With its sepia tint, post-card proportions, and London landmark, this week’s prompt, Sheila Legge’s Phantom of Surrealism, might just as easily have surfaced as part of our previous Kick-About, inspired by the word souvenir – though, as holiday snaps go, this one could take some explaining. This week, Legge’s abstruse tableau has prompted paintings, collage, computer-generated landscapes, creative writing and some rather extraordinary headgear… Happy browsing!
“This prompt made me think of world conditions acting on Surrealists – where do movements come from – so my response is a meld of the flower head with environmental issues, and how I think the level of denial everyone has, to so many issues, comes into play.”
“Using the kind of desert backdrop that sets the stage of many surrealist paintings, I set out to create some of my own phantoms in the desert, and had a go at generating some suitably dreamy visions inspired by the motifs in the photograph.”
“When reading about Sheila Legge’s inspiration behind her walking real surrealist exhibition, and how she was so inspired by the paintings of Dalí, I decided to create some Dalí-esque dream-like landscapes, while paying homage to Legge’s faceful of flowers.”
“Taking Sheila Legge’s image and Kafka’s Gregor Samsa as equal parts inspiration, I arrived at this short story. There’s a bit of horticultural knowledge in there too, a thing about nasturtiums thriving in the poorest conditions, and likewise, the situation unfolding in Afghanistanfor women and girls.”
“I’m not sure if this is surrealism or the stuff of nightmares! I think, subconsciously, I was reflecting on the plight of women under the Taliban regime ,and on other women who are trying to break free from cruelty etc. Don’t ask me what the blue doughnuts symbolise – maybe hunger? Enjoyed doing this and definitely made me think and be thankful.”
“I was surprised to find this photo was taken as early as 1936. When I first saw it, it reminded me strongly of a 1950-60’s fashion shot. I have no references for this, it was just what came to mind. However, it got me thinking about fashion, face-coverings, Gertrude Shilling and Afghanistan’s women, and I started working on hyperbolic crocheted decoration for an old straw hat. However, while hyperbolic crochet makes amazing, wonderful shapes, the process itself can be tedious, and as I worked on it, my brain ran on to thinking about what had prompted Sheila Legge to create that image in the first place. What was she trying to convey? What was I trying to convey? The old straw hat was discarded, a new hat structure created, and as my hands worked on the hat, my brain worked on the process, resulting in the short poem below. The poem came after the hat, so it may make sense to read it after viewing the images. Or not at all. Up to you.”
It starts as a glimmer, little more than a glow, A smouldering fuse that might spark or no. But then it starts burning a hole through your brain, And scuppers your routines, sleep derailed like a train. Once it colours your vision and pounds in your ear, Ties you up in the passion, the self-doubt, the fear, And even your loved ones decide to steer clear – Then you’re in the grip of a Brilliant Idea! Maybe.
“Robert Benayoun suggested that while Surrealism exalted ‘la femme’, the Surrealists did not equally revere ‘les femmes’. The histories of female Surrealists have often remained buried under those of male Surrealists, who have gained wider public recognition. Well, Sheila Legge with her head covered, sums this up nicely, as does the Magritte painting surrounded by the above. Referencing their artwork and naming all the mainly, “forgotten” women, I felt went somewhere towards redressing the balance!”
René Magritte, I Do Not See the [Woman] Hidden in the Forest, 1929
Vanessa Clegg, Ink and watercolour over print, (2021)
“I had a lot of ideas for this, but only had time for one. Perhaps I’ll get to the others for some future collage. The statuesque quality was what stood out for me, and of course, I can never resist birds…”
phantasma goria exposed by shadows dissolving into borrowed wings eclipsed by casting out light
“So there’s a coincidence! Just when I was reading the short stories of Leonora Carrington, who met Max Ernst and became involved with the surrealists in 1937 at the age of 20, the Kick-About veered into the very same territory with Sheila Legge. All I have to offer the Kick-About today is the beginnings of a… something… featuring some bird-headed, flower-headed women. They will possibly eat one another. I may add colour if there’s anything left of them by tomorrow…”
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, James Randall, our new prompt for our thirty-seventh run-around: Peter Mungkuri’s Punu Ngura (2019). Have fun and see you back here soon for another celebration of creativity, process and lateral-thinking. As ever, looking forward to it.
In between his various creative endeavours triggered by The Kick-About, and his day job designing and delivering the curricula for his English classes, Japan-based creative and Red’s Kingdom artist-in-residence, Tom Beg has continued work on his animated short, Tabula 5465. Time for a catch-up…
Hey Tom, it’s been a while since we had you back in Red’s Kingdom: I know how busy you are, so I was excited to see a recent update on your short film, Tabula 5465, which means you’ve somehow been finding the time to continue work on your animated short. Tell us about all the latest developments.
Tom:Animation on the next creature is well underway. It is still a work in progress, but it is starting to materialise as something. Now I have a bit of time coming up, I’m aiming to make more substantial progress. Stay tuned for more updates later, but for now, you can look at what I have produced so far.
As far as other more under-the-hood developments go, there have been things tweaked and added here and there. For example, to assist in the animating process, I have created a few simple extra controls to the rig of the character to make it easier to get some nice organic bobbing and swaying movement. On my previous character this was extremely clunky to implement, so I am glad to have it as as something I can control independently from everything else.
Speaking more in terms of things that have a more obvious visual impact, I have made progress towards getting the final look of the animated sequences. I was able to render out a low-resolution version to test out various post-effects. In the end, I got something that was quite close to how I imagine the final film will look.
I’ve also been chipping away at an animated version of the title sequence and branding that is going to open the animation. It’s all very retro-pop!
Learned any new technical tricks lately?
Tom: One of my goals ,as this project developed, was to start using a tool in Maya called MASH, and I’ve been making the steps to start incorporating it into the pipeline of this animation. Unlike just about every other tool in Maya, MASH is a lot of fun to just play around with and get some interesting effects almost instantly. My purpose for it in this animation is to populate the backgrounds with more simply animated creatures, while the hero creatures in the foreground do the heavy lifting.
I couldn’t help but find out what would happen if 1000 creatures were to suddenly be brought into existence. I can conclude that a slow-moving computer and some amused giggling in a one-room Japanese apartment is what happens. But after the silliness, I did get round to more subtly incorporating it into the animation, as per my original plan.
When you’re working on a long project like this one, the motivation to keep going with it is never guaranteed – especially when you’ve got so many other responsibilities. When your mojo is running a bit low, what are your ‘hacks’ for getting back into the saddle?
Tom:Due to my day job, the actual production of the animation comes in waves, but even when I am not doing something related to art and animation, I am usually doing something that is exercising my brain in a creative way. That can be something like working on new lesson ideas, studying Japanese, or even just taking a walk around my neighbourhood and going down a road I’ve never been down before. It all tends to yield at least one interesting new sight, the discovery of something new or a burgeoning interest in something. I used to watch so many Japanese films when I younger because I was just so curious about what they had been making over the last 100 years, and here I am in Japan, learning a language that ten years ago, I could never have imagined having any understanding of.
