Back in 1998, as part of my masters degree, I developed a project outcome in which I screenprinted an original short story onto three ubiquitous wooden doors. The short story was about a man who experiences a moment of high-anxiety at the prospect of all the closed doors in his own home, and how he could no longer know what lay behind them. It was a pretty strange tale, and the technical challenge of devising a means of screenprinting using wood stain was not without its mishaps along the way. The screens themselves were massive, the medium fiendishly sticky, and the opportunity for ballsing it up were multiple. That said, the final result was very pleasing, and it excited me to think how you could apply woodstain so precisely, and, for a time at least, I imagined living in some house of wooden rooms, in which very surface offered up some reading material. No idea what happened to these doors, as these are photographs of photographs, which are all that survives of this project.
There’s something stripped back and uncompromising about the paintings of Basquiat, the prompt for our last Kick-About together. Likewise Sandy Nelson’s For Drummers Only, a 12 minute drum solo from 1962 that has likely had a few of us bopping about our respective work spaces or reaching for saucepans and wooden spoons to make a noise with…
“I closed my eyes and let the music fill me up… legs and feet jiggling to the beat, memories of the 606 club on the New Kings Rd..the doors opening just before midnight, musicians arriving after their various gigs and ‘ jamming’ ’til the early hours, alcohol in coffee cups and cigarette smoke hanging low, climbing the stairs at dawn. A quiet response to an exhilarating disc and time travel.” Watercolour and graphite on gesso.
“Loved the track and immediately went to motion and hit on a methodology that seemed to work. Then I needed a soundtrack without the fear of copyright infringement so created a noise to time an animation to. The narrative for the animation came from me walking into town for an artist’s talk- haven’t been out at night for ever! My first attempt came to a sudden halt after some effort was spent trying to recreate a street scene. It was never going to have any of the emotion of the real thing. So I rethought and came up with a type work that you can sometimes read but poor colour choices make that very difficult. Also about two thirds of the way through my words created in a different computer application run out. It’s a bit of a mess but I think it’s pretty and that’s what we need isn’t it?”
“The prompt initially recalled my grandfather tapping out the ‘Radetszky March’ on the kitchen table. He saw service in both world wars and as an Austrian became German in 1938 and served in the Wehrmacht. Themes in ‘The Tin Drum’ (Gunther Grass), written after the war, suggested the imagery. Once I had the image, I used a Berol handwriting pen over washes created with watercolour pencils and used the same to enrich. The scrap glass over the image was smashed with a hammer. In honesty I have not properly read The Tin Drum, but some years ago I did read ‘The Painted Bird’ (Jerzy Kosinski) and neither is for the faint hearted. Both, I think, deal with individual survival. In the end the image makes comment on the aspects of the war that my grandfather survived but didn’t say much about.”
“I love drumming. I love the sound, the rhythm, the feel of drumming. Fingertips on desktops, palms on bongos, sticks on big bass, brushes on snares – any type of drumming is ok with me. And Sandy Nelson was one of the first big name drummers to make its way into my consciousness. So having wallowed in the Sandy Nelson track several times, I first tried reflecting the rhythms by using sharpie pens as drum sticks, allowing the tips to mark as they would and then adding more purpose to my daubing as a kind of notation. I then moved on to create my own rhythms by allotting different colour paints to my fingers on each hand and drumming with first fingertips only and then with the flat of my fingers and palms. Finally, I used two paintbrushes as drum sticks and, one in each hand, bashed out the rhythm. I had such fun. I’ll probably do it again!”
“I became totally immersed in this and this early painting was trying to capture all of it in one place….”
“… I then felt that the whole piece reminded me of a train journey through various terrains. Maybe prompted by a trip I will be making next week. I love the planning and the anticipation of travel. Train journeys and stations have been cropping up in my sketchbooks for many years and its the rhythm of the trains and the intricacies of the cables that seem to lend themselves to this drumming piece I ran out of time to arrange all the images I had encountered in my imagination so here are some I have selected to represent this journey.“
“Upon doing some research I discovered that drumming releases endorphins, enkephalins and alpha waves in the brain, which are associated with feelings of happiness and well being. How wonderful! Is this why we tap out feet or click our fingers to a catchy rhythm or beat? Or perhaps even feel we simply have to get up and dance? Although this is a rather tenuous link – here are some quick sketches of happy couples ‘getting down with the beat’ and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Long may it continue!”
“The drumming of Sandy Nelson reminded me of heartbeats which can careen wildly under different circumstances. When I looked online for images of hearts, I was attracted to the somewhat psychedelic MRI images. I wanted to work large, but even with 18 x 24 paper, I was unable to do justice to all the different elements of the heart. I made no layout, but just started drawing in the upper center with my colored pencils, a small section each day. So both the line quality and the proportions changed as I went on. Whole sections were expanded, compressed, and left out – just like the trajectory of the drumming in my mind.”
