A few alternates produced in response to The Kick-About No.63 and the interiors of Vilhelm Hammershøi, taken at The Margate School, which operates out of an old department store in the same seaside town as Turner Contemporary.
Recently, I’ve been spending a bit of time in an old seaside department store, home to The Margate School, an art school and studio space for artists and makers. I’ve had some official duties to enact there, but found some time to roam about the building with my camera. In common with Vilhelm Hammershøi’s paintings – the prompt for The Kick-About No. 63 – there is a rich and wonderful stillness about some of the less-inhabited rooms and spaces in this big, old building, which boasts some big, old wonderful windows too.
Our last Kick-About together was inspired by continual movement and the accompanying changes of scale and perspective. This week’s showcase of new works made in a short time is, by contrast, a mediation on silence and stillness, as we explore together the hushed, pensive environs that feature in the paintings of Vilhelm Hammershøi.
“Hammershøi’s paintings feel so breathy and poetic, like you are peeking into the lives of the mysterious figures. I can’t help but think of a Victorian doll house with all its little furniture placed exactly as the collector envisions. I was initially inspired by the gorgeous light throughout Hammershøi’s paintings and awoke at the crack of dawn to capture the sun as it pooled in through the shutters and windows where the light licked the walls, doors and wooden furniture. I decided at the last minute to perch myself in areas that could resemble the people in Hammershøi’s paintings and dressed myself in a darker colour palette to match. I edited out all the ugly stuff that could resemble a modern rented house in London, including cracks and fire exit signs. Our house is very old and shows a lot of wear and tear so removing those elements was exciting to get a glimpse of probably how it once was”
“Hammershøi’s images can be empty and silent, but to me they overflow with emotion. Recently I lost someone very dear and, during their final days, I took a few short pieces of iPhone video of stuff around me while time passed by. In response to the prompt I added some animation and sound. The final image was taken at a nearby river – there were no cockatoos around me but the sound of flocks of them carried from far down the river to me, speaking of the greatness of nature and the precious planet we seem to be incapable of leaving to its perfect and self sustaining self.“
“As so often happens, this started out as something else, but I think in the end it works well for this prompt. I wanted to do a house. I started with a box, collaging the inside to be a dreamlike claustrophobic maze of doors and windows. This came out very much like I imagined it. The exterior I’m still not sure about. Is it four alternate universes, four nightmares? I think I need to add some text to clarify (or perhaps, confuse). So, a work in progress.“
“I love the serene and subdued art of Vilhelm Hammershøi. Unfortunately, this is way out of my comfort zone and I have some difficulty with the quieter colour shades and tones. However, I decided to attempt an outside view with dappled sunlight scattered across a wooden panelled house of the sort you might find in Scandinavia. With recent sad and solemn events I found creating this watercolour had a strange calming effect – I only wish I could have done it justice.”
“The silvery North-European light I’m so familiar with is captured beautifully in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s paintings. I’ve been living in Berlin for the the past three years, not very far from where he created many of his delicate, luminous canvases. I love his explorations in capturing muted light, and the pared-down domesticity of his quiet interiors. They are a little too quiet for me; my home looks nothing like this; we’ve painted our walls in dark, rich colours, every surface covered in a combination of knick-knacks, plants and the mundane detritus of modern-day living. Hammershøi often used his wife as a model in his pictures, but the reflective reserve of the woman appearing in his orderly rooms is a million miles from my husband lounging around in his underpants, eating crisps and leaving crumbs all over the sofa. So my contribution this week is a sort of anti-Hammershøi. I took some photos of my husband, Jan, one morning during a heatwave this summer. We’d closed the curtains in the living room to try and keep out the heat and the space turned into a sort of exotic underwater cave, made even more mysterious by the clouds of vape-smoke Jan was breathing into the thin shafts of molten light seeping in through chinks in the curtains. I loved our living room during that period, but now, with autumn approaching, the light is turning thinner and more brittle, rather more like a Hammershoi painting – although the clutter and the under-dressed husband are still very present.”
