“Having swam my way through sciatica, it seemed appropriate to channel that commitment into a Whirligig self-portrait. It is not quite pivoting smoothly on turning into the wind – so more engineering fun ahead yet, it was massive fun to make. Apology for the amateur film making!”
“I found myself with a bit of time for a 50 second whirligig video, made of junk I had, but not having touched Premiere or After Effects for years – and playing in Garage Band too… It was fun. Thank you very much! “
“I had no illusions I could construct an actual whirligig. But I figured I could do something that moved, with birds. As usual, not much like my original vague idea. And I had a very hard time finding a place to hang it where there wouldn’t be too much stuff in the background for a photo. As a result, the photos aren’t great, but they do give an idea of how it looks in motion. And now that it’s fan weather, it’s in motion much of the time.“
“Rowland Emett was a cartoonist and sculptor of automata. He created things that are whimsical, English and eccentric and which serve the purpose to raise a smile and be enjoyed (Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway Festival of Britain 1951). To me, his work is like a cross between early steampunk and Festival of Britain surrealism. I also wanted a theme to work around, and an illustration of the cross section of the (art nouveau/steampunk) Nautilus in a 1950’s Disney children’s book provided the theme. The first idea was to imagine a whirligig (generally a wind driven automata) for Captain Nemo’s garden. Unfortunately, he never made land and I am no mechanical engineer, but I did put one together and rough-tested it with white card model. However, a lot of time was spent in the processing and considering its movement, and I felt the fantasy and whimsical Emmet elements were getting a little lost, so in the late and last hour, to refresh, I returned to doodling and to the train idea. Times up and I have a beginning and some initial responses. It’s been another great Kick-About and provided a lot of material to mine….. plenty more left in this Kick-About to chase.“
“Developing some ideas first inspired by a previous bird-based Kick-About, I set about thinking about how I might release a bird into the rooms of my home and photograph it. Actually, I set about constructing a cardboard, bird-shaped whirligig that I could suspend along a length of white elastic, which I then sent twanging around the low-ceilings of our tiny seaside home and photographing on longish-exposures. From humble ad-hoc origins (I spray-painted the cardboard bird-thing with cans of old car paint from the shed, using our landfill wheelie bin as an impromptu spray booth…), I was able to produce some surprisingly transformative photographs. Some of them even left me thinking, ‘It’s an actual bloody bird!’. I did four different shoots over four different days – an hour-a-piece – and tried a few different things each time, with the resulting photographs moving quickly towards more impressionistic effects.”
Welcome to this anniversary edition of The Kick-About, marking two years of creative activity undertaken by an international community of artists… which, when you put it like that sounds very impressive indeed! While those of us who participate in these fortnightly challenges might not regard ourselves as grandly as all that, this is my opportunity to thank everyone for their continuing creativity and companionship over this last year. I also want to reflect on the very real and demonstrable benefits of ‘kicking about’ together: yes, it’s another thing we have to think about, and yes, things don’t always run smoothly or go to plan, but ‘making work’ is always a magical act, and life-affirming too. Thanks again to everyone in the KA community for your boundless imagination and sticking power. Look at what we did!
“What I found the most gratifying about The Kick-About this year was that, for the first time in ages for me personally, it felt like I could take any small idea that I had and bring it to some form of a conclusion without feeling like there was a whole load of mental and skill barriers in the way.
One of the most satisfying projects out of all the ones I produced was the animated short film inspired by Marie Menken for The Kick-About #34. After a very long time of not really making any moving image it felt quite rewarding to just let go and make something with the same kind of ‘just do it and see what happens’ attitude that always felt so inspiring to me as a creative, but perhaps, over the years, got lost in the shuffle of life and other such boring things! These days, just producing work and art is anything but boring for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing what else might become a makeshift goalpost in the park with all the other fellow Kick-Abouters in the future.”
“I had not heard of Brian Rutenberg (Kick-About No. 32) 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! 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 prompt could hardly have been more suited to me and my natural inclinations. It’s inky and leafy and Australian. What strikes me most is the combination of the loosest of ink splatters with far more careful and detailed patterning. I was going to explore some inkiness yesterday (Yep! Last minute again!) to see where an observation of Mungkuri’s work (Kick-About No.37) might take me, especially with regard to the use of white ink patterning over the top of the looser ink layers. But before I could begin something happened… Our bees swarmed! Later, I had a bit of a go at my inky exploration of Peter Mungkuri’s plant drawings, but my mind was full of bees. And joy. So it became an illustration of Hugo and me, arms uplifted to the swarming bees.”