“What a great album, thank you Charly, very inspiring. I find percussions and drums quite fascinating. When I was heavily pregnant with Sophie, we went to a Kodo Drummers gig. I didn’t realise it would be quite so loud and powerful, I could feel the sound waves going through me like through air, I could barely breathe. I was quite worried about Sophie, but she started kicking madly as soon as the sound stopped, which I took as a sign of appreciation. So here I am, back on the heart, and the heart beat responding to the drumming.” Acrylic Inks on watercolour paper, 25×17 cm.
“My immediate response to this prompt was ‘make a film’, so I set about trying to find a means to visualise Nelson’s percussive effects; I built some simple 2D shapes in the video-editing software and tried to ‘vibrate’ them. I had the image of a cymbal being struck, a disc-shape producing more complex effects due to the persistence of vision. I struggled a bit, because I couldn’t get what my imagination was showing me. That said, during the experiments that led me to give up on the idea of moving image, I began to develop some work for which I could muster more enthusiasm – and if not visualisations of sound exactly, than artwork that wouldn’t look too out of place on the front cover of a jazz album.”
“I’ve been enjoying listening to the amazing percussion of Sandy Nelson this week. I’d put it on when I was cooking, cleaning, working, it’s great for doing anything to. From time to time I’d grab a pen or a ruler and start tapping things in time to the music, the beats and rhythms are infectious. In response I made some cut-out paper shapes, trying to capture something of the music in the repeated shapes and colours of the papers. I then photographed them, overlaying the shapes and making different arrangements before adding some effects in Snapseed and Enlight. It was great fun and I found using sounds as a starting point was very freeing. It really encouraged spontaneity.”
“Still on whirligigs… but wishing to crank up the crank-shaft automation in order to learn a few new tricks whilst challenging the figure of speech ‘when pigs fly’. Some tweaking still to be done…”
“The plan was to plug the music for this week’s Kick About into a powerful plugin within Maya and have each drum model move to the rhythm of the whips and high hats in a synchronised swim of instruments. But alas my setup couldn’t handle rendering video with all the glossy gold materials and red rim lighting. Instead I decided to settle on snapshots and just focus on the materials and lighting, similar to the atmosphere you might see in a warm low lit speakeasy or jazz lounge.”
Thanks to Australia-based artist, illustrator and Kick-Abouter, Judy Watson, we have our new prompt, in the form of the drawings of Mervyn Peake. Have fun.
Our last Kick-About together was characterised by a whirl of ingenuity, with our community of artists reaching for ad-hoc materials and digging out old tools by which to produce their ‘new works in a short time’. With Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings as this edition’s start-point, the range of work is no less inventive, and in common with Basquiat’s Untitled (1981), offers up an intriguing x-ray of the creative mind.
“Some expressionistic ramblings for this Basquiat prompt, feeling very much cathartic and automatic. I am sure there’s some hidden meanings in there somewhere!”
“I always find Basquiat fascinating, mostly because I cannot paint like him, so it is a sort of magic to me. To try and paint something inspired by him was a challenge, and, at the same time, it gave me a sense of freedom I haven’t felt in my creative endeavours for a while.
In the last few months I had a painting in my head which I couldn’t express. I had heart surgery to remove a tumour and wanted to paint the experience somehow, and Basquiat’s rich and symbolic, and, at the same time, innocent style seemed to be a good way. So this is painting over an old painting, multi layered and using different techniques.” “To My Heart’s Content” Inks, acrylic and crayons on paper. 76×56 cm.
“Skulls are ubiquitous in the work of Basquiat. He’s also famous for using whatever material he had at hand–newspaper, cardboard, a refrigerator, a door. I’ve been meaning to revive my Headline Haiku series, that I did when Nina and I started the blog, using the news in the newspaper to collage or stitch or draw on and words from the accompanying articles for haiku-like poems. In the past I’ve cut out actual headlines, or fed text into an online poetry generator, but in this case I did blackout poems from the news stories.
I used two pages from the war in Ukraine, one about the million deaths in the US from Covid, and one listing the gun-supporting Republicans with quotes from them about guns, along with how much money they get from the NRA, as backdrops for some skulls painted somewhat in the style of Basquiat. I believe were he still alive he would find all of those issues to be fodder for his work. At any rate, I’m hoping for some cheerier news soon. At least you have the Queen to distract you for a few days…“
“Lucian Freud’s dynamic portrait of ER II immediately sprang to mind. Freud and Basquiat’s portraits share a bold three-dimensionality carved out in 2-D. With ER II proving hard to ignore, all cupboards were raided for this project. 1952 features on the front propellor whilst 2022 adorns its rear, throwing ER I into the mix and, ‘spiking ER II’ a-top a candlestick base added up to a crazy-fun KA!”