“Stage designers jumped on the bandwagon promoting V.H.’s interiors, with some going quite big and beyond the need of the play. My inspiration credits film director Thomas Stuber, in particular his film IN THE AISLES, a most moving moody work. Making use of ‘crop’ and ‘effects’ I’ve tried complimenting the scene (25 minutes in from the start) where actor Franz Rogowski is very much alone, sat very still at his simple bed-sit desk, deep in thought. It’s a moment of great insight to a complex character. Rogowski has only to slightly shift his body knowing its plenty-enough to tell an in-depth narrative. “
“Recently, I’ve been spending a bit of time in an old seaside department store, home to The Margate School, an art school and studio space for artists and makers. I’ve had some official duties to enact there, but found some time to roam about the building with my camera. In common with Hammershøi’s paintings there is a rich and wonderful stillness about some of the less-inhabited rooms and spaces in this big, old building, which boasts some big, old wonderful windows too.”
“All I can say is these paintings made me think of moving house.”
“What I’ve always admired about Hammershøi is his control both in the colour palette and subject matter. That cool northern light casting sharp cut out shapes on a wooden floor… a soft curtain lifting in a cool breeze… sometimes just the empty room, sometimes the back of his wife… all echoing Vermeer in its quiet focus on the domestic…the silence is palpable.”
And from the soundlessness and muted colour palette of Vilhelm Hammershøi, let’s hear it for artist Nick Cave and his flamboyant soundsuits – our next Kick-About prompt.
At the outset of 2022, I began teaching a small cohort of postgraduate students at The Margate School on the Visual Communication: Design, Society, Nature one year, part-time programme. I had the pleasure of working alongside a lovely group of individuals and, in celebration of their achievements, and likewise yesterday’s launch of Margate’s inaugural Festival of Design, I was invited to work with them again to produce a short film.
Entitled Palimpsest, the film originates from the students’ initial sketches, doodles, writings and iterations, layered together, and expressed as the restless flicker of the creative mind.
As of yesterday evening, the film is now installed in The Margate School as a projection-mapped work, animating the large wall above the independent art school’s ground floor staircase. The Margate School operates out of a former department store on Margate high street – with all the quirk and atmosphere you might expect.
Many thanks to Claire-Beth Gibson, Claudine Derksen, Emma Self, Ian Jones, Grace King, Georgia Dack, Susanne Hakuba and Zoe Artingstall for helping me put this together, and for your creative company over this last year. Congratulations on your recent graduation (at the Turner Contemporary no less!) and best of luck for the future. May your brains continue to flicker!
So this one takes a bit of explaining… Short version is I wanted to produce something that got into the visual rhyming between the cosmic and the microscopic you see in the Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 short film, Powers Of Ten, and likewise the graphical quality of its art direction.
For The Kick-About #46, I subjected everyone to macro-photographs of the human litter dusting various surfaces in my home. I decided to use these same photographs as the starting point for my response, and started by spherizing them digitally (over and over again), so as to produce ‘planets’ from them (or molecules?). In part, I was prompted by another Kick-About, and this time was able to produce these little animated loops by running each of the photographs together to make footage, in which the effect of spherizing the original photographs multiple times has been too soften their respective surfaces into these seemingly ‘hand-drawn’ sequences.
To emulate some of the ‘maths’ in the Powers of Ten, I then composited some concentric circles over the top of these animated loops. They might be particles or elements of some periodic table, or eggs, or maps, or other sorts of diagrams, but it was a lot of fun engineering them from a largely automatistic approach to ‘seeing what happens’.
I never really got to a final outcome, so I’ll be sharing a collection of the results over the coming days.
From the internal and endlessly expansive spaces of our memories, as inspired by our previous Kick-About together, we’re this week exploring the mind-boggling extremities of different scales, courtesy of Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 short film, Powers Of Ten. Enjoy this latest showcase of ‘new works made in a short time’, the big and the small and everything in-between.