For the Kick-About No. 41 ‘La Ville’ ~ “I used one of my daughter’s photos of an event when Lady Gaga walked down the red carpet, which I firstly painted in watercolour and then recreated it in the style of ?? (You can see why I nearly failed my Art O’ level!) Anyway, I enjoyed creating art in this way and using such zingy colours!”
From The Kick-About No. 51“Print them out and colour in your very own folk art postcards. I used google to translate the English titles into Ukrainian, so apologies for any grammatical errors.”
“Of the prompts I participated in, I think my personal favourite was Kick-About Number 31, Lotte Reiniger. The traditional form of silhouettes and stop-frame animation was more hands-on than my other prompt responses. Less abstracted. And less rooted in technology, which was an invigorating change.
Cutting things out of paper for craft projects is something I’d been doing since I was little, much like Lotte did, so I ran with the nostalgia. Plus, the rudimentary camera setup resulted in an animation with some wonky charm that I quite like!”
“For the second year anniversary post I’ve chosen a little film I made for Kick-About #28. The prompt that week was the garden created by Derek Jarman on the shingle spit of Dungeness. Derek started making the garden during a period of personal crisis, shortly after he had been diagnosed HIV+ in 1986. Back then there was no treatment available for HIV and it was fatal in almost all cases. The garden was a tremendous act of creativity and of defiance in the face of a terminal diagnosis, not least because he built it in one of the most unlikely places in the country, the arid, salty shingle of Dunegness, directly in front of a nuclear power station. And, despite his failing health, the garden provided the backdrop to one of the most dynamic and prolific periods in his life; he crammed in more living and working into those last few years before his death in 1994 than most do in a whole lifetime.
I used the words that close his book, At Your Own Risk, writing them in wax crayon, before brushing some black ink over them. The resist technique didn’t work very well and the words aren’t very legible, so here they are:
‘I am tired tonight. My eyes are out of focus, my body droops under the weight of the day, but as I leave you Queer lads let me leave you singing. I had to write of a sad time as a witness – not to cloud your smiles – please read the cares of the world that I have locked in these pages; and after, put this book aside and love. May you of a better future, love without a care and remember we loved too. As the shadows close in, the starts came out. I am in love.’
As he wrote those words in the early 1990s, he foresaw a better future for the world. Sadly, I’m not sure if this has come to pass, at least not yet. The crisis of AIDS in Derek Jarman’s time has been resolved across most of the world, but the climate crisis and war in Europe threaten chaos on an even greater scale. I wonder what he would make of the world today? I confess I’m pessimistic about what lies ahead for humanity, but Derek’s life provides a kind of blueprint to at least try and deal with the terrible state we’re in; speak out, respond, fight, create, work, and make a little garden to face down the dark forces.”
“I love abstract paintings (Kick-About No.32) particularly as I know what a challenge they can be for composition and colour, light and movement. In my work I also strive to keep the first creative impetus with its full emotional strength before it becomes too cerebral. So this is one of my abstract painting that deals with space, macrocosm and microcosm. Thank you Phil and all the extraordinary artists who make this creative experience so special.”
The Kick-About No. 30:“It was so hard to choose. But I decided to go with the Fundus Photography. The photos themselves are magical, and I feel the watercolors I did inspired by them are some of the best I did all year. They are still hanging in my office, almost the first things I put up when I moved, and every day I enjoy looking at them.”
“I’m choosing my short story, Nasturtiums, to include in this anniversary edition for two reasons: the first being that, at first glance, Sheila Legge’s Phantom of Surrealism (Kick-About No.36) left me scratching my head and worrying at the efficacy of my imagination. My second reason for sharing it is because, once I’d stopped worrying, this short story arrived with surprising ease, and for all its inherent strangeness, felt, in some way, inevitable.”
(I wanted to offer up a little birthday bonus with this edition of the Kick-About, so with the assistance of voice artist, Catherine Bradley, I’m happy to present a little audio-book adaptation of Nasturtiums. Enjoy!)
“My favourite kick about this year has got to be the Stezaker prompt (The Kick-About No. 47) I loved the challenge of creating two parallel stories and then putting them together as one piece. Having said that, the Louis Baldwin took me to new areas of finding and stitching and Splendor Solis gave a rare opportunity to become immersed into a drawing over a long period of time. I just enjoy them all!”
“May 2021 – KA #30 Fundus Photography – has to be the right choice at the right time, with May approaching and a garden offering seemingly endless delights of colour. A reawakening of the senses and added energy by way of summer approaching seems a timely reminder to exploit the daylight hours, be observant, and delight in making use of such inspiration.”