Mostly, I recommend just finding something new that isn’t your comfort food. I think I am naturally curious person about creativity, especially when it comes to things outside the mainstream. I don’t love everything I see, but I am interested to see it at least once. One of the things I used to do when I was a student was just to marathon-watch lots of truly weird and bizarre stuff that probably should have never been made or seen by anyone. Unfortunately, even this became my comfort food and I had to branch out into even weirder stuff! The 70s was certainly an interesting time in cinema! At the very least it always encouraged me to see the world a little differently.
Do you ever find that your ‘extra-curricular’ projects are feeding into your teaching? How much do your students/colleagues know about your other life as an artist, animator and film-maker?
Tom:I think creating art is about thinking about an audience and making something which could be interesting for that audience. In essence, that is the same as making relatable and enjoyable lessons. To be honest, I don’t do much direct cross-over, besides some amusing PowerPoint tricks and worksheet design. I always feel like if that cross-over was made more explicitly obvious then maybe I have moved too far away from the point I am supposed to be demonstrating or encouraging students to interact with. However, at the end of the day, both animation and teaching are about eliciting some sort of reaction from someone so they feel interested enough to want to experience more or learn more from that thing. That is what I strive for on all fronts!
What’s next on your slate for Tabula 5464?
Tom:Just animating. I think I said that last time too, but my schedule is clear this time!
Finally, paint me a picture of life in Japan right now, weather, wild-life, the Olympics…
Tom:Rainy season is over (and it certainly did rain, as you may have seen in the news) so now the summer heat is in full swing, and the sweating from places you never imagined sweat could come from begins. Our old Kick-About friend, the cicadas, have also started their annual singing competition. Oh, and yes, the Olympics. Let’s just say that is a thing that is happening…
“I was a bit bamboozled by the dancing chicken clip from ‘Stroszek’ having never watched the film. So I opted for some zany, silly visuals, featuring the chicken, duck and rabbit! I call it ‘Head Banger Stroszek.’“
“I first decided to draw while watching the video on a roll of rice paper that I had. This was a fun exercise, worth thinking about for other videos in the future. Then I did some monoprint outlines, based on those sketches. I tried to monoprint color on top, but that was not as successful, so I improvised with paint. Only the chicken with the blue background did not have a printed outline, it was all drawn in neocolors. There is no cohesiveness to this week’s work, but chickens are endlessly fascinating to draw. So maybe that’s the take-away.”
“I love the dancing chicken. Never would I have thought… Funnily enough, I am just painting a rooster, even if its meaning is a bit of a departure from the prompt. It all started from various kick about prompts actually, tree of life, symbols etc. Here is a bit of my tree of life, more like a climber really, with roots in the sea going up in a dreamy night sky, and my rooster daughter (by the Chinese horoscope), perched on it. Looks like a rooster singing to the moon now.”
“With this task I found myself in the realms of abstract again and fancied concentrating on the marks made by the chicken as it scratched and danced about. I decided to crochet the shape of a chicken, duck and rabbit footprint and stick them onto pieces of card to use as stamps. Next I used acrylics to paint the background and added some contrast printing using recycled packaging. After this I just proceeded to enjoy myself with ‘chicken foot ‘ stamp to make a happy dancing type of pattern. In fact I think there is actually a dance called Chicken in the Straw – so I have renamed this painting ‘Drunken Chicken in the Straw’. Plus had to finish with a little chicken quip – ‘I dream of a better world… where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned!'”
“I was a bit focused on other little projects – though chicken dance was lurking in the back of my mind – originally I was contemplating an image of someone crossing the road, lost battery chicken-like in their smart phone. My final offering quickly took off from a couple of weird things I did and the news feeds bombarding us in Australia on the delta variant, to the point where it feels like we never had alpha at all and that delta just appeared out of the ethers. We Australians really have ourselves to blame for not deciding to bite the bullet and take the not best option astra zenica for delta’s current launch in Sydney. Anyhow, my attempt at a voodooish/distressed thought-bubble.”
“This scene really drew attention to just how bizarre a chicken really is, dancing aside. I realised I’d never really studied one before. Great opportunity to do so, so I took a tonne of screen shots from the film and picked some charismatic head shots. Getting to grips with the mixer brushes in Photoshop now, almost tailor made to paint fur and feathers.”
“I think Werner Herzog used the dancing chicken as some kind of bleak metaphor for the tackiness and the emptiness of modern life at the time. Personally, I wanted to elevate the chicken to something more elegant, while capturing its essence and joie de vivre. In the end, I settled on these black and white images, which were somewhat inspired by an encounter with a rooster and some charcoal during my college days.”
“I got very excited when I first saw this prompt, because I just love chickens! The range of colours and patterns they display in their plumage; their ability to scuttle about very busily, and then stop stock still – like a screen freeze – before resuming their previous activity, as if nothing had happened – and the fact they combine such dignity with such comedic flair. I just love ‘em! But, I have never attempted to capture motion in yarn before, let alone dancing hens. I soon realised crochet does not lend itself easily to “action shots” so it took a lot of head scratching and moaning and groaning before I found a way forward.
I found photos of chickens running, and then got my techie friend to overlap and tessellate them. From that I tried to identify the key shapes that said “chicken”. (See attached scribbles.) From that, I decided on tail shape, coxcomb and legs, and then tried to develop those into a pattern that might suggest movement. I chose colours in keeping with the folksy, children’s story mood of the original prompt. Here are the results. Chicken Runner, anyone?“
“I was struck by the folksy, pop-culture qualities of Herzog’s dancing chicken, and keen to investigate the movement of these performing animals too. The rather forlorn spectacle of these animals, in boxes, existing to entertain through repetitive actions got me thinking about mechanical toys, so I acquired a mass-produced tin toy clock-work chicken and set about trying to capture its efforts to entertain me, in the form of a series of long-exposure photographs.”
“This was a challenge! So based solely on trailers and reviews, my imagination wandered towards Victorian anthropomorphy and the use of animals for amusement, (YouTube awash with examples), looking at the flea circus, kittens tea parties, besuited mice etc. The result? A chicken/human cross!The other image is a set up in my studio: a plastic figure picked up in the street against a favourite haunt in Greece. In Stroszek, the main character lands on a strange shore and never fully integrating, remains an outsider, wandering from place to place. It was this and a sense of the surreal that I was trying to capture.“
And for your delight and delectation, a bit more moving image by way of inspiration for our next run-around together, courtesy of experimental film-maker, Marie Menken, and her 1966 silent short, Lights. Hope this inspires some light-bulb moments of your own!
From the previous Kick-About’s deep and velvety shadows, courtesy of animator of silhouettes, Lotte Reiniger, to this Cinemascopic vista of glowing, saturated colours by the painter, Brian Rutenberg, and all the new work Low Dense has inspired in the same short space of fourteen days. Enjoy the view.
“When I was an ambassador for University one hot summer, similar to the melting heat in the UK at the moment, I was tasked with taking down the graduate shows of the students that proudly presented their creative work to their family, friends and fellow students. I spent a few weeks dismantling the makeshift wooden stages, pulling out nails and painting over the brightly coloured stripes and symbols that students designed to present their work in theme with their creations.
