Our kitchen has an angled glass roof running the length of our side-return. Internally, it’s constructed so there is a narrow ledge at the top of the wall, on which the glass panels rest, producing a series of impossible-to-clean compartments. These same compartments are where too many be-winged things go to die during the summer months, as they first fly into the kitchen and then up towards the glass roof in a fateful bid for freedom. We rescue as many as we can, but not every butterfly and bumble bee is as lucky. So it is we have something of an insect necropolis this short distance above our breakfast table, and while it’s true I pressed their exquisite remains into the chalky embrace of some filler for the occasion of The Kick-About No.65, no living bee or butterfly was harmed in the process.
From the noise and extravagance of our soundsuit-inspired Kick-About No.64, we’re striking a more melancholy mood this week, as we meander our way past the silent crypts, effigies and monuments of the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. With All Hallows Eve but a few short days away, what better time to ruminate on the gossamer veil between the living and the dead…
“Wherever you go in Japan you are never too far away from an encounter with the various spirits, ghosts, symbols, and gods that are guardians of the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines you can find in nearly every neighbourhood. Luckily for me they are all quite wonderfully visual and emotive, often sporting an unintentionally sinister and stony (pun intended!) smile, weathered by years of exposure to the natural elements. Layering on some murky fog and lighting effects made for some suitably eerie imagery!“
“I’ve never been to the Père Lachaise cemetery but I feel like I know it well from countless gothic horror films and TV shows I’ve watched over the years; it looks like it should have Vincent Price’s evil laughter piped through the mournful paths and mouldering mausoleums. So, my contribution this week is a death-themed image – well it is Halloween this week! I have a big box of old children’s building blocks in the basement I used for a project a few years ago. For my Kick-About contribution this week, I made a bridge construction crossing an imagined River Styx – from the light over to the dark of the Underworld… (cue Mr. Price again).”
“Lately, I have been absorbing a lot of German expressionism in my own work, the monochromatic shapely designs of the set dressings are unparalleled and always leave me wanting more. With that in mind, I wanted to do some black and white angular paintings inspired by German expressionism.”
“When I was in my early teens, a group of us from the church youth club used to go once a week to visit old folk living alone in local sheltered housing. We would go in pairs and would be assigned people to visit. My friend Jan and I used to visit Mrs Munday, the sweetest, apple-cheeked, white-haired little old lady you could ever wish for. She was in her late eighties, and of course, the inevitable happened. One day, we had a message from the warden to say that Mrs Munday had died, was due to be buried the following Friday, and would Jan and I like to attend the funeral? Though neither of us had been to a funeral before, we thought we should go
We turned up at the local cemetery at the appointed hour, dressed in our soberest clothing. It was early January, bitterly cold, and tipping down with rain. The warden was there to meet us and led the way through the main part of the cemetery, up the hill where the graves were less closely packed and much less decorated, to a distant corner up on the brow of the hill. As we walked the warden explained that Mrs Munday had had no family and no savings. It would therefore be a pauper’s funeral, paid for by the council, the burial rites to be carried out by an officer of the Salvation Army. The burial itself would be carried out by the single undertaker and the cemetery groundsman. She had asked Jan and I to attend as she knew of no one else Mrs Munday had any social contact with.
I tell you now, it felt Dickensian. It was wet, it was cold, the wind blew the rain in our faces. The Salvation Army guy did his best, but I couldn’t blame him for rattling through the service at some speed. The undertaker and the groundsman lowered the coffin into the grave, then stretched a tarpaulin over the gaping hole, and with a nod to the other attendees and a hurried goodbye, everyone scurried away to get dry, warm and on with their lives.
Since that day I have attended many more funerals, of people I have known and loved a great deal better than I did Mrs Munday, but none of them has left me feeling quite as desolate as that first funeral did. I have often thought about that day and wondered why it matters so much that people should be mourned. After all, the dead person is not going to lose any sleep over attendance figures. Does it matter if no one remembers us? I think most people would say “Yes!”
So whenever I find myself in a graveyard – not an everyday occurrence, but a frequent side event of visiting churches, historic sites etc. – I always spare a thought for the mounds with no headstones, no monumental masonry. And sometimes, as I walk around the older pathways, where the grass grows a little longer, I come across a piece of broken masonry, a fallen headstone, a shard of sculpture – and I stop to look. Because I might not know which grave they belong to, or the name of the person buried there, but someone, sometime, cared enough to want them remembered. And so I think of all the Mrs. Mundays, throughout the ages, who seemed to have no one to remember them, but lived a life amongst us and left as quietly as they came.”