“I have enjoyed so many of our KA prompts this past year, it is difficult to choose a favourite. But I have opted for Kickabout #30 “Fundus Photography”, because I found my “Alien skies” and the poem “Forward, Hover, Focus, Click” flowed so readily and so smoothly that I revelled in the process and now, all these months later, I can still look on the work and be happy. It is very rare for equal pleasure to be found in conception, execution and retrospection (for me, anyway!) so I cherish this!”
“I have decided to choose a recent response for the two year anniversary, which is the prompt of contemporary textile artist – Louise Baldwin (The Kick-About No.48). The outpouring of photography was completely transfixing, utterly intoxicating, but also very unpredictable. It was one of those times where something awoke in me and the tunnel vision of this bizarre creative pursuit was exhilarating – especially because the uncertainty of dumping all those household ingredients into a jar and photographing the bubbling frothy results is a practice I certainly wouldn’t have even attempted if it wasn’t for The Kick-About. But it is one byproduct that the Kick-About can and does unlock, as I do think being an artist means experimenting, breaking the status quo and playing to see what can flourish. So thank you all for the art, the making, and the doing, and helping me to produce things I would never have dreamed of, and thank you Phil for always curating our pursuits into a post I always look forward to.”
“So good to be a part of the KA and see all your fabulous work over the last year – lots to be inspired by and challenged to undertake! Personally I got an enormous amount out of the Sheila Legge challenge (KA 36 – Phantom Of Surrealism). I felt a bit aimless at the start but once my mind began wondering about, while trying to recreate Sheila’s surrealist mask, I zeroed in on the parallel stresses between her era and ours – big scary times. That’s when my image took an environmental posture and I cobbled together imagery to represent power and disaster. I also added ground charcoal textures and hand writing to my photographic images and broke up the framing of the image with staggered photo stripes in the background. It was one of those surprising outcomes that seem to happen so effortlessly its almost as if someone else was giving me a hand. I was also happy that the flower head felt a bit Covidish. Looking forward to the next KA.”
“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(Kick-About No. 27).”
“This piece started life as a digital painting, in the style of Rutenberg’s paintings (Kick-About No.32). 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.”
“After a bit of pondering I have chosen the Matisse Kick About (No.38) for the anniversary of this last year’s offerings. I really liked Phil Cooper’s introduction about Matisse and his joy of playing with scissors as an exuberant response to nature. The fact he made these cut outs in later life reminded me of where I am in my own life and the joy I found doing these cut outs and playing with colour, shape and movement. I think I will be going back to them as they have been left out on the desk asking for more from me…”
From the lovely free-wheeling associations of our last Kick-About together, to the pared-down, typographic compositions of graphic designer and film-maker, Saul Bass, welcome to another showcase of new works made in a short time.
“Lots of ideas came and went with this prompt, including the darkness of present day Ukraine but, finally, I settled on something that had, hopefully, a sense of vertigo, as well as a tinge of Hitchcock. I remembered a trip to New Zealand, during which there was a minor earthquake. I was standing outside having walked in a surprisingly calm manner out of the vibrating house (no damage) and watched frozen to the spot, the feeling of the earth beneath my feet no longer being solid, static and secure but moving in waves – a living thing – resulting in a true loss of balance.” Tracing paper, string, cracked mirror, graphite and watercolour on gesso.
“Although I did not know the name of Saul Bass before this prompt, much of his work was instantly recognizable. Here are the film posters I grew up with, and I had a really fun time playing with the colours, the geometrics, and the directness of Bass’s images. I had to find some new techniques and some worked better than others, but overall, I am pleased with the finished object. So next time I want to curl up on the sofa to watch a classic movie, my “Movie Night” throw will be right there with me!”
“Some Saul Bass inspired illustrations from the gorgeous and brutal The Handmaid’s Tale. Its stunning red and teal colour palette was truly calling for it!”
“The work of early motion designers like Saul Bass and John Whitney is something of an enigma, which I think comes from a certain looseness hard to replicate using modern digital animation techniques. Recently, I have begun to pick up a bit of coding to supplement my usual creative outlets and try to understand an entirely new way to generate art and animation that just a few months ago had basically been totally unknown to me.Despite what may sound like quite a rigid and unforgiving system of creativity, I have found there is a kind of looseness in programming graphics that is a lot of fun to play with. Add a few lines or numbers and expressions and just see what happens. Sometimes you can produce some unexpected and interesting results that harken back to the days of the early computer artists and graphics designers.
As for me, it’s very early days, as far as my skills go, but I have been able to produce a few little interesting bits. One of the exciting things about using code is that nearly everything can be randomised or given a level of user interactivity. No two images or animations will appear the completely same. Feel free to generate your own unique versions of these images using the links below.”
