optimus Prime.)

Phil: And finally, who is up next and what do you predict the creative and technical challenges to be?

Tom: It’s these floating balloon whales with giant “cone things with tentacles” attached. I think with that description I’ve roughly summed up the creative and technical challenges I might face…


some floating balloon whales with giant “cone things with tentacles” attached


Norman McLaren & Evelyn Lambart: Lines Horizontal (1962)


“An experiment in pure design by film artists Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart. Lines, ruled directly on film, move with precision and grace against a background of changing colors, in response to music specially composed for the film.”

… and what I’ve always loved about this film is the way it makes me think of every long train journey spent looking out of windows; at the rails beside me, at the power-lines above me, and at the whipping by of fences. This is the animation that first awakened me to the potential of animation and music working so closely together to turn a set of simple elements into something in turns mediative and thrilling. What starts flat soon becomes three-dimensional. What begins with the illusion of speedy side-ways travel ends with rolling ups-and-downs and closing-ups and opening-outs. Lines Horizontal proves we’re never just idly looking, we are instead transforming what we see.