One task I had to do was take large canvases students had painted on, and throw them into the skip near the smokers’ shed (where I spent many lunch breaks laughing and smoking my lungs out with my friends and classmates). It always saddened me to know some students would rather dump their work, no matter how large the canvas, so instead of giving them the heave-ho into the trash, I told my thrifty friends about the canvases, who happily decided to take them back to their uni homes and upcycle them to their hearts’ content, painting and drawing on them however they pleased.
I kept the largest canvas for myself. Dripping in sweat, carrying this beast down the iconic Rochester hill, I ended up sandwiching it into my tiny uni bedroom, but I never did anything with the canvas for years, which has since followed me along with two house moves. I have had ideas; I cut out all the silhouettes I kept from life drawing classes, and thought about doing a collage of all of them together on the large canvas, but never did, but I always knew I would do something with it when the time was right.
I have always loved Rutenberg’s kaleidoscope of colours, with the blocks of different variants of hues having such an immense power of depth to them. I thought it would be the perfect chance to finally let loose upon this canvas, and use the many tubes of paint I have stashed from many Christmas gifts that otherwise have been left to gather dust. I couldn’t think of any better way to spend a hot day – sitting outside in the heat with a cold beer or two, and painting away in the garden. It was a therapeutic experience to say the least. I think I may have to figure out how to make my own canvases”.
“Colour: I’ve had this beautiful little pot of rouge for years and would guess it dates back to the 1930s. It’s such a vivid pink and lifts my spirits in the same way the fabric (a recent buy, reminding me of the 70s) does… a perfect zingy combination! The “rainbow” appeared on the wall of my studio: a tiny oblong of jewelled colour in an otherwise white space.“
“Kick-About colour: I have been toying with a method for applying colour to my electronic scribbles with mezzotint filters in Photoshop. I applied it to a section of a refrigerator totem image I am continuing to work on and it seems to have worked, but you have to zoom in to see the colour which works in a kind of pointillist way without the effort. In other news, I have been short-listed for the Kilgour prize at Newcastle (in New South Wales) Art Gallery with my Isadora Duncan Kick-About painting (red jumpsuit / yellow car). It is a competition that actual artists enter so I feel quite chuffed. It’s now framed and will be couriered down to New South Wales on Friday for judging and exhibiting with the other finalists.*“
This weekend, I happened to go to an exhibition at Bristol’s Botanic garden. It was showing work from a residency by Artist in residence, Alex Hirtzel, in association with biologist, Dr. David Lawson. It was called Displays Decoded – The Multi-sensory language of flowers. In part of that exhibition, the artist had explored how, scientifically, the bee or other insects see colour. For us it appears that they see the ultra violet, and radiation of heat attracts them, as bees particularly cannot feast on the flower until it emits over 30 degrees. So there are lots of them around at the moment. Making hay while the sun shines! Thinking of Brian Rutenberg, I found myself watching a bee entering the Antirrhinums on my balcony and wondered what they would be seeing or feeling within that flower that they seemed to have to force their way in. I have tried to capture some of that possibility without UV! It looks a little Georgia O’Keefe to me now. Getting into sensations and how to describe them needs a lot more exploration.“
“This painting makes me think of shanty towns, rift valleys, and the coming of night. I was interested in the way Rutenberg combines angular blocks of colour with broad sweeps of undefined colours that merge and separate. I played about with some paints and pens, but my thoughts kept turning to how I might create a similar effect with yarn. I decided to have a go. It is still a work in progress, butt here is what I have done so far. In my head, it is called ‘The Last Ray'”.
“I had not heard of Brian Rutenberg and the first impression was ‘Wow! Very powerful!’ So I spent quite a bit of time ‘deconstructing’ his technique. The apparent abstract nature is, of course, in reality highly stylised landscapes. If you put aside the idiosyncratic drawing style they are quite simple compositions. The cleverness for me is the use of colour; he has substituted primary or secondary colours for tone on most of the pieces, enhancing the abstract qualities. The texture and randomness is the product of palette knife work – that said, given the size of the canvases, it was more likely a large trowel!
I must admit, as a figurative painter, once I’d analysed the HOW, for me, much of the work lost some of its WOW. It’s the kind of work I have come across in large corporate boardrooms (not that I have been in that many), designed to impress or intimidate.For my pieces I took the technique I had unpicked and tried a few landscapes of my own, with very mixed results. It is one thing to understand a process but quite another to create in that genre. A lot of my work is marine in subject, so for the first piece I took an image of reflections on water and upped the colour values and worked largely with a palette knife. I think you can still just about make out it is meant to be liquid. For the other piece, I chose a lake surrounded by trees and threw away the tonal values, replacing them with primary colour. I failed to match the stylisation of Rutenberg, but I think they are just about going in the right direction.”
“The colors immediately made me think of Monet, which made me think of the grids I did based on Monet’s work. This is a very intense way to look at art, and I learned a lot from it as I not only did some of Monet’s paintings, but an entire book of other artists for The Sketchbook Project. The subtleties of color are amazing when you look closely at them. Rutenberg clearly has an eye for color. You can see my work with Monet here and here, and my Sketchbook Project book, Art I Like, here.”
everywhere falls apart mind to eyes expanding
falls apart becomes its opposite expanding into stories
becomes its opposite days into nights into stories the sun intersecting the moon
days into nights future and past the sun intersecting the moon enlarging the horizon
future and past the surprise of delight enlarging the horizon to leave is to arrive
the surprise of delight mind to eyes to leave is to arrive everywhere
“I really love Brian Rutenberg’s painting, with its wonderful explosive colours. My own attempt at an abstract was inspired by my recent (surprise) gliding experience, and the view of the fabulous patchwork of fields below me. I firstly made a rough sketch of my ideas and then took some prewashed pieces of crinkled cotton and stuck them onto A2 paper. After this I proceeded to add acrylics with a very large brush and just primary colours. All the while I tried to remember how it felt to skim 2000 feet up over the air currents. I then used a fine brush to add details of contours and rivers in contrast colours. The thing that I found most difficult was knowing when to stop! I mean, it’s not that easy on an ordinary illustration, but an abstract seems to have its own momentum. Well, I finally came in to land – so to speak. However, the painting as a whole doesn’t seem quite right. My other half says it needs a focal point and I fear he’s right. Ah well, here are the best bits.”
“This is glorious, what a great painting and a new discovery for me, thank you, Phill Hosking, an inspiration, and also a new addition to my list of abstract artists I use for my painting classes – particularly the abstract and colour courses, but also brilliant as an example for composition and depth. So this is one of my abstract paintings that deals with space, macrocosm and microcosm, more than rooted in the landscape, as I feel Brian Rutenberg’s are.” Ink on watercolour paper, 76×56 cm.
“When I looked into Brian Rutenberg’s work, I was struck by the lush sensual paintwork, the bold abstraction, and the immersive scale. I was also intrigued by his limited range of subject matter, and how he explored a few subjects repeatedly, always managing to find new emotional responses. I’ve honed in on a particular landscape that I’m fascinated by; the shingle spit of Dungeness. I’ve made a few semi-abstracted images of the scrubby vegetation that colonises the shingle with Dungeness B nuclear power station looming up behind. I never tire of this place and I could explore the strange, wild landscape over and over. These images are made using the monoprint technique, with two monoprints digitally overlaid and edited to make the final image.”