“Back when I was teaching an undergraduate course, one of my yearly highlights was a screening for students of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho on the big screen. There are many showier reasons for enjoying this film, but I always loved the Saul Bass-designed opening titles – those simple horizontal lines sliding in across the frame with such urgency, while Bernard Herrmann’s score propelled them along. Working with a few simple elements – dots and dashes, lines and ellipses – I set about producing an affectionate fantasia on some Bass-inspired themes.”
“We have a ‘clattering’ of jackdaws which visit us at least twice a day to gather up the food that has been spilled from our bird feeders by the other smaller birds. One day we noticed one jackdaw was moving around rather strangely and being shooed away by the others. As it hopped about we could then see it had a badly damaged wing, and when the others flew off it quickly ran/jumped away and scuttled into our hedge. Over the last 5 or 6 weeks ‘Hoppy’ has managed to survive by scrounging food from us and various other neighbours in turn. Now he is not intimidated by the other birds and manages to hold his own even against some huge black crows and rooks which sometimes arrive. In fact, he is tolerated quite well by the other birds, and I have even seen a couple of his jackdaw mates fly up and knock food down from the feeders especially for him as he waits below. You can’t help but admire Hoppy, and for this reason I have made him the star of my Saul Bass-style poster.”
“Sorry – bit of a rant but better out than in. The face is made of of little figures – meant to be asexual, they look more like men with extra big hips. I just can’t imagine how awful life must be for the Ukrainians because of that psychopath. Nukes, China? I think at a human level it is well past time to step in.”
“I struggled to find a form of language/text to add to a painting that further portrayed the emotion within the situation I was visualising. I realised that in this most horrific of situations there was ‘voice’ yet their distress calls simply evaporated into the cloud formations above, leaving no hope for those adrift in the English Channel. A bleak painting for bleak times.”
“I remember watching movies as a kid and loving the Saul Bass credit sequences more than the actual film; they seemed more exciting and mysterious by far. Whilst doing a bit of research for this prompt, I came across on old Sci-fi short filmSaul and Elaine Bass directed called Quest. It looks dated and clunky now, but I liked it all the same, with some nice visuals and design. The ending resonated with the current times for me, and it led me to thinking about how precious every day of our lives are. This piece of work might be a poster for the movie. I’d been looking at Saul Bass when I made it. “
Inspired perhaps by the whirling spirograph of Saul Bass’s Vertigo poster, but prompted too by the importance of parsing distinctions between ideologies and individuals, Naum Gabo’s Linear Construction No.2 is our jumping-off point for the next two weeks.
“Well my life has certainly been bound up with fabric and stitch. I always have something ‘on the go’. From my earliest days I was making crocheted hairbands, scarves and berets (as worn by Bonnie Parker!) We thought we were so chic! Then came the ‘fab’ colourful clothes of the 60s with such happy memories of village hall discos and crazy parties! The 70s were slightly more sedate as lacemaking and patchwork reappeared. Like countless other sewers, I have a bag of leftover scraps of fabric that instantly take me back to when I made a certain dress, where I wore it and the people I was with then. Next came the wonderful Stage Shows and Carnival Costumes of the 80s. Such a tapestry of music and mayhem with enough memories to fill a book. Even now I am making a baby shawl for a great nephew arriving soon. Time moves on and the world seems a more dangerous place. Yet the basic fabric of life is still the same. There will always be a need for a baby’s shawl.”
“I’ve been saving the wrappings on my favourite Spanish sugar biscuits and this seemed the ideal prompt to put some to use…it also gave me a theme. So, despite having a schoolgirl knowledge of stitch work (Charly, avert your eyes!) I had a great time cobbling this together.”
“After wallowing in the talent on display from the last KA, I rushed off to read about Louise Baldwin and took away sewing and recycling to present you with fabric and a local garbo. I’ve been snapping people from our second story apartment thinking about contemporary reality and how we don’t acknowledge the people who look after our day to day (essential) needs. I drew up the snapped garbo and his trusty truck in Illustrator and filled the shapes with with fabrics from the web – I’ve wanted to try this “fill with texture thing” for a while but have been a little afraid of it resulting in a total time consuming mess – I think it worked though.”
“And because I had the time, I decided to try and push the sewing aspect and digitally ripped the image and “sewed” it down – concept fully abused!”
“I didn’t know Louise Baldwin’s work before this prompt, but I’ve really enjoyed getting to know it over the past couple of weeks. I love the colour and texture of course, and there’s a dreaminess to the work I’m drawn to. a mood that seems to float between various emotional states. Reading up about Louise’s process I could see how this rather ambiguous sensibility might come about; working directly with the materials, responding to each piece as it is made rather than having a pre-conceived idea of what it was going to be.