“As a youngster I recall the concept of infinity as an exciting concept that had huge at one end and tiny at the other. Then it got a bit messy and I threw in the concept of mother nature as a religion to cover the extremities. I approached this KA as a mechanical exercise where a square is 1×1 of a certain colour, 10×10 are lines across and down in the next colour wheel colour (and I varied the thickness of the lines and added some variation within the colour stop and the opacity to make it a bit more interesting), added another hatching of lines for 100×100 and another for1000x1000. I didn’t go further as this visual started to grey off. I then repeated the exercise with sets of adjacent squares and lines with an increase in colour wheel increments as I went along. Finally I went back to each layer and slightly messed up each layer either by moving or resizing them. Not unpleasant but meaningless.”
“Initially this flummoxed me despite loving the film… how do I react visually? Then, eureka,I realised the drawing I’ve been ,on and off, working on since lockdown would ‘sort of’ slot into the micro/macro thing. The idea behind it was based on my calendar where I diagonally cross off each day (otherwise I’d be walking in circles) alternating direction as I go. The gessoed board was divided into a tight grid so the lines filled each square gradually building a pattern which subconsciously reflected the curtains of my childhood home (weird. Anyway leaving areas clear or less worked and stepping back it becomes the. sky..no planes..no birds…silence…as I remember the atmosphere of 2020. Micro/macro.”
Pencil on gessoed board stained with blue oil paint. 4’ X 3’ (right hand section still being given final layer)
“The camera distance to the mirror surface is .0003 of a kilometre, the distance from mirror surface to the actual object is 150.56 million kilometres, hence it being a blurry object, and the time of day is 14:16 with a current temperature of 25 degrees celsius.”
“Whilst thinking around the film ‘Power of Ten, I came across some images of the cellular structure of a sunflower’s stem and of sunflower pollen under the microscope. These images reminded me of some odd yarns in my collection and all of a sudden I found myself building the various layers of a sunflower from the centre out. Like Topsy, it just grew and grew, and by the time I had reached the countryside surrounding the sunflower fields, I had to call a halt. It was the opposite of disappearing down a rabbit-hole – I was in danger of disappearing into outer space! Great fun, though, as always!”
“I really enjoyed watching the film by Charles and Ray Eames, it took me straight back to my ‘70s childhood and adolescence, pre-internet, when occasionally I’d stumble across films like this on the TV and it would blow my mind.
Powers of Ten got me thinking about scale – albeit in a much more modest way than in the film – and I used some sketches I’d made of a clump of sea kale I’d photographed on Dungeness to make an image about a wood in late summer. I layered a couple of sketches and the plants started to look more like trees, laden with fruit. As the sea kale was growing right next to a nuclear power station, a radiation leak could turn them mutant, just like in the films, and they would grow into giants, so that the pea-sized seeds on the original plant become as big as apples.”
“This film made me think of how minute our little planet is, and wonder about the possibilities of life many light years away. I wonder what those other planets could look like and the beings who inhabit them? I decided to create some nebulas using the textures from a previous exhilarating Kick-About and stamped them onto simple 3D spheres, superimposing them atop those same textures, while painting galactic elements to create milky ways that possibly maybe could be…”
“This amazing film by Charles and Ray Eames reminded me about the relatively recent invention of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) which is able to see further back in time than any other telescope has been able to. It was originally designed to study some of the universe’s oldest galaxies and has a mirror that detects molecules such as water, CO2 and ammonia in the atmosphere of distant exoplanets, and the ice and dust that form stars, planets and comets. Scientists say studying these molecules and learning more about the chemical reaction that happens in these places will help us to understand how planetary systems form. This information could also tell us if the conditions for life are unique to our solar system. My collage artwork this time is an attempt to capture a view from JWST of a far off galaxy thousands of light years away.”