“After the first big hit of colour, the next most immediate thing I got from Rutenberg’s painting was its three-dimensionality, that strong sense of folded planes and faceting, as if we’re stood on the floor of some Technicoloured canyon, staring off into the distance, or more precariously, standing with one foot on either side of a rainbowed crevasse, and looking down between our feet at the prismatic chasm below. This was a vista I could feel with my fingers and I found the desire to build some Low Dense-inspired ‘chunks’ irresistible. Fabricated quickly by folding cardboard and taping it into shape, and reaching once again for some tried-and-tested PVA goop, I whipped up some ‘Ruten-Bergs’ and then painted them up in a manner meant to emulate some of the characteristics of the painting. That done, I then pushed my Ruten-Bergs together in different configurations and photographed them in various different ways, under various different lights, until I was achieving some suitably painterly effects.”
“Looking at the painting, I imagined that I was staring through the viewfinder of an inter-planetary rover on the surface of some dusty and rocky multi-coloured planet. With this planetary vision in mind, I explored the idea of creating computer generated ecosystems. Through multiple iterations and experimentation, it started to develop into models and images that seemed less about surface and into something more microscopic. Perhaps these could even be particles of paint magnified to impossible levels.”
“Rutenberg has me questioning how abstraction evolves from the memory of landscape. So I set up the challenge of memory of still life inspired by his enjoyment and use of colour. Yet I could not break free from the fruit form so, more work ahead on that problem. How jealous I am of his mixing 500ml of richly colour-saturated oil to then apply it with his palm across the canvas!” 25x25cm oil on prepared paper.
“This piece started life as a digital painting, in the style of Rutenberg’s paintings. The more I’ve gotten into his work over the last few years, and as I’ve listened to him speak about his work and process, I’ve absorbed a lot of his wisdom and theory. Painting in Photoshop, from some recent photos I took on holiday in Somerset, I realised that without all the elements of thick oil paint, walnut oil, textured canvas and the monumental scale, this just wasn’t going to cut it. The sense of depth and light depicted in Brian’s work always astounds me, so I took the idea of his interplay of horizontals and verticals into ZBrush. I used the original digital painting to create the colour on the 3D. I made a rough approximation of the artist himself, just as a homage to a bit of a hero of mine, then created a tangle of intersecting forms. I encased this in a glass box to contain this in a 3D space, something the artist conveys so well on his canvases. A departure from my comfort zone on this one, another lesson learned from Rutenberg himself.”
What I love about the Kick-About is the way in which the different prompts send us all haring off in such unexpected directions and producing work we can’t predict. I suspect our newest prompt, courtesy of Tom Beg, will prove no exception: behold Werner Herzog’s celebrated dancing chicken from his 1977 film, Stroszek…
The Kick-About No. 29 was inspired by Murakami’s description of the all-seeing moon, and this, our latest creative shindig together, has been prompted by an image of the human eye no less planetary…
“In eyeing things up, this KA drew my attention to the bees snuggling into, and reversing out of the foxgloves so, being nosey I had a peak, and discovered a tunnel of pure exotic joy with bright saturated light (optic disc) at the end of the tunnel. Taking a closer look meant later on recalling sensations, avoiding loyalty to the order of nature’s design, to arrive at – maybe the same for the bee (how presumptuous) – memory of that which came to me as a rush.” Oil on prepared paper 25cm x 25cm.
“Dear Charly Skilling – thank you for your beautiful moon submission – enormous hugs to you and your beloved. Unfortunately I didn’t read it until after bouncing out of the kick-about gates – it would have changed my direction by 180 degrees.
The fundus spiralled me through cyclops thoughts – not wanting to approach the glaucoma too closely. I added some Royal Academy on-line life drawing, a Tasmanian beach and sky, some sea birds from Byron Bay then decided it was to be all about emotion rather than narrative and substituted the cyclops for the falling upside-down life model to get to my pic. During this process I gazed longingly at our washing machine as I removed another load and noticed the similarity between the fundus image and the inside of the machine and took a series of photos with my head and camera wedged there – the obvious ones made sense thematically but I only really like the attached blurry detail.“
“I guess the first thing to establish is no actual eyes were harmed in the making of these images! I should say too, no actual eyes were photographed either. In common with these recent images, I looked to various commonplace things at my disposal and once again channelled my inner low-budget film-maker. I won’t reveal my secrets just yet, but suffice to say there is now a shortage of red food colouring and olive oil in our kitchen. I don’t think I will ever tire of the ‘in-camera’ transformations produced by light, specularity and depth-of-field, the magic that sometimes happens between the subject and the lens. I was inspired by images of cataracts and ‘damage’ to the eye (and I think, more gruesomely, by A Clockwork Orange too). This set of resulting images is but a small sample, as I did a bunch of different things over three different days. From these very biological-seeming images, things became more painterly and strange, so I’ll be sharing some more ‘fundus photography’ in the coming days. I’ve certainly been having some fun.’
“For these images I essentially constructed a mass of veins and vessels and trawled through dozens of randomly generated variations looking for the perfect image akin to how a photographer searches for the image of a perfect snowflake amongst hundreds of failures. I somehow managed to generate the aesthetic that I had in my mind after the first attempt, but beyond that lucky first hit I spent a considerable amount of time just staring at blurry orange images, only occasionally getting a glimpse of the things that had initially made me so excited. In a somewhat scientific manner, and after many experiments and further failures, I was able to come up with the formula and methodology that yielded more productive results. Thus was I finally able to reveal the secrets of ‘the eye‘.”
“I thought I would do a collage pattern of eye shapes, and began by sketching the outlines. As I did this a fantastic SF story came into my mind entitled ‘Dark They Were, and Golden Wyed’ written by Ray Bradbury. So I ended up with “Martian Eyes” which was fun to do. The background is a wax/wash and I used a combination of paper and material scraps.”
“The prompt this week sparked all kinds of thoughts, feelings and associations for me. I’m a visual artist, so the workings of the eye, and the connections between the eyes and the brain are pretty darn important, Artists have been exploring how we see things for a long time, not just how they record visual information, but how they can also play tricks, and see what is not there.
For example, before I get a migraine attack, I sometimes get visual disturbances, like veils of glowing zig-zag patterns that drift into my vision from the periphery of my sight until the cover everything. It was terrifying when it first happened, I thought I was having some sort of brain haemorrhage. And there are certain substances that can produce dramatic hallucinations that are totally convincing, but are created entirely by our minds, but the eye can see them.
I went to see an exhibition recently by Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist who has suffered visual hallucinations most of her life. Early on, she decided to include them in her art and they have become a signature of her work. Kusama has spoken about her wish to create work that conveys her desire to melt into everything, to dissolve and become one with the universe. Her mirrored rooms, or ‘infinity rooms’ as they’re called are particularly effective.