This led me to thinking about my own approach to making work, how much of it was intuitive and responsive and how much was planned and conceived. I talked about it to a friend who directed my gaze to the surface of my art table, covered with spattered layers of paint and pigment that had built over many years of working on this surface. The marks were entirely accidental, but this had generated its own particular quality and magic so that the table top ended up looking like an abstract expressionist painting from the 1950s. It’s a lovely thing in its own right, the random marks and colour like a palimpsest, recording the days of my working and living.”
“With sewing not in my skill set, the focus landed on Baldwin’s layering with some interest on pattern, to be applied to still-life painting. Leaning towards a darker palette established a preferred mood, and the overlapping nature of form seems to add spatial ambiguity which is a rewarding discovery for me. There may be an edgy threat within, most likely influenced by the worrying state of current affairs.” Oil on prepared paper 65cmx50cm.
“What a joyful prompt this was! Baldwin’s work gave me permission to draw quickly and instinctively, and embrace colour and abstraction, to produce a whole series of exuberant large-scale compositions. I just sat down and drew a few impressions of some of our many houseplants – in this instance, a Pilea peperomioides – and then used them to produce some big bold abstracts. In truth, I could have gone on and on with this, wishing I had the resources to produce them as massive prints for the soft white walls of some airy penthouse atelier. There is such pleasure to be found in colour and the rush and whirl of a few bold lines.”
“I made several attempts to do this in textiles, but it just wasn’t working for me. The design looks much more painterly than textile-ish to my eye, and has an Asian feeling. So I combined watercolor and origami paper. For the first one I glued 3 squares of origami paper on some rice paper and used watercolor and black ink on top. The second one was painted first, then I cut out origami paper dots and glued them on, stitching some embellishment as a nod to the stitching in Baldwin’s piece. Her focus on spontaneity is often my approach in watercolor so that felt right as well.“
“They are like the bits of information, memories and desires that float around our brains”.
I usually spend several days just thinking about a new KA prompt; mulling ideas over, discarding them, then resurrecting them for a second try. Usually, I have a fairly clear plan in my head before I ever pick up crochet hook or pen. But this time I decided to set all prior planning aside and see what was “floating around my brain.” I selected a yarn of which I had sufficient stock for experimenting, found an appropriate size hook, and began to crochet, changing colour, direction or stitch as the whim took me.
At first I just thought “green, nature, outdoors” but as the piece progressed, I found myself thinking more and more of the chalk hills of The Chilterns, where so much of my life has been spent. These chalk ridges, created long ago from the skeletons of innumerable tiny creatures, roll in waves across much of southern England, an everlasting memorial to a receding prehistoric sea. The high ridges have been grazed by sheep and walked by man for millennia, and the thin topsoil has been scraped, and shaped, by Nature and by design, to reveal flowing lines and wondrous shapes, all gleaming white chalk against the green sward.It doesn’t seem so long ago we were flying kites on Ivinghoe Beacon, rolling down Combe Hill’s steep inclines, or chasing across Dunstable Downs, arms stretched wide and coats flapping behind, as though we might take flight at any moment!”
And for our next runaround together, our next creative muse is graphic designer and filmmaker, Saul Bass. Have lots of bold, colourful and typographical fun!
Our last Kick-About, inspired by the writings of Gaston Bachelard, encouraged us to examine our domestic spaces and think about the physical and emotional parameters of home. Now, with John Stezaker’s uneasy marriage between photographic fragments as our starting pointing, we’re exploring issues of identity, affinity and discord.
“Life can be scary – survival of the fittest – relationships can bring together different strengths, and if nothing more, give you the courage to bungle on. My image is simple – a river pushing dangerous detritus along – life. I was wanting to have an overlay of two figures swirling about and holding hands but it was too naive looking, and too complicated with the background, so I struggled to find an alternative representation. The lines represent two different shades of people (a couple – sorry such a vanilla representation of marriage) and their individual positive qualities merging to form a barrier protecting the couple from the detritus. The ring blur demonstrates how marriage can soften the edges of thorny life. The colour is joyous (I hope) as marriage is to me (if a lot quieter.)”
“When I started looking at John Stezaker’s ‘Marriage’, the thing that struck me most was that ever-present straight line running through each image, often more than once Was this the joint where two personalities dovetailed? Or a boundary line, safeguarding personal territory? Are people diminished by marriage? Or magnified? So I started thinking about some of the models of marriage I’ve come across. and came up with some ‘Marital Maths’.”
“I’m always doing that surrealist kind of thing with human bodies and collage so I decided to try something different. I liked the idea of using one or two inserted elements, as my work is usually much more complex. Instead of using classic film stars I decided to use the work of classic painters. I took Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, cut it up, and inserted it into works by Monet, Gauguin, Matisse and Homer. They work together quite well I think.”
