A final set of photographs of a plastic-wrapped sofa against an unplastered wall, a couple of which put me in mind of Caspar David Friedrich’s The Sea Of Ice painting. These images were produced for The Kick-About No.71, as inspired the landscape art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Taken in the summer of 2014, a vigorous clump of bamboo at the back of the old French house.
The short version is we bought a new leather sofa recently, which turned out to be too big for the room it was meant for. The sofa came wrapped in plastic – and remains so while we wait for some nice people to come and collect it and take it back to wherever unwanted sofas are destined to go. We have been living with this ‘un-sofa’ for quite a few weeks now – not sitting on it, not daring too, goaded by its postponement of creature comforts. I scowl at it every morning, not least because I was responsible for measuring up and only have myself to blame. Still, what is it that insufferably chipper types say about making lemonade when life gives you lemons (or outsized sofas)? I started noticing how different types of light at different times of day produced strange mountainous terrains out of the plastic wrapping covering the sofa, so with The Kick-About No.71 firmly in mind, I set about investigating them.
If our last Kick-About showcased new works made in a short time inspired by an extraordinary artist with which some of us were unfamiliar, this week’s online exhibition takes its cue from a very famous double-act, famous, that is, for wrapping landmarks and landscapes in swathes of material. Happy browsing.
“Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s trees reminded me of an Autumn ’22 visit to Eastwell in Kent, where I did these sketches. For KA, I’ve combined tree structure with architecture to produce this white-card model, but then found myself short of time. The old idiot box was on whilst modelling, conveniently offering some varied backdrops, although as an unfinished KA, I prefer the black backing. being it reminds me I’ve homework to do on this KA.”
“I wanted to make a miniature version of Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s impressive, uncanny installation art, but attempt to make it look larger, as if I had the resources to produce something of that scale. So I did some deadheading of branches and flora around my garden, wrapped cling-film around them and stuck the encapsulated snippings into styrofoam to keep them steady as I photographed the results. I loved how, in certain shots of Christo & Claude’s pieces, the sun shone through. It reminds me of poppy seed pods or Chinese lanterns. As I was taking photos, in spurts the sun broke through the clouds of the dreary sky and lit the tombs of these plants in spots and lines. Another treat was after a slight sprinkling of rain, which made me focus more on the intrinsics of the composition rather than its initial scale”
“This is a pretty basic response so I think you can see my thinking … that is, layers, seeing, not seeing… I found the piece of conifer on the street and, to me, it looked like a bonsai version of the “mother tree” so reflecting our prompt on a mini scale. A screen in front breaks up the image. I wanted to use elements that ran parallel to this: beetle, stone, seed.”
“These enormous sculptures in the landscape and city scapes that Christo and Jeanne Claude have created over the years have highlighted our attention to these landmarks in a different way, allowing them to be reconsidered/reawaken us when they are revealed again after the wrapping up. ‘Lock-Down’ during the past few years has personally given me the feeling of being wrapped up like an insect in a cocoon. So I started to try and create a kind of cocoon and failed miserably! However, this searching turned my attention to butterflies and moths that create these extraordinary constructions as a chrysalis. In the past I have used a translucent silk (organza) to create sculptures to transform internal public spaces, and the silk has come from the silk worms that feed on bushes so… I took another look at how millions of these moths or butterfly cocoons wrap up trees, bushes and grasses in the landscape. Here are a couple of photos taken in our countryside.”
“I’m afraid, although they created beautiful works, the scale and materials Christo and Jeanne Claude used have always made me uncomfortable, as we show little respect for our world’s resources. So I began this KA thinking I’d use some previous pics of tied-up pillows to collage into a tied-up earth, but it looked nothing like the earth or anything tied-up. There was something good happening visually so I returned to the tortured pillows and added an angry Spanish fountain lion head and a lizard leg; it felt angry (about wasting resources). I backgrounded it with pristine rainforest images (abused resources). By this point it wasn’t looking very Christo and Jeanne Claude and my mind was turning to the big industries that manufacture toxic products (like some of the materials Christo and Jeanne Claude used) and I added a power figure wrapped in a couple of cotton sheets, which looked appropriate. Of course, the question arises why we continue to abuse the earth, and then I heard a podcast with Adam Alter on judgement, decision making and social psychology, which threw social media into my mind and resulted in the addition of icons left and right of the figure. Oh, and the halo of fire is a nod to petrochemical industries.”