I’ve written a short story about a rather grumpy old man and his family who went to see the Kusama show. He’s a very imperfect man, but not all bad, like most of us, I suppose.”
“Whenever I see one of these retinal photographs, it makes me think of alien skies. Not that I know much about alien skies, except as depicted on the covers of sci-fi paperbacks or in Hollywood’s representations. So I decided to create my own “alien sky” with sharpies and alcohol on ceramic tile. While I was playing, I got to thinking about ‘Ingenuity’, the little drone helicopter NASA is using to map the terrain of Mars. Here are the results.”
“I just really wanted to do some digital drawing, I haven’t done much of it lately and I miss how relaxing it is to put some jazz music on, get in the flow and let the lines go where they may. Picturing different landscapes centred around the fundus photograph, a sprawling metropolis materialised, with vivacious characters and stories between them, feeling so close but far away.”
“I know this orange orb from personal experience. It unnerves me and intrigues me at the same time. A tricky subject for me from a very early age. I became a pirate at 4 with a constant patch over one eye that made my ‘lazy’ eye do a bit more work. Why am I lazy? I queried. Banned from games requiring throwing a ball. I saw two and had no idea which one to catch. At 8, I started putting lions in cages. I hate zoos. Terrified of balls coming towards me. Fascinated by cages and getting out of them. Set caged birds free.”
“Ah, the joy of that tiny piece of plastic. The contact lens! Free at last to see clearly, use make-up, change hair styles, join the world. My eyes did not agree and rebelled years later, after I had often rammed them back in my eyes with grit and detritus just licked off, as there was nowhere to rinse them up mountains in deserts. The dreaded Orange orb showed a bump that was dangerously close to detaching the retina of my right eye. The bump caused a sentence to dip in the middle on the screen or whilst reading a book. Back to wearing glasses despite trials with soft lenses and many a red eye, and now spiders appearing across my eyes! Back in my cage.”
“So why this lengthy preamble? It could have been much worse. I am obsessed with fencing and seeing through. The lion is sleeping, He has left the cage. The cage has transformed naturally.”
“Watching dancers and working for 25 years to understand the body in movement through the Feldenkrais method (Awareness through movement), I understand and feel the natural combination of the spiral of movement from the eye to the feet. It reminds me of twisted fencing that often crops up in my work and connects me to the natural world to which we all belong.”
“Having googled what fundus photography actually was, I realised I was vaguely familiar, as a long-time glasses wearer. Needless to say I was drawn to visually representing my experiences. My most prevalent memory (since I was about 5 years old) is of the ‘balloon machine.’ A standard test in most eye examinations: the grainy image of a distant hot air balloon against a blue sky, blurring and refocusing, is a distinct childhood memory. Plus, the unique set of noises the machine would emit as it altered the focus. It sounded a lot like an antiquated printer. Going beyond the physical tests I’m fairly familiar with, I looked into more metaphorical representations. Fundus photographs show networks of blood vessels. Leading me to networks of nerves, images being processed and the like. So I envisioned snap shots transitioning from one to the next with the blink of an eye!”
The Kick-About No.26 – our one year birthday bash – was, at first glance, a collection of disparate things brought together into a single composition. In actual fact, however diverse, the work in the last edition of our fortnightly run-around was tightly associated: the shared dreams of an eclectic community. Our new prompt, de Chirico’s The Song Of Love, is another assembly of seemingly incongruous artefacts and what follows are our respective responses, taking in photography, painting, drawing, and collage, digital art and animation, poetry and spoken word.
“I have been having wildly vivid dreams as of late, the kind of dreams where you wake up in the middle of the night and need to write them down, the kind you remember so clearly when you get out of bed in the morning, the kind where you try to decipher their meaning to see if its some sort of cosmic message within your unconscious psyche that needs to be brought to fruition. These dreams feel as though they relate to the collective phenomena, where people at the start of lockdown had extremely vivid dreams, probably in relation to their unconscious being so fired up because their everyday lives felt like Groundhog Day, something I still feel like I can relate too. Surrealism, as an art form, is cemented in the unconscious, with surrealist painters adopting many techniques to unlock the power within their unconscious, so that it translates through to their art, including many being influenced by allusive dreams. With this in mind, and with this week’s The Song of love prompt, I have created a landscape of some of the symbols I have recently seen in one dream that has had a lasting effect..”
“Looking through a Sotheby’s 1977 catalogue, I discovered this Georgio De Chirico self-portrait from 1924, and liked it enough to do a sketch. It then seemed appropriate to introduce Georgio to Faversham, as under lock-down I did a few sketches which all of a sudden seem like a De Chirico painting. Outside the studio sparrows are active, and a homage to Morandi seemed appropriate being weekends now favour lunch in the garden.” Unfinished oil on prepared paper 50 x 65cm.
“Well this is multilayered in more ways than one but suffice it to say that I used the globe, glove and shadows from the original artwork and then wove it into my own song of love! Coloured crayon on paper.” 60cm X 55cm.
“I took three things from the de Chirico painting; the rubber glove, the perspective, and the uncanny…”
“As many have written over this past year, our lives have become perhaps a tad too much like a De Chirico or Hopper painting. The empty, beguilling landscapes feel a little too familiar for comfort, but nonetheless, these sorts of spaces are my stomping ground. The unease of architectural space has always been an inspiration in my work, and so here are a few strange tableaus inspired by De Chirico’s The Song of Love. These images are my first renders and experiments using Blender. Essentially, Blender is an open-source CG software to compete with the likes of Autodesk Maya. It’s amazing so far, and because it is open-source, it means that the software is completely free. The dream for a low-budget indie animator like myself. “
“I’ve always liked de Chirico’s strange and unsettling paintings. Still and airless, in a perpetual sickly twilight, they are at once magical and slightly menacing. There are peculiar objects populating his spaces, they look like props and theatre sets to me, everything rather hollow and dead looking.
De Chirico influenced the surrealists with his explorations of the metaphysical. The unusual juxtaposition of seemingly disparate elements in his paintings, such as in The Song of Love, stimulate odd associations, and the emotional bandwidth of the image is that of dreams and distant hazy memories. Freud published his book, The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900 although Chirico denied being influenced by Freud’s ideas. It would be easy to believe that he was, though, looking at this painting.
So, for this prompt I’ve used photo collage to shake up a conventional portrait image of a respectable looking woman and reveal layers of her psyche hidden beneath the surface. I think she may need professional help!”
“My first reaction, when I saw this prompt, was OMG! I had no idea what to do with it, so I resorted to research (the procrastinator’s friend), read around it, looked at it again, read some more… Then one day, as I sat staring glumly at the painting on my computer screen, my husband Billy looked over my shoulder and gifted me the first line of my poem. The rest of it just sort of fell into place. After that, it only seemed natural that Billy should assist in the vocals. We had a lot of fun and discussion and laughter with this poem, and I hope some of that comes over in the recording. I still don’t really know what de Chirico wanted to convey in “Song for Love”, but I do know Billy and I will always think of this painting with affection.PS _ Billy’s got the performance bug – he keeps asking if there’s a part for him in the next one!”