“A few weeks ago, my Beloved and I spent an afternoon mucking about making a plaster cast of our clasped hands. To be honest, it wasn’t a roaring success – somebody had difficulty with the instruction to “Just Keep STILL”), but it didn’t feel right to just bin the finished object. So it sat on a shelf for a while. And then this Kick-About came along, so I dusted it off, painted it with rather fusty yoghurt and rubbed dirt all over it… “
“I have not forgotten the impression Père Lachaise cemetery made upon me in the early 80s, it being an extraordinary place. Late 90’s, straddling a motorbike and touring Normandy, our adventure included regional cemeteries, which are fascinating too. Upon return, this drawing at 58cm x 78cm was produced, which since has been face to the wall. Thanks to the KA prompt, I’m revisiting this puzzling representation.”
“I suddenly remembered my idea this morning – and the fact I had not actually made it – so I rustled this up whilst still in my dressing gown. Cemeteries gross me out and my experiences have been grotesque and disorientating. I’ve lost two loved ones to the cold empty box of the same French grave. The absurdity of putting bodies into boxes into little stone houses. A conveyor belt of bodies. Trapped in boxes. In stone houses. The voice says: Dans une boîte / Perimé / Tous ensemble / Détaché : In a box / Expired / All together / Detached.”
“I was reading an article about the proliferation of certain butterflies this year, particularly in graveyards. They think this is due to the policy of leaving areas wild and untended, allowing a more sympathetic environment for wildlife… With this in mind, I decided to create a ghostly mutant using a butterfly and the tiny skull of a vole (I think?) taken from an owl pellet. That clear wobbly call of the tawny owl being echoed and answered through the woods is both spine chilling and comforting, depending where you are, i.e. in bed! I like the idea of strange, unnatural creatures haunting the tombs… an uncharted world that ends at the gates.” Cyanotype. Butterfly and skull.
“Our kitchen has an angled glass roof running the length of our side-return. Internally, it’s constructed so there is a narrow ledge at the top of the wall, on which the glass panels rest, producing a series of impossible-to-clean compartments. These same compartments are where too many be-winged things go to die during the summer months, as they first fly into the kitchen and then up towards the glass roof in a fateful bid for freedom. We rescue as many as we can, but not every butterfly and bumble bee is as lucky. So it is we have something of an insect necropolis this short distance above our breakfast table, and while it’s true I pressed their exquisite remains into the chalky embrace of some filler for the occasion of this Kick-About, no living bee or butterfly was harmed in the process.”
“Please indulge my mind bouncing from Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris – home to Jim Morrison – to Riders on the Storm, to a long country road trip, to a series of photos I took while driving past a huge truck – long vehicle as it was labeled. I combined them with a few cemetery, landscape, texture and other photos I had taken and featured the colour red. I ended up placing the 15 truck photos over 5 images and encased each image in a frame composed of chopped up gothic letter forms. I’ll let you come up with a narrative for the images, but I don’t want a ride from that truck driver (do you remember the old movie Duel?).“
“There were so many interesting graves and memorials. I spent a long time looking at them and reading about the people buried there. But I kept coming back to the Holocaust Children’s Memorial designed by sculptor, Casto Solano. Children who were not lucky enough to have graves with gravestones. I did two watercolors and embroidered similar figures to Solano’s metal outlines over them. Before I was finished embroidering, I took one of them and taped it to the window, photographing it with the light shining through the needle holes. None of the photos of the entire painting showed the pinpricks of light very well, but two of the close ups got the effect I was looking for.”
matter merely a vessel
for luminous spirit–
did you find what was lost?
the spiraling center
returned to elemental form–
in life but not of it–
opening into dreamtime,
orbiting the moon,
spinning to the fartheset away–
matter merely a vessel
empty spaces crossing
wings sailing oceans
of luminous spirit
a welcoming heart, a gentle touch,
warm arms to enclose you
in peaceful sleep–
did you find what was lost?
When I was a child, the first few days of November always associated with Vesuvius – not the actual eruption that laid waste to Pompeii, but the rather rubbishy conical firework that often laid waste to my giddy expectations of giant sparks and shooting colour… and so, for your consideration and inspiration over these coming days, Turner’s 1817 painting, Mount Vesuvius in Eruption. Boom!
A last few soundsuit-inspired scraps, courtesy of the artist Nick Cave and The Kick-About No.64.
Produced in response to the dancing soundsuits of the artist Nick Cave – our inspiration for The Kick-About No.64 – another set of images, the subject of which is, perhaps improbably, an ad-hoc dancing glove puppet…
When it comes to meeting the fortnightly creative challenge of The Kick-About, needs must, and so it was I fabricated my own much down-sized ‘soundsuit’ from a single yellow glove, wooden buttons, glass eye pieces and strands of colourful wool. I was drawn to some of the goofier, ‘Jim Henson-esque’ elements of some of Nick Cave’s soundsuits (the prompt for our latest Kick-About) – hence the Muppet-y character of my resulting hand-puppet. Turns out, however, even the goofiest glove puppet can throw some shapes on the dancefloor!