“The short version is we bought a new sofa recently, which turned out to be too big for the room it was meant for. The sofa came wrapped in plastic – and remains so while we wait for some nice people to come and collect it and take it back to wherever unwanted sofas are destined to go. We have been living with this ‘un-sofa’ for quite a few weeks now. I scowl at it every morning, not least because I was responsible for measuring up and only have myself to blame. Still, what is it that chipper types say about making lemonade when life gives you lemons (or outsized sofas)? I started noticing how different types of light at different times of day produced strange mountainous terrains out of the plastic wrapping covering the sofa, so with the Kick-About in mind, I set about investigating them.”
“I decided I would apply my ‘wrapping’ technique to some old plastic bangles I have in my stash of ‘possibly useful things!’ The first one I covered with net, followed by a thread in a variety of colours to add a bit of sparkle. The second I wrapped in strips of pink chiffon and then put some glittery material over the top. Lastly, for the third, I used the hem I had trimmed off a denim dress to wrap around the bangle, followed by a long silver chain. The necklace was recycled from an old pendant, wrapped in threads and some embroidery added. I really enjoyed this project and may well have a go at doing some more.”
“When ‘The Gates’ were installed in Central Park in February 2005 there was a lot of criticism and complaining from the Powers That Be. But for my daughter and I, and all the other people with us inside of the installation, it was a wonderful experience. This prompt returned me to that time and the photos I took. I printed out some of them and cut them into squares, which I turned into grids. Mother Nature had even co-operated, and the vibrant colors shadowed with black branches, moving in the wind against the snow, was truly magical. “
With many thanks to regular KA-er, Vanessa Clegg, we have our latest prompt – a celebrated mediation on the art and act of looking…
The fast few Hilma Af Klint-inspired images produced for The Kick-About No.70: murky, ominous canvases with a cosmic vibe.
A second set of images inspired by the Swedish artist, Hilma Af Klint and produced for The Kick-About No.70, deriving originally from some inconsequential doodles in the margins of to-do lists etc, before being layered up in the hope of achieving something more ominous and arcane.
That I’d never heard of Hilma Af Klint before The Kick-About No.70 has left me soul-searching ever since… How’s it possible this fascinating artist has been otherwise invisible to me? I guess the answer to that is a largely depressing one – something along the lines of only victors getting to write the history books.
For my part, I was interested by the automatism aspect of Klint’s creative process, so looked at what my hand and brain likes to visualise while I’m supposed to be thinking about other things; so I looked again at the recent pages of my various diaries and journals, and what I scribble when I’m in all those interminable Zoom meetings. That done, I decided to produce further happenstance by layering up the doodles to produce as much texture as possible, and then went about reinstating the circle, in a nod to the more arcane aspects of Klint’s temple paintings.
Further inspired by the cosmology of Klint’s artwork, I just went on layering up my images to produce greater depth and expansiveness, and all the while imagined these images to be as least as big as Klint’s paintings, and likewise hanging in dark gallery spaces lit softly. I kept going back to an image as-and-when until I started to feel something ‘big’ and mysterious was getting started before me. Ultimately, not sure what I’ve produced, but I enjoyed ‘not knowing’ a great deal.
Our last Kick-About together celebrated that deep-winter symbol of light-in-the-darkness, the Christmas tree. Our next creative foray (our first of 2023) is likewise exploring the desire for illumination, but with artist and mystic Hilma Af Klint as our muse. Enjoy this latest selection of new works made in a short time and also “Happy New Year!”.
“I have been yearning to do some traditional art lately, probably due to the fact that, during the Christmas break, my nieces and nephew received some arty presents. Here are some oil pastel drawings similar to some Irish sigils.”
“As always I would have liked to do more, and these will be added to the pile for future further exploration. I always felt Hilma af Klint’s art was a searching for spirit. She got involved in a lot of philosophy about it, but I think that, in the case of spirit, images and music will always get much closer to it than words or ideas. I focused on circles, but the tension between geometry and essence is present in all her work. I painted enso circles and then embroidered geometric lines and circles on top to try to capture some of that feeling.”