“I enjoyed the video, but I really have no coherent explanation for the thought process that led me from there to here. I do know I think in circles, not boxes, when considering time and space. And it was such a bombardment, I felt I needed to be minimal. I used a variegated grey thread to try to create some shimmer. For my pantoum, I took part of an old poem about zero and combined it with words and ideas I wrote down from the narration.”
zero, or: without limits
the direction is lost–
waver and shift–
approach and return–
light years converge
with approach and return,
light years converge,
at the center of nowhere
at the center of nowhere
inside time’s pocket
inside time’s pocket–
the direction is lost
“This Kick-About submission ended up with a lot false starts and the remains of ideas scattered amongst the bits and bytes of a computer hard drive. A downfall of my own making perhaps. The deceptive simplicity of the depiction of scale and movement in Powers of Ten combined with the retro graphic design-ness of the imagery has always appealed to me, so in the end I just tried to tap into that and make something that appeared to be at once microscopic, abstract and graphical.”
“After a bit of research into the works and inventions of the Eames, I put together something from the prompt film (space/movement) and married that to one of the company’s products – in this case, a deck of building cards. This deck consists of 45 cards, in nine sets of five sequential images. Each set starts with an image, then, from the same distance point, zooms in the five times until it ‘disappears’. As for the initial images, they are simply a record of what is in ‘spaces’ in the house, in cupboards or drawers…
For the backs, rather than a single icon, it’s more like the heavens of the original film, at least that’s where the idea came from. The photographs were not edited, so each sequence of five represents a single event. Each image was stuck onto ready-made blank playing cards, then laminated with transparent plastic and each one trimmed. The same for the backs. I don’t own a laminator but did invest in a cunning little hand-trimmer that rounded the corners. As for the cuts in the cards, they are not particularly beautiful and done with the help of two bits of wood marked with a 1cm line, two ‘G’ clamps and a junior hacksaw.
This Kick-About prompt was one which gave me lots of practical problems to solve in order to visualise what I had set out to do, and like so many ideas, this was one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration! For all that it was very satisfying and fun to be able to use them for building structures as originally intended.”
“So this one takes a bit of explaining! Short version is I wanted to produce something that got into the visual rhyming between the cosmic and the microscopic you see in Powers Of Ten, and likewise the graphical quality of its art direction. For The Kick-About #46, I subjected everyone to macro-photographs of the human litter dusting various surfaces in my home. I decided to use these same photographs as the starting point for my response, and started by spherizing them digitally (over and over again), so as to produce ‘planets’ from them (or molecules?). In part, I was prompted by another Kick-About, and this time was able to produce these little animated loops by running each of the photographs together to make footage, in which the effect of spherizing the original photographs multiple times has been too soften their respective surfaces into these seemingly ‘hand-drawn’ sequences. To emulate some of the ‘maths’ in the Powers of Ten, I then composited some concentric circles over the top of these animated loops. I don’t really have a final outcome, so what I’ve gathered here are a collection of results. They might be particles or elements of some periodic table, or eggs, or maps, or other sorts of diagrams, but it was a lot of fun engineering them from a largely automatistic approach to ‘seeing what happens’.”
And so, from the infinite bounds of the cosmos and abstractions of innerspace to the pensive domestic subjects that feature in the paintings of Danish artist, Vilhelm Hammershøi. Have fun and see you on the other side.
Another off-cut from early 35mm experiments out in the sultry gloom of the environs of the old French house, from the summer of 2013. There’s little doubt you could produce commensurate effects by layering-up images in Photoshop – an old house composited together with a squiggle of digital light – but the analogue mechanics behind the production of this moment include a clunky old film camera, a camping light encased in an empty blue water bottle on the end of a piece of string, and a human being whirling it about while dashing from one side of the composition to the other – and much to the consternation of the local wildlife!
Our last Kick-About together was a celebration of the idea of tea-making, tea-drinking, and its various rituals. Without this activity, with its powers of comfort and displacement, I wonder sometimes how we would otherwise negotiate some of life’s disappointments, large and small. Disappointment is one of the themes of Molly Drake’s I Remember, and it is Drake’s delicate, if devastating song that has this week inspired us to produce new works in a short time.
“My story begins with our family holiday to Dorset. It was probably early 60s and I think we were staying in Swanage. We were usually quite lucky with the weather, but it was not to be this time. As we had no car then, my parents decided on taking a nice coach trip to Lulworth Cove which was a famous beauty spot not far along the coast. My sister and I wore our summer dresses and warm hand knitted cardigans, as it was getting a bit chilly, but when we arrived at our destination the heavens opened and rain looked likely to be set in for the rest of the day.