“When I was ignorantly young I found a portal into the Andy Warhol world through his Interview magazine and discovered this street artist – so exciting! This Kick-About I implored Gary Thorne to allow me to use his selfie (and ultimately his last KA effort as well) to memorialise his and my husband’s 1978 excursion to the Venice Biennale (as Gary has just returned from this year’s event.) There were so many birds in the previous KA that I mistook Gary’s swimmer for a bird-like manifestation, so this round he became a yellow breasted Gary with masked plumage, and my husband became a crested red legged Gerry! ‘New is bad’ is a recent thought bubble about the environment, but I thought a bit of graffiti text and bright colour might edge me towards a KA pass (sorry Jean-Michel). It was also a bit of a play with composition, dividing the picture plane left right 50:50 then the left half 50:50 then the bottom left quarter 50:50. Bit of a miss mash image but fun to do.”
“I took the opportunity of this latest prompt to do something I don’t usually do or identify with particularly, which was to style myself as a ‘painter’, and undertake some expressionist self-portraits. The last time I did a self-portrait, it was in black biro pen and completed about twenty-five years ago, so I knew I was going to have to work-up to producing something. With this in mind, I set myself the restriction of working on one piece of yellow A2 paper, and working fast (20 minute stints) and using wax crayons, chalks and acrylic paint squeezed straight from the tube – and painting on top, and over, all previous various efforts. This way I hoped I could accumulate enough energy and courage to arrive at something I might otherwise have struggled to envision or produce, and move myself away from worrying too much about accuracy in favour of semblances. Now I have to laugh though, with the faces looking back at me ranging from Rasputin, the mad monk, to Max von Sydow as Flash Gordon’s Ming the Merciless! They all look rather sad, or haughty, or haunted. A bit taken back, people sometimes say to me, ‘How can you write those nasty little short stories of yours? You seem like such a nice bloke.’ Haha. I think ‘the bloke’ in some of these portraits is better placed to answer that question.”
“Jean-Michel Basquiat is an artist I’ve often heard mentioned but knew very little about, so after I saw the new Kick-About prompt I went and watched a few documentary films online to find out more. I admire how quickly and freely he worked. I read he used to work on several images at a time, with the TV on, music blaring, and reference books open everywhere. I think my head would explode if I tried something similar, but I can see how such an approach could stop you thinking too much, you’d just get into a flow of responses which could be creatively liberating. I made some paper collages with this aspect of Basquiat’s process in mind, and forced myself to work quickly, trying not to judge what I was doing; just put an image down, snap a photo, then rearrange and do another one.”
“It is a strange coincidence that this time the Kick-About concerns a wonderful picture of a head by Jean-Michel Basquiat, as I have recently spent some time in A and E with a fractured jaw! The body is an amazing concept with its own protective mechanisms which,until we do something to ‘test it’ so to speak, we have no knowledge of (although I wouldnt recommend this!). For example, swelling around a damaged bone as protection ,and also bone spicules, which are little unwanted slithers of tooth/bone which work their way out through the gums to help the healing process. Amazing! No wonder Jean-Michel was intrigued as a boy after his broken arm and spleen surgery… My collage was done a while ago using cut scraps from a magazine, and the portrait is from a recent art class – which really made me concentrate on bone structure.”
“Jean-Michel Basquiat is new to me, and I was drawn to his use of colour and the strong sense of playfulness in some of his work. When I saw his Dinosaur (Pez Dispenser), it immediately brought a broad smile to my face and memories of Pez dispensers I have known (mostly Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Pluto that I recall, though I am sure there have been many more over the years! Did you know you can still get them? On Amazon, of course. Amazing!) Anyway, Basquiat’s dinosaur got me thinking about how I would create its like in crochet and my path was set.”
“Three related graffiti images appeared en route (on pathway, road and wall) between my home and the supermarket, each outline in a different situation, but all with a red spray can ‘shot’ in the head. The wall version is pictured running from a large white cloud with the word ‘Life’ centred in it, and the colours used are red, white and black. The narrative of my panel re-uses those images and adds to it associated human and animal ‘chance encounters and irrational meetings’ on the walk. The panel itself recollects a much larger French tapestry. Not far off what the Surrealists and Dadaist were trying out and experimenting with in the 20’s.
