A few more photographs of the Brett’s aggregate factory, Whitstable, taken in response to the Charles Sheeler prompt for The Kick-About No.80.
Brett’s #1 (2023)
One of the things guarding against the prettification of my home town is the presence of Brett’s aggregate factory slap-bang in the harbour. With Charles Sheeler’s flattened abstractions in my sights – this week’s Kick-About prompt – and likewise his use of colour, I went out to photograph the factory buildings, with the idea of collaging them, so moving quickly beyond this first act of recording them.
Whitstable is celebrated for its skyscapes. and on this day, the clouds were so much lace and the light was pin-prick clean. Had my camera been old school, I’d have anyway plumped for a polarising filter by which to pull more drama and detail from the clouds; in the instance of these images, I polarised my images in post and licked my lips as the skies offered up all this tonal range and texture. The dystopian vibes of these photographs diverge at once from Sheeler’s calming expressions of modernity; my photographs remind me of sets from science-fiction movies; they’re all a bit Metropolis and I don’t mind saying I’m very happy about that. I walk past this factory all the time; it’s never felt this cinematic before.
The Kick-About #80 ‘Charles Sheeler’
Textile artist, Sheila Hicks, inspired our last Kick-About together, and it was all soft, cushiony forms, meshes and string. This time out, we’re keeping company with Charles Sheeler and his crisp, clean expressions of modernity.
“I really love the work of Charles Sheeler. How exciting it must have been to live during the 1920s and 30s when industrial buildings provided such a wealth of artistic material. For my first attempt at a painting I began by sticking a lot of newspaper down and did a rough copy of some factories from a magazine, but I felt it needed to be much sharper. Secondly I used an old picture I did some time ago and revamped it. I have to be honest and say I am not altogether sure where the original inspiration came from, but the colour scheme and shapes are all my own work.“
“Sheeler’s modernist work makes me ponder the industrial revolution, the building up and tearing down of sprawling metropolises in all their in-betweens of metal, cement and beams. The shapely blocks of colour makes me think of movement, like a time-lapse of something that is always being altered. I created my film by modelling quick and dirty shapes in 3D, then tinkered with the camera to pull the focal length back and added many of the shapes in a line, through which the camera cranes. I added little movements here and there to the shapes to make things feel dynamic.”
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“When I was browsing through Sheeler’s paintings, I was struck by how clean and colourful his painting is, while his subjects are often grim and grubby industrial sites. What’s more, many of his works look like exercises in perspective. Amoskeag Mills 2 particularly caught my eye. A few weeks ago, I decided it might be time to own up to my ignorance and signed-up for an art class to learn some of the basics. (See the effect you guys have on people!). 3 weeks into a 14 week course and perspective is much on my mind, worrying about horizons, vanishing points, and 2-, 3- and multi-point perspectives. I don’t know what the opposite of a ‘Precisionist’ is, but I think, as an “Im-precisionist”, I’ve found my genre!”
“This was interesting, as I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t come across Sheeler but liked the way he shifted between painting and photography… Wish I could have spent longer exploring the theme, but had to be satisfied by a couple of off-centre shots (lying on the ground) of the Arts complex where I have my studio.”
“One of the things guarding against the prettification of my home town is the presence of an aggregate factory slap-bang in the harbour. With Sheeler’s flattened abstractions in my sights, and likewise his use of colour, I went out to photograph the factory buildings, with the idea of collaging them, so moving quickly beyond this first act of recording them. Whitstable is celebrated for its skyscapes. and on this day, the clouds were so much lace and the light was pin-prick clean. Had my camera been old school, I’d have anyway plumped for a polarising filter by which to pull more drama and detail from the clouds; in the instance of these images, I polarised my images in post and licked my lips as the skies offered up all this tonal range and texture. The dystopian vibes of these photographs diverge at once from Sheeler’s calming expressions of modernity; my photographs remind me of sets from science-fiction movies; they’re all a bit Metropolis and I don’t mind saying I’m very happy about that. I walk past this factory all the time; it’s never felt this cinematic before.”