“I luckily came across some old toys belonging to my grandsons which were waiting to be recycled and I thought they would look great if I combined a few of them and turned them into some very strange looking creatures. This then inspired me to do some collage using some old photos and magazine cuttings to create some more fantastical beings, which looked like they had sprung from the pages of a Marvel comic.”
“By putting two different images together Stezaker seems to create a third dimension, so, ‘sort of’ following this train of thought I’ve dovetailed two extreme scenarios on an old alarm clock set to silent. (Another thought.. weren’t the lurid green numbers painted with something containing uranium to make it shine in the dark?).
Scenario 1: Apocalypse – midnight on the doomsday clock. A young girl runs for her life, her clothes shredded, the sky dark, as a mushroom cloud reaches the stars.
Scenario 2: The clock strikes twelve. Cinderella flees from the ball as her coach, horses, footmen and dress disappear in a puff of pink smoke…the fairy Godmother waves her wand… Abracadabra!”
“A strange and unsettling prompt this time. John Stezaker’s work stirs up a variety of different feelings when I look at them, feelings that are quite difficult to articulate. There is something about the violence of cutting up a picture of a human face that makes such images as ‘Marriage’ quite a visceral experience for me. I can almost feel the slice of the scalpel, and I wince at the thought of accidents and slips with the knife; as an artist who uses collage a lot in my work, I’m well used to my hands sporting at least a couple of plasters covering cuts and scrapes.
Stezaker’s portraits also make me think of Francis Bacon paintings, of how he attacked the faces of his sitters in paint, carving them open with the brush to create images that look like something from a butcher’s shop window. I’ve gone down a similar route with my Kick-About response this week, cutting up photos of glamorous people from glossy magazines, smearing their faces with oil pastel, and mangling them further in Procreate to make fractured images of half-remembered nightmares.”
“Because Stezaker drew inspiration from dadaism and surrealism by kitbashing and appropriating images into bizarre collages, I decided to splice together some absurdities in a fun, no fucks given kind of way – all images nicked from the public domain, of course.”
“All of this began simply enough: try and construct a new face from fragments in a Stezaker-style, and in so doing, seek to produce something as unsettling as some of the photographer’s sepia chimeras.
Reaching for the remainders of some nylon tights and toy-stuffing left-over from the very first Kick-About, I set about sewing together a new face around the shell of a white balaclava. I wanted to produce a fine-art object, as opposed to anything too illusionist, something a bit deconstructed, with its seams showing and the fact of its construction left conspicuous. In this, I looked to Stezaker’s own collages, which likewise make no secret of their provenance of different parts.“
“The head-thing fabricated, I then left it about the house, like a thing left behind or dropped, and photographed it in situ. At times creepy, and at other times just rather sad-seeming, this quickly-produced face-of-bits kept accruing personality and the uncanny ability to seem life-like, even in spite of its obvious anatomical imprecisions and sticky-out bits of thread. That’s the thing about faces, I suppose – even the ones fashioned badly out of tights and Kapok; we can’t help relating to them.”
“The other bit of the prompt I was interested in was the title of Stezaker’s collages, ‘Marriage’: I happen to be married to someone who is willing to share his home with a disembodied head, and the guy who made it. These last photographs are for my husband, Paul, by way of reassurance: however weird things get, I’m still right here and laughing my arse off.”
With many thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, Marion Raper, we have our new prompt, the work of contemporary textile artist, Louise Baldwin. Have fun.
“I’m calling this ‘ROOM FOR SALE’ making homage to Philip Guston’s titled work ‘Room’, and Kandinsky’s colouration of sound. I considered the vacated domestic space and its dynamism. Although Dulux helps erase hand-me-down occupant existence, a persistent association with the past can linger, creating at times a lively sensation, a bit like a stage set just after the performance. I wonder if we’d be more fluid and poetically connected without redecorating? (This KA reminds me of Charly’s KA#7 prompt ‘Ennui’ by Sickert).” Oil paint on primed paper 75cm x 55cm
“When I was exploring this prompt, I came across another quote from Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, which got stuck in my head and wouldn’t be shifted. It was this: ‘Words … are little houses, each with its cellar and garret. Common sense lives on the ground floor, always ready to engage in ‘foreign commerce’ on the same level as the others, as the passers-by, who are never dreamers. To go upstairs in the word house is to withdraw step by step; while to go down to the cellar is to dream.’ The following poem needs more work, certainly some polishing, but such as it is, I share it with you.”