‘Quick – let’s run up to that beach shop’ said mum. ‘We’ll buy something waterproof there for you both.’
My heart sank, as I could see at a glance it was a typical seaside shop that sold everything from buckets and spades to thermos flasks, and Mary Quant it was not!
So in we went and the kind lady behind the counter said, ‘I have the very thing – plastic macs!” My heart sank even further. She proceeded to pull out a white one for my sister, which had a small plastic headscarf, and as she was 4 years younger than me, it looked quite cute. However, despite a long search, there didn’t appear to be another in my size. Hooray!
Then just as I thought I had escaped, she found another bigger mac tucked away beneath the rest and, horror of horrors, it was luminous pink! I mean ‘day glow’ and ‘get your sunglasses on’ pink. (I know the sixties fashion was all about these bright colours, but this must have been very much a forerunner!). Even worse it had a matching hat, rather like an upturned flowerpot, that tied under the chin.
‘That’s just the job!’ said mum.
I spent the rest of the day skulking along the shoreline, trying desperately to hide amongst the overturned boats, but there was no way I could disguise myself; if I had stood on some rocks, I could have done a turn as a lighthouse beacon!
So that is my memory of Lulworth Cove, which is a place of peaceful serenity and muted beauty to many, but all I remember is psychedelic misery!“
“The source of much pain (for the individual) and much humour (for the group) lies in the gap between one’s aspirations (or expectations), and one’s achievements. This is particularly true when we are young and in love. We want to be ‘soul-mates’ with our loved one – to share the same experiences, the same emotions, the same memories. Alas, it is rarely achievable. We recognise Molly Drake’s pain, because we have felt it too. But it also raises a wry smile. For we have learnt, as we grow within a relationship, that no two people experience any shared event in the same way. So we adjust our expectations accordingly.
By the time we have aged within that relationship, we come to recognise that it is an achievement for any shared experience to be remembered by both of us at all, without several minutes of dispute over location time of year, weather, and reason for being there. And why is it that I find I cannot remember the name of a place, I cannot remember how to get there, or why – but I can remember exactly what we ate and the colour of the waitress’s nail polish? What’s all that about?”
“This one was a bit of a late starter for me. Having given some early thought to it and tinkered with water colour washes as a response to the words, the result didn’t quite live up to my expectations . Initially I was thinking in terms of printed textiles based on the stanzas and 1950’s, but a few scribbles and doodles confirmed that wasn’t ready to work for me. So it rested until almost the deadline and, as a final go at it, I tried cutting up the original into sections and rearranging in an effort to express the ‘you and me ‘ idea. That practice put me in mind of putting together a shade card.
In this one, ‘me’ is represented by colours for Molly’s words. ‘You’ are the stencils that stand separate until used on Molly’s colours, and that combination can be read as the ‘we’… though here, as in the poem, the two together do not represent a happy ‘we’ of Molly’s expectations.
The card is done from scratch and the colour swatches are gouache and then laminated. The script is traced from the text using a Word font. The miniature stencils are handcut and pierced oiled card. Yet another very interesting Kick-About for me and a real challenge to express an ‘abstract’ visually.”
“Both of these pieces come under the headings of love / regret / romance and memory, all of which are sparked off by this prompt…”
“Goodbye to all that” oil on gesso on board. 60cm X 60cm
“Always” Stitching on old handkerchief and oil paint on waxed paper
“Molly Drake’s words brought a tear to my eye, how such a poet can write something so striking about the melancholic juxtaposition of both light and dark. It brought back memories of people that have come and gone out of my life but also the places where those memories and faces come bubbling up when passing in a car or walking past a particular patch of land, like reveries of times I will never forget.”
“What a wonderful song by Molly Drake, and so beautifully sung. This piece of music is like a faded old photograph, looking back at a bittersweet time, the little vignettes of holidays and days out are achingly nostalgic.