circled by spirit
circle in two places–
precision and surprise,
of earth and fire,
waves repeating—ebb, flow–
“I was not sure, at first, how to respond to this prompt. Some Kick-About prompts fire off a flurry of ideas, associations, visualisations… but not this one. Then I remembered a bag of cotton yarns I was given some years ago, but never found a really good use for. Normally my yarns are stored in gauze bags so I can see what’s in them at a glance, but I decanted these cottons into a denser cloth bag, so I could not see the colours. I then plunged my hand in, drew out the first ball I touched and started crocheting with it. There was no plan, no judgement about colour suitability. I crocheted varying stitches, determined by whim and often realising I had moved from one stitch to another without any real conscious thought. When I got bored, I changed yarn. There was one ball of yarn that had come unravelled and got very tangled, and I struggled to un-tangle it. Then my son said “Just crochet the knots in”, so I did. Each day I fastened off whatever I’d been working on and the next day started again with the next ball to emerge from the bag. Only as I approached the Kick-About deadline did I apply amy kind of critical editing, and then only to decide not to include a couple of sections. The whole process was helped by listening to a really good audiobook while I crocheted (a David Baldacci novel) and thereby diverting my conscious mind from too much busy-bodying about the work. So here it is. Make of it what you will!“
“This one just didn’t want to emerge from my 2022 puckered head! Hilma had her moment of glory in Australia in Sydney during the pandemic, so she’s well promoted if little actually seen. I feel her work morphs out of nature’s motifs, so my jumping-off point was the poinciana trees that line the local streets. The Madagascan natives have bright red and yellow pinwheel-shaped flowers (in full bloom at the moment) and almost fern-like foliage. I designed a graphic representation of its flower to begin with, along with the leaves, and then broke it down into its components and added local skies mirrored into grid-isolated forms, along with ‘dashed’ line graphics to reflect Hilma’s inclusion of line. Left me feeling very hippy! Hello 2023.”
“Brava Hilma Af Klint in her organic, free flowing, richly-coloured magical forms. Regards KA70, I must say the result would make for the most infuriating 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Happy new year KA-ers.”
“Well… happy new year to all Kick-Abouts. As the first challenge of 2023, this was a good one, tapping into the spontaneous aspect of Klint’s work, i.e. automatic writing. I threw my usual tight drawing style to the winds, closed my eyes, imagined figures and animals – and started. What resulted led me to think this could be a weekly exercise that reminds me of art school years in the life drawing room where we’d be asked to draw whilst only looking at the model and not the paper, which is an excellent test of observation. The ‘painting’ is my first go at laying down watercolour or ink and folding the paper over… Again, no control and something to be continued.”
“That I’d never heard of Hilma Af Klint before this prompt has left me soul-searching ever since… How’s it possible this fascinating artist has been otherwise invisible to me? I guess the answer to that is a largely depressing one – something along the lines of only victors getting to write the history books. For my part, I was interested by the automatism aspect of Klint’s creative process, so looked at what my hand and brain likes to visualise while I’m supposed to be thinking about other things; so I looked again at the recent pages of my various diaries and journals, and what I scribble when I’m in all those interminable Zoom meetings. That done, I decided to produce further happenstance by layering up the doodles to produce as much texture as possible, and then went about reinstating the circle, in a nod to the more arcane aspects of Klint’s temple paintings. Further inspired by the cosmology of Klint’s artwork, I just went on layering up my images to produce greater depth and expansiveness, and all the while imagined these images to be as least as big as Klint’s paintings, and likewise hanging in dark gallery spaces lit softly. I kept going back to an image as-and-when until I started to feel something ‘big’ and mysterious was getting started before me. Ultimately, not sure what I’ve produced, but I enjoyed ‘not knowing’ a great deal!”
“I find abstract works very interesting, but unfortunately my type of artistic style seems to over complicate things. Having left things until New Years Eve, I decided to make a start by attempting to imitate Hilma’s ‘flower abstract’ and read that she was also a bit of a mystic. I used some of my ink and bleach backgrounds and decided to cut out some contrasting flower shapes from an old catalogue. It was a complete surprise to learn that they we’re called Petunia Grandiflora Mystical Midnight Gold. How spooky! Happy New Year to one and all!”
Now that Christmas 2022 is done and dusted you might be thinking, ‘Phew, no more gift-wrapping!’
Um, about that…
And finally, like the little match girl herself, I popped outside into the bitter cold and dark, and snapped a few images of my stand-in Kick-About ‘Christmas tree’ as it might appear to any curious kids or dog-walkers, as the green glow of it flashed in the long night.
And so, making full use of the strange, empty room in the middle of our small, cold house, I set about recreating another semblance of the Christmas tree for our room-without-one. A few little lights tied to a long drop of black thread later, and I set about manifesting this Fritz Lang-meets-James Whale-style Christmas tree (in response to The Kick-About No.69) and enjoyed all the old-school sci-fi spook of it. In some of them, there’s even the ghost of some mid-20th century Americana in-the-mix, in large part due to those masking-tape atom-age snowflakes I stuck to the wall on a whim.