“The prompt this week coincided with my first visit in a long time back to the U.K. to visit mum. She still lives in the Victorian town house where I grew up and, despite having left when I was 18, which is now nearly 30 years ago, it still feels like the family home, the place where we gather together when we can. Dad passed away a few years ago, but the house is full of memories of him. Looking around the old home, there are traces of all of us; gifts we gave each other, things brought back from holidays, family heirlooms, antiques, and things bought for pennies in junk shops. Each object has its own associations, memories of people and places and of particular moments in our shared histories. I’ve photographed a small fraction of them, taking them out of their usual environment of the windowsill or mantelpiece where they have become so familiar. I’ve enjoyed handling them, feeling the vibrations of their stories resonate again down through the years to the present moment. They still feel very alive and the memories they stir up so vivid and poignant.”
“So lovely to see the continuation of everyones amazing creative work over the past few Kick-Abouts… I have spent a lot of time inside these four walls lately, and I have brought the trees with me. The outside is so close to me here in both directions, even though I live in the centre of a city. It’s as if the walls no longer exist, except perhaps in winter, when the shutters are closed early and the fire is lit. Yet the wood of the shutters are my trees in winter and the wind is my music. It is already lit throughout now with sunshine as I write this, and I feel its true self. The outside is also the inside and I am the bird perched high on the hill, ready to fly off. Curiously the work I have been doing feels appropriate. I am inside the tree.”
“I found Gaston Bachelard’s words very inspiring – along with a recent chat with Phil G. I too wanted to capture that feeling of space feeling occupied, by showing the wondrous shedding of life of which lived-in spaces have an abundance – especially in the depths of where you don’t look. I live in an old Victorian house, and me being a hairy bastard I have so much copious scatterings of hair matted into carpets you could make a toupée. Pictured here are clumps of my hair, with the usual sprinklings of dust, dead skin cells and other oddities that life and space deposit”
“I started thinking about all the little bits and bobs we leave around and began taking snaps of stuff my dear husband covers all surfaces in, but I was getting maudlin and decided not to go there – so I went to the wider outdoors as an inhabited space. Of course this has to go to colonial occupation and my lovely country being a form of home invasion. I’m currently listening to an audio book – ‘Salt’ by Bruce Pascoe, who talks about all the environmental changes that his ancestors made to the land but explorers thought were the natural environmental state of the land. I saw this KA as an opportunity for a white male to give support to the indigenous custodians of this land. I thought it needed to be positive – it’s just simple. Emphasis on ‘our’ treaty.”
“If you looked around my house you would see that I heartily agree with Monsieur Bachelard’s sentiments. I have a very ecclectic assortment of objects, which give my place the ‘lived in’ look. I decided to wander around and sketch some of my favourite either useful or beautiful items. Firstly my sewing machine – very essential to me, together with my daylight angle poise lamp. Then, although books are not so necessary these days, I am still intrigued to peruse through a bookshelf and see what people are passionate about. It’s the same with cushions. They not only brighten a dull corner but you can tell a lot about someone’s style with a cushion – mine have a tendency to be patchwork! There are also three very ancient teddy bears. One is the same age as me and is wearing my first knitted jumper and hand-sewn trousers. Next a couple of mirrors. One is fancy and belonged to my parents, and the other an art deco copy, which I found in an antique shop and luckily just managed to squeeze enough money to buy. Strangely, I love my set of saucepans which when hung from the ceiling give the ‘country kitchen’ look and finally there is the old grandfather clock. It was made between 1740 -91 and the family rumour is that my great great grandpa lost all his possessions on a bet and the only thing he had left was the clock. He brought it to London and started a business as a Law Stationer. So although my house does not have a trendy minimalist look, I cannot imagine living without the things that have stood the test of time and have so many memories.”
And for our next excursion into thinking and making, the work of photographer, John Stezaker… have fun!
From the effortless, airborne whirligigs of our last Kick-About together to another transmutation of matter into something elemental and illuminating! For this week’s creative challenge, we’ve been in the business of summoning the sunshine, and, at risk of seeming self-serving, I want to give special thanks to Gary Thorne for his contribution, which has something nice to say about all these continuing acts of creativity of ours, and the light they bring.
“I was thinking what could be the most ‘alchemical’ transformation imagined? What on Earth happens in those tiny parcels called the chrysalis? From the juicy tube of a caterpillar, wrapped tight and left to transform, an entirely new creature is made: the butterfly, drying and pumping its wings in the sun, a symbol of summer. The image is upside down, as I wanted the cases to look like ‘sort of’ vessels, with the butterfly levitating and held by one antenna; the dark and the light existing together.”
“I have tried to capture the colours and shapes of the Sun, as depicted through centuries of astrological and alchemical treatises and depictions. It was much aided by photographing in the bright clear sunshine of an unexpectedly lovely January day.”