I’ve been on both sides of the dynamic expressed in this song at one time or another and either position is just grim and sad. I did some sketches this week in response to the prompt about a weekend trip with one of my first boyfriends over thirty years ago. We stayed in a guest house and went for a walk to a beautiful waterfall nearby, It should have been a carefree, loved-up, fun few days, full of laughter and lovemaking, but I’d reached the point when I realised I didn’t want to take the relationship much further but my boyfriend did and we separated soon after getting home.
This waterfall makes me think of that lost weekend. I wasn’t really mature enough at the time for a serious relationship; it would be some time before I was emotionally grown-up enough for that . I hope that boyfriend is happy now, wherever he is. He was a lovely guy.”
“You might consider this a sequel of sorts, as back in March 2021, when Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities was our collective muse, I photographed and catalogued a selection of my own keepsakes, the emotional importance of which I couldn’t actually remember. Molly Drake’s ‘I Remember’ isn’t so much about the fallibility of memory, but rather the different ways in which we remember the same thing. Drake’s song also captures very truthfully how the significance of something can be quite wasted on someone else – even those closest to us. With this in mind, I turned my attention to some of the objects with which I share my home, but with which I have no emotional association, but which resonate very powerfully with my husband. I see a rather retro-looking glass paperweight, while my husband experiences a Proustian rush returning him at once to the comforts of his grandparents’ home and all the love he found there. There are objects collected here the provenance of which is still unknown to me, and their emotional heft as mysterious, but ‘he remembers firelight’.”
“Back to jugs. Hoping a narrative might be staged within a shared space, in order to portray intimacy and separation and where the suggestion of alternate ‘points of view’ (that which each jug points to) draws a parallel to Molly Drake’s poem. Respecting the natural linen and pencil line seemed the right approach in order to deliver something feeling a little more natural than a paint saturated canvas at 30x30cm.”
“I wasn’t aware of Nick Drake’s heritage, but Molly’s song immediately made me think of ‘River Man. I took the feeling I got from both songs, and made a prose poem, then some art to accompany it.”
She did not remember the way, but she remembered the times, the place. She wanted to connect present to past. She did not know how or where to begin, and yet she needed to try to construct that bridge. Words were all she had now.
Two ways, really, even though she always pretended they were the same. Or maybe it was only her longing that failed to understand that they were two, not one.
She had been dreaming of a river. A man, a boat. Trees, weeping, or was that her own voice, crying on the wind? It had been summer once. Flowered. Sweet.
But here was the river again, littered with fallen leaves. What magic word would turn back the seasons, dispel the haze, repair a lifetime that had already disintegrated into dust?
Was she coming or going? In her dreams a voice kept repeating you have to choose. But between what? Who? Did she get to choose who would be waiting on the other side of the river? Or was she to be the one left waiting?
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, Tom Beg, we have our latest prompt, the short 1977 film Powers Of Ten, directed by Charles and Ray Eames.
An early foray into all things glowy and mysterious from the summer of 2013, working with 35mm film and a rather antiquated camera. This photograph was taken out in the dark arena of rough grass and old trees beyond the shambolic terrace of the old French house, where ‘noises off’ included the indignant hooting of owls and other, less identifiable rustlings and the cracking of unseen twigs under the weight of unseen things…
Back in 1998, as part of my masters degree, I developed a project outcome in which I screenprinted an original short story onto three ubiquitous wooden doors. The short story was about a man who experiences a moment of high-anxiety at the prospect of all the closed doors in his own home, and how he could no longer know what lay behind them. It was a pretty strange tale, and the technical challenge of devising a means of screenprinting using wood stain was not without its mishaps along the way. The screens themselves were massive, the medium fiendishly sticky, and the opportunity for ballsing it up were multiple. That said, the final result was very pleasing, and it excited me to think how you could apply woodstain so precisely, and, for a time at least, I imagined living in some house of wooden rooms, in which very surface offered up some reading material. No idea what happened to these doors, as these are photographs of photographs, which are all that survives of this project.