“Charles Sheeler created great strongly composed images. So I took off with my camera around Brisbane city and really didn’t take any inspired pics. I did take some textures; a couple were of grey black hoardings on a building site, which I overlayed with a shadow (reversed to be white) of a collapsible clothes dryer. This combination looked like search lights over a ‘war sky’ whatever that is. Thus I lost sight of Mr Sheeler and fell down the war rabbit hole – in Australia there has been so much news coverage about defence spending and new nuclear powered subs – having trouble with government’s spending of tax payer’s money on weapons, while our less wealthy citizens go homeless. Any how, I kept layering parts of my city photos and distorted or modified them and finally added a couple of quick Illustrator drawn figures.”
“I was immediately drawn to Sheeler’s Against the Sky a Web has Spun, as much for the title as the painting. I made a cosmic collage, simplifying the forms, and embroidered a web on top, then wrote a short poem to accompany it.”
beyond the webs we build to
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And from abstractions inspired by concrete jungles…
Throwback Friday #83 Katowice 2017/19
The latest Kick-About got me looking through an old archive of photographs, and images taken in Katowice, Poland, in particular. For this Friday’s retrospective, I’m offering up a collection of architectural highlights from my two visits to the city; the wonderfully cinematic Spodek (“It Came From Outer Space!“); an equally filmic old house, shrouded in drapes of black plastic; a view of the cathedral from the rain-wet atrium of the Filharmonia Śląska building, and the formidably organic-looking memorial commemorating the three post-WWI Polish armed uprisings against the German authorities of Upper Silesia in 1919, 1920 and 1921.
Red & The Chamber of Architects
Back in October 2019, Red & The Kingdom Of Sound was selected and screened as part of the Istanbul International Architecture and Urban Films Festival.
I submitted the animation to the festival on a whim. Nothing about this festival’s remit aligned with classical music or the visualisation of sound, and yet our ‘kingdom of sound’ did represent something of an architectural fantasia, what with its fifteen imaginary realms derived entirely from the structures of musical instruments. One of the guiding principles underpinning the commission of our animated adaptation of Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra was to diversify audiences for classical music, so when the Chamber of Architects (Istanbul Metropolitan Branch) agreed to include the film in their screening programme, I was very happy.
“Since its foundation in 1954, the Chamber of Architects has been endeavouring intensively in order to enhance architectural culture, protect historical heritage, and improve quality of life. In order to introduce a new aspect to such endeavours, the Chamber has been organizing an event named “Istanbul International Architecture and Urban Films Festival”. The event aims participation by anybody interested in that field, in particular the architects. The festival is scheduled as a part of “Architecture and Urban Festival” organized by Istanbul Metropolitan Branch of Chamber of Architects by virtue of the “World Architecture Day”, a day widely celebrated in the world in the first Monday of October every year.” www.archfilmfest.org
Selma Erdem, festival secretary, got in touch via email a few days ago to ask if Red & The Kingdom Of Sound could be shown again as part of the Chamber of Architects Istanbul Branch’s response to the COVID19 lock-down. Of the film’s original selection for an architecture-themed film festival, Selma has this to say, describing Red’s adventures in the kingdom of sound as a ‘a great explanation of the connection between time, space and sound.’ Of the decision to show it again as part of their COVID programming, Selma thought Red’s adventures would ‘give people hope and joy.’
What a satisfying thought, that on May 4th, people will be listening to Britten’s music while watching Red swim down into the dreamy depths of the Cello District or dodge the wrecking ball in the much-less relaxing Percussion District!
Imagining and making the architectural follies that feature in Red & The Kingdom Of Sound was no small creative feat and took a dedicated team many months to produce. Take a look at this short ‘making of’ for a glimpse behind the scenes.