“Of all the imagery in Splendor Solis, what amused me the most was the theatricality of three-headed dragons, peacocks and a menagerie of other bizarre things magically appearing in bottles by the presumed mixing of various materials and more than a bit of a hocus pocus. I decided to conjure up some of my own alchemic creations and create something a bit fantastical.”
“I was making a collage earlier this week, painting textured papers to make the raw material and then snipping and glueing into place for the final image. When I’m working with collage, the papers and leftover cuttings get strewn about the floor and quickly build up to form drifts of scraps around my feet. While I was making, from time to time, I’d muse on the beautiful Splendor Solis prompt, and what I might make for this week’s Kick-About.
I started to focus on the transmutation of alchemy, and so turned to the flotsam and jetsam surrounding my desk as I was messing about with collage. It’s a medium I enjoy working with for many reasons, mainly for the surprising juxtapositions that can emerge as I put one piece of paper next to another; effects that would never have happened if I’d tried to direct painting. When it works, it’s transformative, the separate elements of the collage become more than the sum of parts and something new is created.
So this piece is using up some of those paper scraps that have been generated by my work earlier in the week. Using the alchemy of collage, I’m reflecting on the rather everyday, mundane alchemy that we’re all doing all the time; how our thoughts, words and actions ripple out into the world, influencing and changing things, sometimes dramatically, sometimes subtly.”
“My pic was born a couple of days before the KA announcement but I thought it fitted in – colour if not theme. It’s about how we are just ‘other’ animals – not nearly as clever as we’d like to believe. It is also to do with male sexuality (cue an old book “Sex On the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women”). I added a couple of quick sketches fully in response to the KA.”
“It’s been a hard 2 weeks at the office! I have tried various methods to obtain my Eureka moment – one of which included getting up at 5.30am to capture the sun rise ( which when it happened I seemed to miss!). Eventually I decided to use a sacred geometry and alchemy symbol and copied the design using black threads on a painted background. However, being a ‘perfectionist Virgo’ I was not content with the result, so I then spent some time adding various bits of crochet , threads and material scraps from my ‘magpie stash.'”
“Thanks for the introduction to this wonderful book! I could have gone on and on time permitting, and will keep it in mind for future expLorations. Out of the 22 images of the Splendor Solis, I chose to work with Plate 2, The Alchemist: “Seek the Nature of the Four Elements”. First I did a collage based on the painting alone, then, after reading a bit about its symbolism, I made my own, looser interpretation. I was especially drawn to the Alchemist’s connection to the natural world, in particular flowers and birds, and his alternate identity as the Deity of Celestial Light.”
Below my feet the path waits for the earth to open me– the layers of brown and green remember the moon, its circles orbiting continuously through both dark and light.
The chill of morning warms to birdsong. The seasons endure. In spring the autumn seems far away, but life is always preparing to die and start all over again.
What is the secret of transformation?– ancestors embedded in every root, in every branch rich with leaves that will blaze in a sudden last glory– nourishing what follows with what has come before.
We know so little, after all, of the workings of nature, of its consciousness. Does it even have yesterdays or tomorrows? Does it acknowledge return, or is all but a single endless moment in time?
We mirror our own inner maps as stars–the dust of elements contained in our bones– merely vessels, seeking the essence of who we are inside the question itself.
“So, how to conjure an astronomical phenomena into being in a short space of time, when access to fusion reactors, rocket-ships or celestial wormholes is otherwise unavailable? There’s a part of me that wants to keep the whole process behind these photographs as mysterious and unknowable as their subject; another part of me can’t wait to tell you I quite literally put a source of light into a glass vessel and then gave it a bloody good shake… light and time producing an alchemy all of its own.”
“When in the period of the Post-Covid, people’s minds were waking from the long sleep of darkness, Phil Gomm, one of the well known Adepts of Inspiration, went forth (with his followers) in further search of that secret knowledge, the possession of which leads to Alchemical Adeptship for the Truely Motivated. Let those, lost in times of darkness, reflect on the reputed works of the KA Adepts, to ignite their own transformation.”
After the pudding-weight of festive expectations associated with our previous Kick-About, Alexander Calder’s light-weight dance of shape and colour sends us turning gently into the new year, with another showcase of new works made in a short time by a loose group of artists with homes all over the world. A happy and transformative 2022 to all of you!
“I loved the prompt this week. I’m a big fan of Alexander Calder’s sculptures. By happy coincidence there’s a big exhibition of his work here in Berlin right now at the just-refurbished Neue Nationalgalerie. Quite how I came to write such a story in response to the beautiful, elegant mobile in the prompt is a bit of a mystery. I think too many mince pies and liqueur chocolates over Christmas sent me a bit funny!”