If our last Kick-About together was characterised by muted tones and pensive atmospheres, this latest showcase of new works made in a short time is a celebration of colour, movement, costume and dynamism – and how could it not be, inspired as we have been by the artist Nick Cave and his sumptuous soundsuits? In other news, a warm welcome to artist and animator, Claire-Beth Gibson, who joins us this week for her inaugural run-about.
“The sound suit with the spinning tops made me think of the clackety-clackety noise of the whirly spinner I had as a kid. It smelled of old metal and played a strange song. Starting out with so much enthusiasm, it would spin gloriously for a short while and then gradually teeter more and more as it slowed down, before a final wobble into its death fall, spinning on its side and rolling away. Of course, I wanted it to spin the first high energy part longer than it did. Sometimes I would just keep it in my hands, continuously whirring it, keeping that bit alive for as long as I could. This little animation is some of that moment.”
“I knew that I wanted to make a film, I wanted it to be loud, aggressive and primal and I wanted to use some sort of fabric or elements that could make up the intricate soundsuits of Nick Cave’s creations. I decided to chuck a bag of shiny sequins of various shapes into a large wok and film it! Bringing down the shutter speed of my camera and aperture while defocusing so that the tacky butterflies, hearts and stars become nothing but dancing spherical orbs lit ablaze with a tiny but powerful led light. It was one of those moments where everything fell into place so nicely. The edit was a dream and thoroughly enjoyable.”
“There is something really satisfying about Autumn after such a great summer, so much so I’ve been reluctant to cut back the fading twisting Crocosmia (Lucifer) and towering Buddleja – until now that is!! Flamboyant Soundsuits triggered celebrating the summer die-back so, headfirst into weaving I went with sock yarn, a cardboard frame, secateurs and the garden table in glorious sunshine, and two pleasurable days passed.”
“I watched a lot on Youtube of the videos made of Nick Cave’s work and was totally drawn into them. His whirling Dervishes of colourful movement reminded me of my view that is a constant in my life. Beyond my windows, I look out onto the city of Bristol masked by this sea of greenery. This last few days those trees and plants have been whisked into whirling dervishes by the wind. I became intrigued by the differences of each tree or plant. They are all rooted to the spot yet the rhythms of their movement are changed by their shape and weight. Here are three small videos with their own unique surrounding music due to wind or traffic. More study needed to grasp another way of learning from them to use in my work.”
“I intended this to be a “Barbie/Cindy-lolly” but the felt tip doesn’t show enough on the lolly bit so I’ve given her the chance to be the first girl to enter space single handed!.. Enjoyed playing with all the £1 shop had to offer and go wild with colour… what more could I ask?”
“Costumes, dancing, drums – what’s not to love about Nick Cave’s sound suits? The freedom of self-expression that comes with anonymity is powerful and liberating. and I had great fun with this Kick-About. As you may have guessed, the costume is mostly crochet and mostly formed by recycling elements of earlier KAs. I hope these images will bring a smile to your lips, even as you shake your head in bewilderment!”
“I hope we will dream together”
“In 2014, at the very beginning of blogging, I did a post with a dancer in my interpretation of one of Nick Cave’s soundsuits. I always wanted to do more of them, so I was glad to see this prompt. The original one is the star dancer. I hoped to do three new ones, but only managed two. The flower dancer was the first one I did: it’s small, about the same size as the star dancer. Then I decided to work on a large one – a cosmic dancer. It was a challenge to get the look I wanted. I tried a lot of different papers for the circles, but finally found origami paper came closest to what I was imagining. The background of stars was always a given. Perhaps I’ll get to one of those toy dancers in the future…”
who am I?
who can I become?
side and in–
full, entire, complete
“I am not sure when I am likely to use or wear a soundsuit so I decided to make something which is more on the decorative side. Nick Cave uses recycled objects to make his suits – well, my stylised flowers are made from a bag of old ties given to me by a friend, some twisty wire and an old glass bottle. The flowers tend to sway gently when there is a slight breeze and I was intending to add some old buttons strung together to make a jangling noise. However, they were just too heavy and didn’t look right, so I decided to go for plan B, and used some old dangly earrings instead.”
“Needs must and all that, so I fabricated my own much down-sized ‘soundsuit’ from a single yellow glove, wooden buttons, glass eye pieces and strands of colourful wool. I was drawn to some of the goofier, ‘Jim Henson-esque’ elements of some of Cave’s soundsuits – hence the Muppet-y character of my resulting hand-puppet. Turns out, however, even the goofiest glove puppet can throw some shapes on the dancefloor!”
“You have to love Nick Cave’s vibrant animated costumes that make you want to join in. Dance, along with singing and art tends to be a lost activity as you get older. I remember wonderful all-nighters at Sydney Mardi Gras parties vividly. This is my attempt to put down some of the movement. I should have made an animation or danced around – avoiding the computer and put down marks by hand, but the attached, with variation, came out from the computer.”
With a small nod to the current season, a mildly spooksome prompt for our next creative run-about: the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which, with more than 3.5 million visitors annually, is the most visited necropolis in the world…
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!