Wasted On Some, read by Charly & Bill Skilling
“I’m in a bit of a quandry re. De Chirico’s Song of Love – not that I haven’t given it a lot of thought! So my offering is almost an insane antidote to the subject matter, but none the less a real metaphysical concept of a building that I saw in Mexico some years ago. There are no holds barred when it comes to planning permission in Mexico. This curious mixture of ideas is an artwork in itself. Originally a thirties building full of the symbolism that pertains to that era in cinemas and the like, now it is the premises of car mechanics, and they have proudly painted it bright yellow. This is a poor area of Guadalajara, full of artisans and mechanics. The joy in colour and self expression shows a true love of their craft and life itself, whatever the hardships.”
“After having a quick read up on some of the influences behind Chirico’s work, I felt like attempting a surrealist version of my lockdown environment! I was inspired by an article written for the ‘museum of modern art‘ on Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘The Song of Love’. The author described de Chirico’s marrying of ‘dissimilar objects’, and noted that some of the eerie shapes and anxiety-inducing forms in his paintings may have been de Chirico depicting his world utterly torn apart by the first world war. It’s very hard to ignore our own monumental world event with it still happening- so I explored the absurdity of life in lockdown in the style of Giorgio. The space depicted is the dining room in which I have spent the vast majority of my time. I developed a love/hate relationship with that particular corner. Firstly my computer became less of a fun thing. It was previously a place I could work and also unwind. But then the internet dissolved into a white noise of concern and anxiety. And it became my main bittersweet connection to much missed family members. I, like many, took a deeper interest in what few houseplants I have. (We don’t have a garden) So they lived on the windowsill next to me bathed in sun for a couple of hours every morning. My routine would see me coming in each day, armed with a cup of tea and putting the computer on – except for the rare occasions I had to go outside, then breathing obscured my vision in fog. (Glasses and masks don’t work together too well during winter). Lockdown turned the world on its head and I imagine there are millions of often overlooked objects out there, whose value has been totally altered as a result.”
“Apparently, in this painting, De Chirico refers to his life and the fundamental things that keeps us alive. Based on Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” «Aren’t all the words made for the heavy? Do not all words lie to those who are mild? Sing, don’t speak anymore ». From this, de Chirico took the title of his painting: Il Canto d’amore. So, not the words. but the song of art is what makes us overcome melancholy and still love life. This painting is the song of love for life and beauty, so this is my version of the song of love to life. I grew up in Genova, a city with wonderful architecture, built on steep hills, full of steps and narrow roads. As children our daily walk was, at the end of a long tree-lined avenue, to the Rotonda over-looking the sea and the harbour. I tried with this to show a bit of the joy I felt every day running to the balustrade and breathing in the sea. I had no time to painting it, so it is a pencil sketch.” 41 x 31 cm
“The collage I did evolved from a lot of other ideas, merging with Merril’s quadrille prompt at dVerse to use the word seed, and Brendan’s prompt at earthweal to write Songs of the Earth Shaman. I needed to consider this seemingly unsolvable riddle that is human life on earth from more than one side.”
a handless glove, a stone visage. A blue orb planted with life. Dust seeds blown by cosmic winds.
Look backward to see the future. Ruins of visions. Monumental doors to nowhere. The detritus of humanity. Is this all that we wish to leave behind?
2 A Meditation or Maybe a Prayer
for those who ask and those who don’t answer. For those who always make way and those who have never been found. For what we know and refuse to acknowledge. For what stands in the center of what we think we believe. For what remains when faith has fallen apart. For the times that we begin again and the times that seem to have no ending. For what we hold against others and what we keep to ourselves. For the impossible and the improbable and all the borders we draw to keep from finding out.
“These photos taken in Japan are a mix of old and new, but in all instances I was probably looking for and trying to capture the same thing. Mostly, the sense of a passage of time, and a kind of dreamy nostalgia. These just so happen to also be the themes of De Chirico that resonate with me the most.”
With thanks to Berlin-based Kick-Abouter, Phil Cooper, we have a highly evocative film by Howard Sooley, as our new prompt, and its subject, Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. Lots of jumping-off points here. Have fun and see you again on the other side.
There are a number of things I miss about my previous role working in higher education – and many things I do not.
One of the things I miss most about those days was my day-to-day proximity to other creatives, to their respective projects, and to their conversations about them. An average day would see dozens of discussions about storytelling, art direction, materials, research, conceptualisation, producton design, visual representation and promotion. Manifesting ‘something from nothing’ was always the business of the day, as we all worked together to get an idea ‘from script to screen’ or from 2D into 3D, from a dream of a thing to the thing itself. I know now how luxurious my old job was. Actually, I knew it then and never once took it for granted. It was life-affirming to be in the company of people who could first see things in their mind, and then develop those images into concrete, substantive outcomes – an act of magic and an act of faith.
Hardly surprising then I might have wanted some of that back, to work again with a diverse community of artists, to give a fair whack of my time and energy to making a space in which more of those conversations could take place. So it was I had the idea for The Kick-About, a blog-based creative challenge, in which creatives of all kinds were given the chance to make some new work in response to a fortnightly prompt – myself included. One year later, and we’ve just published Edition 26 of The Kick-About, a gathering together of participants’ favourite submissions, and one thing is clear: there is power in community, not least because the expectation of an audience for new work is an effective means of seeing off procrastination and preciousness by encouraging decisiveness and utility. There is creative freedom too in ‘short sharp snaps’ of creative activity, that ability to start something up and then close it down in a succinct period of time.
Speaking personally, I’ve found The Kick-About to be a hugely satisfying experience, and after a decade-or-more of very happily giving my best ideas away to other people, it’s been reassuring and exciting to discover there are still more ideas where all those others came from. I’ve loved the problem-solving aspect of the fortnightly prompts – resolving cogent, authentic responses to the various prompts in lots of different ways. You might also call it ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ – and yes, it’s been fun.
Gathered here are all my Kick-About responses, digital artworks, sculptures, photographs, shorts films and short stories, and collaborations with other artists. Agreed, it makes for an eclectic ensemble, but I’m reminded – happily – of being nineteen years old and studying my Art Foundation course, which was all about trying and doing everything and not worrying about what it was all for, or what you were going to do with it, or what you were going to do next.
So yes, I do feel younger for running around with my fellow kick-abouters, and if not quite nineteen, then not far off. I just want to say a very real and heartfelt thank you to everyone in the Kick-About community, whether you’ve played once, or always. Your company and creativity is, and has been, restorative, and I’m very much looking forward to doing it all again with Kick-About No.27. Onwards!
The Kick-About comes of age today, with Edition No. 21. Let me begin by saying how restorative, ordering and genuinely exciting I find our collective runarounds. Through your emails, comments and conversations, I know you value the Kick-About too, seeing it as an opportunity to make some new stuff, finish some older stuff, get something done, take risks, recreate, and get your hands dirty. It gives me great pleasure to host your work on here. Red’s Kingdom is lucky to have you. Long may we play together.
