So not ‘throwing back’ very far this Friday, only as far as a few weeks ago, when I started thinking about all-things ‘firework-y’. Our house is full of dried allium heads, great big starbursts sitting atop various jugs and containers. I thought I’d have a bash at bringing out some of its visual associations, principally that ‘Laser Hazard Sign’! Zap!
A second assortment of ‘bubble-originated’ photographs forming part of my attempts to emulate scintillas of firework-inspired sparks for the purposes of exploring The Kick-About No.40. It does look as if I’ve been photographing handfuls of sequins or similar, or puffing smoke and glitter into the air. More prosaically, I was sitting beside a big bowl of soap suds with a length of hosepipe in my mouth, blowing mounds of bubbles into existence, before capturing all the points of lights, froth and facets in the view finder. Another run-of-the-mill day at Red’s Kingdom!
The Kick-About No.40 inevitably got me thinking about ways I might make fireworks my photographic subject without burning down the house in the process! I settled upon an equivalent phenomena that shared both the ‘rainbows’ and ephemerality of fireworks, filling a large white bowl with water and lots of washing-up liquid, and setting about blowing large heaps of bubbles. I was able to focus on, and through, all the multiple planes of the bubbles, which I soon learned produced these nicely ‘explosive’ qualities. I was reminded of the moments just after a rocket explodes, so not the big sky-born chrysanthemums, but the petering out of the last few sparks against the smudges of smoke. I took a whole bunch of photographs, always trying to find the next most expressive composition, and all the time racing against the inevitable popping of my soapy installation. There’s a few more to see over the coming days.
After the gothic shadows of our last Kick-About together, how about a bit of flash, dazzle and colour? Inspired by the delightful illustrations from various collections of Japanese firework catalogues, the Kick-Abouters are lighting things up with a vibrant display of new works made in a short time. Whizz bang ooh ahh indeed!
“My first idea for this wonderful topic was to do some machine stitching on paper, as I thought I could get some exciting and interesting firework patterns with this. However, my sewing machine had other ideas and although I have used this method before, my needles kept breaking and I had to opt for plan B – hand stitching. First I used acrylic inks as background and then added various threads, sequins and oddments from my stash. As I sat sewing it came to me that life is like a firework! It starts off at great speed, happy, colourful and joyous, then there’s a bit of brilliance and sparkle and it finally shoots off into the heavens with a giant BOOM!!“
Graeme: I do have this massive piece of glass that was taken off a neighbour’s shower… it stands perfectly by itself, so I’m going to haul it into my room and give it a whirl for more experiments.
Phil: Don’t die.
Graeme: I’ll try! I see why you love this practice so much. It’s so much fucking fun! I got lost in it.
“For some reason when I initially read the prompt list a lot of flowers types were in it (in my old persons head!) – so I worked with building photos and added flowers and water pics (from the archives) and Japanese type in a square format, but I had killed off any vitality. I ditched the type and changed the format to 1:3, and eventually lost the building layer. Also accidentally rotated the pic to portrait. I think it improved the piece.”
“This prompt got me thinking about ways I might make fireworks my photographic subject without burning down the house in the process! I settled upon an equivalent phenomena that shared both the ‘rainbows’ and ephemerality of fireworks, filling a large white bowl with water and lots of washing-up liquid, and setting about blowing large heaps of bubbles. I was able to focus on, and through, all the multiple planes of the bubbles, which I soon learned produced these nicely ‘explosive’ qualities. I was reminded of the moments just after a rocket explodes, so not the big sky-born chrysanthemums, but the petering out of the last few sparks against the smudges of smoke. I took a whole bunch of photographs, always trying to find the next most expressive composition, and all the time racing against the inevitable popping of my soapy installation. Even as I was happy with the resulting images, I felt pulled towards getting into the explosiveness a little more, evoking the sights and sounds of a firework display, and so putting some of these images to work. The short film ‘Whizz Bang Ooh Aah’ was the result of trying to do just that.”
