Throwback Friday #133 ‘Rhus typhina’

These photographs of the glorious foliage of a Staghorn sumac tree were taken in the garden belonging to my late grandmother at some point in the mid-2000s – can’t remember when exactly, though I remember actually taking the pictures themselves; walking down the flight of enclosed concrete steps that led down from Grandma’s first floor flat and out into the garden at the back, where this tree opened out from a small central bed like a festive umbrella.

Verglas #6 (2021)

The seed heads of Clematis tangutica ‘My Angel’ are extraordinary silvered whirligigs. The plant itself is a bit of a thug, quite at odds with its name, scrambling greedily for many metres in our small garden. Right now, from our bathroom window, I can see the seed heads sitting across the fence like a thick fall of snow. I thought they’d make perfectly aquatic-like specimens for the deep freeze treatment, so I picked a few handfuls and popped them in the freezer overnight. The resulting winteryness of some of the resulting photographs, snapped in response to The Kick-About No.42, probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise (given all the ice!), but in some there is the feel of blizzards and powdered snow; in others, there are shoals of silvery sea-creatures.

Verglas #5 (2021)

There is a rambling rose in our garden, which produces untidy confetti-style blooms in a tremendous deep pink with golden centres. It’s still flowering even now, though surely not for much longer. As part of my Kick-About 42 experiments, I wondered what I’d get if I plunged a whole bunch of these scruffy roses into a bowl of water and froze it, and the resulting ice-block made for a delicate, very beautiful subject for my camera. This was the moment when some really interesting transformations began, where the imperfect character of the ice produced some surprisingly immersive vistas, and the roses themselves, pale and encased, were just so old-fashioned and decorative.

Verglas #3 (2021)

Some deep-frozen foliage today, inspired by the prompt for The Kick-About No. 42: a caramel-coloured leaf-tip from an Osmunda regalis, and the reddish plum tones of the Parthenocissus henryana. In its almost jellied-way, the topmost image just reminds me of a Nautilus belauensis, those octopus-like creatures with their striped shells (and the ice block proved just as slippery, as it rolled about on the table-top…).

Verglas #2 (2021)

With Andy Goldsworthy’s Ice Spiral as the prompt for The Kick-About No. 42, I set about producing my own much smaller-scale installations in the bottom drawer of my freezer.

Over the course of a few days, I foraged a number of interesting bits to freeze inside blocks of ice, including this umbellifer, a dill plant maybe, or parsnip from my husband’s allotment that was allowed to flower impressively.

The internal fractures, frostings and imperfections of the ice make for some interesting effects, not least the way some of them recall mountainous terrains.

Verglas #1 (2021)

Although the weather has turned much colder here in the UK, it’s not yet cold enough here in Whitstable for any shows of ice or snow. With Andy Goldsworthy’s land art piece Ice Spiral as the prompt for this week’s Kick-About No. 42, I knew I’d be out of luck if I was hoping to catch any ready-made installations out in the wilds.

No matter, as off into the garden I went, looking for interesting seed heads and any flashes of remaining colour, before pulling out some handy Tuppaware and a big Pyrex dish, filling them with water, then entombing my finds from the garden in ice, courtesy of the bottom drawer of the freezer.

Once released from their ad-hoc moulds, I then moved quickly to photograph the resulting artefacts, squizzing with pleasure at their magical displays of colour, light and translucency – while all the time mopping up the pools of melt water with an old dishcloth.

There’s an obvious ‘glass paperweight’ quality to these images (which I always loved as a child), a sort of 1970’s crafting vibe too. Some of the more abstracted images I went on to produce from these same blocks of ice take things in a more impressionist, less object-bound direction. I’ll be sharing these over the coming days.