“The definition of rhetoric in the little Oxford dictionary is: art of persuasive speaking or writing; inflated or exaggerated language. Based on that (with a bit of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Not I’) I’ve spliced together the opening lines of Barack Obama’s inauguration speech with a selection of Donald Trumps tweets (sections of ). Calm authoritative argument versus shouted ignorance (in my opinion!).”
“Each time we gather to inaugurate a president I WILL NOT BE ATTENDING THE INAUGURATION! we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution, THE ELECTION WAS STOLEN! we affirm the promise of our democracy, IT WAS A RIGGED ELECTION! we recall that what binds this nation together, SORRY LOSERS! is not the colours of our skin, or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names, WE’RE GOING TO BUILD A WALL! what makes us exceptional, what makes us America AMERICA FIRST! AMERICA FIRST! is our allegiance to an ideal articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; FAKE NEWS! that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; BULLSHIT! that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” STOP THE STEAL! STOP THE STEAL!
“The prompt this week made me think about the creative process, my creative process, something I don’t usually spend much time contemplating. What does my creative process actually involve? Which parts of the process am I good at, and which parts do I find uncomfortable and hurry past? What is my – and I recoil slightly from the earnestness of this word – practice? I’ve found stepping back and considering how I approach my work a useful exercise. For this Kick-About, I’ve tried to take a photo that includes some of the steps I might go through in making an image; there are sketches, with some of the quick drawings that are often the very start of the process for me, then painted papers I make to provide the raw materials for my collage work, a collaged blackbird taking shape, and also a finished image of a wintry landscape with a barn owl, plus reference books, poetry and other stuff I might find that sparks inspiration. Birds provide a good, if rather obvious, metaphor for this process; sometimes the idea flies, sometimes not….”
“I thought the five words evoked something mysterious, something unseen and a bit psychological. Mostly I was inspired by the patterns and colours MRI and CT scans produce as a way of visualising how our brains react to a specific emotional response or biological function. In this case, the triggers being inventio, disposito, elecuitio, memoria and pronuntiatio, and a very abstract visualisation of those words. I have my own ideas about which of these images represents each of the words, but in the end I thought I would leave it up to the viewer to come up with their own interpretation of the order.”
“Once I had got over my initial panic on reading the ‘5 Canons of Rhetoric’, I read a bit more on the subject and realised what was being described was a process – a process which could be applied to many creative endeavours. The stages may have different emphases for different types of creativity, but (it seems to me) the principles remain the same. I decided to test this hypothesis by applying it to a much humbler craft than oratory, but one that I know well. Below I have tried to show the 5 canons applied to the process of making a crochet blanket, from initial idea to finished piece.”
“My mind glazed over as I read through these rigid and formal ways of organizing communication. Of course the word rhetoric has multiple meanings, the first of which, is “(in writing or speech) the undue use of exaggeration or display; bombast”. Something we all been over-subjected to of late. What is true of all the definitions is that rhetoric involves the use of language.
One synonym given particularly caught my eye: ” balderdash–senseless, stupid, or exaggerated talk or writing; nonsense”. The word nonsense immediately made me think of the surrealists. The surrealists felt that letting go of the need to control your creation would reveal deeper truths. This was true of both visual and written art. They rejected logic and reason. I often use surrealistic techniques for both my art and my writing. I’ve been doing Rorschach images for awhile: these little cards are done by dripping the leftover paint from my watercolors onto the card and folding it in half. Usually the layers are done in several sessions. I also compose comments for my images using words and phrases I’ve cut out of magazines and advertisements. I limit myself to what’s contained in one envelope for each card, and often spend quite a long time choosing and arranging them. I call it ‘the collage box oracle’, as it’s similar to using magnetic poetry. I was originally inspired by Claudia McGill, who is a master at this technique. I’m usually surprised by what appears. It always makes me think.
I first scanned in just the images, and then worked on the words. When I went to scan them, I realized I had changed the orientation of the image in half of them. Another unexpected surprise. Surrealistic Rhetoric has no pretense to being anything but a random arrangement of words, but somehow manages to incorporate at least 4 of the classical canons: invention, arrangement, style, and delivery. As to memory, well, canon #7 deals with that.”
The Eight Canons of Surrealist Rhetoric
Is there anything more archetypal than nothing?
Space is just energy deconstructing.
You expected evolving to be more complex.
Adventure awaits beyond the details of yourself.
Fools rush into the shadow of the projected image.
I was invented from the earth’s fertile surfaces– otherwise my unlimited nakedness would be alarming.
My plans are to forget to remember.
There was a window from the start—simple and mysterious– imagine looking through it to what is hidden between.
“I was intrigued to learn about the new archaeology regarding Stone Henge, whereby they have discovered that an ancient stone circle at Waun Mawn in Wales was the original prototype. I decided there must have been one farsighted individual who used his power of rhetoric to persuade his Neolithic mates to help him with this great project over 3,000 years ago. So…”
‘We don’t need to hide ourselves away in this Peat Moor as a second rate team. We could be top of the league! Let’s show them what we can do. You know those huge blue stones lying around the pitch everywhere? Well,why don’t we move them to Salisbury Plain! It won’t be difficult to get them there – it’s only a stones throw, of about 150 miles. We’ll get some of the local lads together and roll them there on timber sledges. No sweat! Then we’ll have a Rave – a Pop Festival – around Midsummer say. I’ll see if I can get some class acts like The Amesbury Archer or The Boscombe Bowmen. Those blue rocks have great accoustics! We’ll have a game, a few jars, a bit of stargazing and then watch the sun come up! They’ll be gobsmacked for years to come! It’ll be epic! What d’ ya say?’
“The Five Canons of Rhetoric. Well, that made me think about where I’m at! 1) INVENTIO – I have a passion for seed-pods. They are my inspiration. 2) DISPOSITIO – I selected 5 from my collection. Nigella Damascena, Physalis Peruviana, Wisteria Leguminosae, Magnolia Grandiflora, Entada Gigas. Five was overwhelming, and they all had a story to tell, and despite spending time drawing them, with real attention to their individual personalities, I kept being drawn to the shiny black pod in the middle that fitted so deliciously in the palm of my hand. When I looked it up, it was certainly of the pea Family. I found a clue online .. it could be a Sea-Heart, a pod that drifts across the world. It comes from a vine that scrambles through trees in tropical areas of vast size, the biggest and most extraordinary of the pea family, also known as the Monkey Ladder. I had to find out, so I rang the friend who had given it to me on a very special birthday a few years ago.
“Where did you find it?’ “On a beach in Donegal.”
Jackpot! 3) ELOCUTIO – I had discovered where it may have come from and where it landed: from the Gulf of Mexico, along the Gulf Stream’s warm currents, to land on the sandy, windswept dunes of Donegal on the West coast of Ireland. It’s an intriguing pod, beloved of sailors, who hung them round their necks when on a treacherous sea voyage to keep them safe, and also made into snuff boxes, and decorated in Africa with wonderful designs as a gift. So I took the story, took elements that suggested shapes suitable to travel from the other pods into its story 4) MEMORIA! The final piece is too sketchy for 5) PRONUNTIATO! but it satisfied my ever-growing wanderlust for returning to Mexico to see the Monkey Ladder growing!”