“When I looked through the fireworks catalogues at all the different images, it made me think that the artists were trying to project their dreams into the sky. Visions of wishes and magical things. As usual, the collage turned out very differently than I imagined it, but I think it captures the spirit of what I intended to do.“
you dreamed without beginning–
breath, stars, flowers
you were happy to hold
hands with what was
you closed your eyes and sang
from the inside, way down,
listening to your heart beating,
rearranging the pattern
you released what you had not
seen—you gave it away
you dreamed with your arms open
and became entirely unafraid–
“I really loved the Japanese firework illustrations for this prompt, they’re so controlled and carefully arranged; the opposite to what I think of as a firework going off, but they work beautifully. I’ve played with some photos I took a few weeks ago at the Britzer Garten in Berlin, where there was a fabulous display of Dahlias glowing in the autumn sunshine. The flowers were so firework-like, the colours so bright and hot, I really fell for them. We don’t have bonfire night here in Germany, so the Dahlias will have to do for me this year!“
“I was immediately struck by the simplicity of the illustrations, and how a few simply arranged shapes and colours could represent the forms of fireworks so well. I wanted to create something complex from something very simple and immediate, so I whipped up some very basic animation loops and then duplicated and rotated until some suitably cool looking abstract effects were generated. From a vertical orientation they remind me of fireworks shooting up into the sky and scattering in the atmosphere.”
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to contribute to this Kick-About because of time constraints, but I found I kept remembering the firework nights of my childhood (which, as you may already know, was a very long time ago!). In the end, the only way to get these memories out of my head was to put them down in words. Hopefully, it may trigger a memory for those of you old enough to remember, and for all the others, think of it as an example of the 1950’s English family at play. Weird or what!?”
You’ll find a PDF version here.
The last time painter, Fernand Léger, featured as a prompt for the Kick-About, we were treated to a mouth-watering display of food, fruit, and flowers. For our next creative departure, our destination is Leger’s 1919 painting, La Ville. Enjoy your city-break!
Taken back in the Summer of 2011, these photographs capture a very particular atmosphere of a favourite place. To create the soundtrack for these images, I’d need to combine the gentle – sometimes raucous – clucks of dusty, restless chickens coming from the farmyard next door with the buzz of a nearby cicada. I might include the whispering of the leaves in the line of poplar trees at the bottom of the hill, and the buzz of wasps, hungry for the sugars produced by the scant grapes on the old vine. Much harder to convey would be that special dry heat blowing in through the open shutters, sometimes bringing with it neat convoys of swallows, the birds circling the glass lamp before darting quickly back out of the window.
“Back in the early Summer of 2019, I was invited by friend and filmmaker, Jordan Buckner, to produce his short animated film, When The Tides Went Down, for Screen South and the BBC. Jordan and I have worked together previously on the live-synchronisation animations La creation du monde (2013) and Red & The Kingdom Of Sound (2017) and Jordan’s //_sleeper for the BFI…”
… and tonight, Jordan’s film is featuring on the BBC homepage, where it is listed as one of ‘ten amazing artworks inspired by climate change’. Congratulations, Jordan! When The Tides Went Down was a timely film in 2019, and more so now.
A final clutch of half-imagined horrors spirited up by The Kick-About No.39, as I do my best Lon Chaney homage by masquerading as a host of horrible characters! Happy Halloween one and all! Pleasant dreams.
Boo! Five more ‘self-portraits’ produced for The Kick-About No.39: five more ‘Children of the Night’, five more filmic moments inspired by my enduring affection for the sorts of narratives best experienced in small front rooms with black and white televisions as the only appreciable light source…
Another selection of pages from my super-seasonal ‘Portfolio of Horrors’, produced in response to The Kick-About No.39, with an utterance by Count Dracula at its dark little heart.
In common with previous images, these are all self-portraits executed via a webcam struggling with low-lighting conditions, and styled after half-remembered moments from creaky old horror films, lurid short stories, and other rich sources of ‘kinder-trauma’.
Like something from the end of an MGM or RKO Picture, the sun rays over Whitstable one late summer’s evening.