“I wanted to engage with the prompt as it related to the idea of moving from an initial instinctive idea to something recognisably cogent and complete, and communicated successfully to others. I chose the pangram, ‘The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog’ because, in its use of every single letter in the alphabet, I thought I could argue it was a single sentence encompassing every other English language idea possible; every book, every song, every poem, every philosophical treatise, every argument, and so on. As the animation goes on, you see different ideas vying for representation and moments of indecision, flashes of inspiration – helpful and otherwise – and a final resolution of the phrase we can recognise collectively as ‘right’.”
(There is some pesky pixelation due to compression in this Vimeo version: with a bit of luck, you’ll find the original video to view hosted here).
“The subject matter has been in the back of my mind for a while, yet I haven’t had reason enough to do it, until now, so thanks Kick-About. The subject is myself (James Randall is owed credit here), organisation spans 1957-2021, clarity of intent seems to arrive through the preceding years, as things add-up, and delivery is through my favoured medium – oil on prepared paper, 20x20cm each.“
“Here I have a painting called ‘Unravel’. Not a knot supposed to hold or anchor, then it will not work, having lost the nip. But I see it as a knot of the heart, which is finally finding a way to disentangle and on its way to separate and free the separate bits and pieces.” Inks on paper 76 X 57 cm.
“I was walking through a park near where we live in Berlin recently and I noticed that all the leaves of the hops and traveller’s joy had been stripped away, leaving a seething mass of twisted and knotted stems. Aha, I thought – the kick about! The writhing stems had all grown around each other, squirming over the shrubs and fences, they were rather lovely, wet and glistening after rain, and retaining a surprising amount of colour. I’ve drawn a study of the stems, with some dried, curled up dead leaves trapped in the nets.”
“‘Tying the knot’ brings up images of 1950’s bride magazines, bended knee, white net, sparkly bits… So that’s where I went, fossicking around in my studio, finding what I could to knit an image or two together. The nip, I think, could be the commitment made? This is the traditional engagement stage – maybe pressure exerted to get there, or even to stay there? It all hangs on this in order to get to stage two. Perhaps that’s the true tie, but I like the unpredictability of the promise, sealed with a reflecting star on a finge, .a doorway to respectability. Definitely (thank goodness) part of a time warp, not entirely obsolete, but so many other ways to get that ‘nip’.”
“It’s been a long time since I did any macrame, but I love to embroider, entranced by everything about it–the floss itself, the color and texture, the rhythmic and repetitive motions that are so like meditation, the gradual revelation of something new. I’ve done a lot of embroidery on paper, but I couldn’t remember ever trying French Knots, also called Seed Stitch. My mandala papers are fairly sturdy, so I painted one, inspired by Monet, and searched through my embroidery floss boxes for similar colors. Besides their practical and decorative uses, knots can symbolize many things, from the vows of marriage, to a puzzle to be solved. They are connected to threads of all kinds, and thus the interweavings that form and support all of life. The French Knot is a simple stitch–wind the floss 3 times around the needle and reinsert it into the hole made by bringing the thread to the surface–but like many simple things, it’s easy to become tangled up if you aren’t paying attention. Something that applies to all creative endeavors involving fibers. I’ve used the Badger’s Hexastitch form for my poem.”
I thread the needle and spirit passes into matter returning to the center of the (w)hole
I twine the floss around the needle—one two three– casting strands into knots spelling rhythmic patterns
I pause to connect what lies hidden below the coiled surface—roots binding up and down to between
“I have a feeling I’ve not quite tightened the knot properly, and things have just quietly slipped away, making me no worthy seaman, but it’s a nice sunny day for having the boats off their mooring! Perhaps it suggests the up-coming summer-staycation on the North Kent coastline.” Oil on prepared paper 40cm x 50cm
“I had many options with this Kick-About, as Ireland’s heritage is teaming with Celtic knot and rope references in art jewellery and clothes. I decided to do a mash-up of different perspectives, one inspired by the picturesque Aran islands off Galway Bay, specifically the Aran sweater, knitted for the fishermen. The jumpers are made from the wool of the sheep that populate the fields in the islands, and retain their natural oils, meaning they are water repellent – ideal for Irish weather! Because the sweater is water repellent, the fishermen wouldn’t feel the chill from getting wet while out fishing.The stitches in an Aran sweater are used to signify different important factors, such as the diamond stitch representing the fields in the Aran Islands and which bestows health and success, while the cable stitch represents the fisherman’s ropes, and promise safety and good luck while out fishing. The combination of different stitches are divided into different clans for each family name of kinship in Ireland. Around the borders of my designs is the diamond stitch central to the specific Daly clan Aran sweater. The overall theme of these designs seeks to reflect Ancient Celtic artwork, including the triple spiral; the Irish believe everything happens in 3’s and can symbolise the mental, physical and spiritual self or birth, death and rebirth.”
“I found the highly descriptive quote of tying a knot a little queasy and unnerving and I could feel it somehow more than I should have. It brought me to the idea of the knots and ropes imagined as gory body-horror, but retaining the intricacy and functionality of their original purpose. Quite how I made that leap I am not so sure, but it was certainly enjoyable making these as if I were some sort of mad artisan butcher.”
“I guess, when seeing the rather charming front cover to one of the versions on the book of an old salty sea dog blissfully tying a knot, I couldn’t help but think in a nautical direction. Then, as a page of loosely tied knots started to emerge, so did pirates. Ropes and knots seemed symbolic in some way for how I draw and fill endless sketchbooks. Some loose ends, some ideas connected firmly, some pulling away into the meaningless unexplored abyss. I think to pursue the head honcho with his hands tied up would be the next step here, which I may well do.”
“I can remember my dad showing me how to tie a Sheepshank knot and a Round turn with two half hitches. I think I did manage to master them at the time but I’m knot so sure now! (Ouch). Anyway I have decided to stick to what I know best i.e: the knots used in embroidery and crochet. The rectangular brooch was made using an old buckle as a frame, the oval pendant a piece of shaped wire, while the coaster began life as a large circular earring. All of these objects have various threads, wool and fabric knotted and looped on top. The bright pink wire was made in the manner of french knitting then flattened and sewn onto the design. My other piece of work is an embroidered knot garden worked many years ago and getting a bit faded now, but I thought it was appropriate.”
“The tree won me over again this week, and this tree in particular, as it reminded me of Mexico. I saw it from a very cranky bus travelling around an enormous canyon that seemed to be creating its own knots by winding round and round and up and up. I was astonished to see trees perpendicular to the rock face. The painting is just a memory and it reminds me of Chinese paintings of those trees on top of misty mountains that the Chinese love. I wanted to express the heat and dust of the Mexican canyons, rather than the cool misty hill tops of China. I think I have a way to go the grasp that sense. The other couple of drawings are of repeating patterns that knots can make, as in this netting. So graceful when they are hung out, so lethal in their use.”
“The idea for this short story came quickly. Making it work on the page took much longer! In large part, I was responding to the idea of ‘the nip’, the idea of friction, abrasion and tensions tying people together in impossible knots – and the idea too that the security of a bond in certain circumstances might require a lot of nip.”