The central panel is satin stitch, and detail are simple straight stitch or zig zag, the dots hole-punched in card, used as stencil with a felt tip. The design was reversed and traced with an embroidery pencil onto ordinary tracing paper… you just iron on and the lines transfer. The narrow panels are just freely stitched with separated threads of tapestry wool. The cans were internet images cut up and zig zagged on, as were the scrap white cotton for the bags. Cannabis leaves were felt tipped in before embroidery. The two lines above and below the text were ‘built in’ embroidery stitches already in the sewing machine. The lettering was hand-drawn with no font used, and as for the coloured lettering, that’s created with thread that is bought already randomly variegated, so the colour changes as you stitch.”
“Some of Basquiat’s portraits have a kind of looseness that looks like threads unravelling, so it got me to once more reach for the sewing bag and start stitching. Building the colours and trying to get a ‘drawn’ element, this eventually resulted in ‘Eve.’ – a bit of a crazed-looking individual, but a great way to work (ie: starting with no idea what to do but letting it evolve) for someone who researches and plans assiduously, so another triumph for the Kick-About in it’s continual way of challenging and stimulating through each prompt. So glad to be back!”
Thanks to crochet queen and regular Kick-Abouter, Charly Skilling, we have a brand new prompt: “Drum roll, please…”
And you thought finding a spider in the bathtub was unpleasant. A few more unheimlich japes, courtesy of the Kick-About No. 47, a balaclava, and a pair or two of flesh-coloured nylon tights…
Another day, another collection of disembodied heads arranged just-so on my living room sofa, all for the purposes of producing some John Stezaker-inspired photographs for the Kick-About No. 47, and all in the name in art. Our small front room (where these pictures were taken) is dominated by a large bay window – a veritable goldfish bowl for any passersby – so quite what the neighbours thought is anyone’s guess.
Muses come in all shapes and sizes – even, it seems in the shape of a poorly-sewn head and an ox-blood coloured sofa.
As I went about my merry way, leaving my Stezaker-inspired fizzog about our narrow terraced house, certain set-ups offered up much more than others. There was something agreeably visceral about the rich, chuck-steak reds of our old leather sofa that really did the trick, with some of the resulting photographs channelling the likes of Ed Gein and the images of Joel-Peter Witkin.
A second set of photographs produced in response to the photographic collages of John Stezaker, the prompt for our most recent Kick-About together. In some of these images, the titular head-piece has been given eyes, fashioned from two pickled onion-sized balls of tights-stuffed-with-fluff, which I decided against using again in other compositions. The eyes, such as they were, had the effect of undoing some of the deconstruction of the face, pushing the head towards something hokier. As it is, I couldn’t help thinking about this scene from Friday The 13th Part 2 (viewer discretion advised), my husband reacting similarly each time he turned a corner to find my disembodied muse looking back at him from the corner of the bathroom floor.
All of this began simply enough: in response to the Kick-About No. 47, try and construct a new face from fragments in a John 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 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.
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.
This week, the woods remain lovely, dark and deep, as dreams of snow and ice continue to characterise this suitably festive Kick-About, with new works inspired by the third slow movement from Hely-Hutchinson’s 1927 A Carol Symphony. The Kick-About has been running for thirty-four weeks and was started, in part, as a response to the first lock-down. Throughout this time, our fortnightly shindigs have been a constant source of anticipation, comfort and satisfaction and I just wanted to say a big thank you to all my fellow kick-abouters for your creativity, conversation and always, the surprises. A big thank you too to all those who comment, who participate, who browse, and who share. Now go have yourselves a very merry Christmas!
“This painting isn’t what I had intended – but then again what is these days! In my mind I had envisaged carol singers and a merry Christmas card type scene. Alas it all went rather pear-shaped, so this is one I did earlier. I suppose it has a rather snowy and bleak look about it, but if you just keep walking around the corner and over the hill, there is little village hidden away and yes, I can hear the sound of Christmas carols drifting across the fields. Merry Yule tide and a peaceful New Year one and all.”
“The wonderful piece of music for this week’s kick about prompt has been wafting through the flat today, reminding me that Christmas does have some very nice things about it, once I forget about all the things I’m supposed to associate it with these days. I used to love this time of year as a kid, less so as I’ve got older and feel pressured to have somebody else’s version of Christmas and not the one I want.
I made this collage a few years ago, putting a few of my favourite wintry things together to create a version of Christmas I’d actually like; snow, the winter landscape, a cosy lit window, a jet black sky studded with hard bright stars. If you stepped inside that house there’d be a real tree with very beautiful decorations and real candles. Oh, and Christmas pudding and custard – now I’m living in Germany, I’m missing Christmas pudding soooo much, they don’t do it here!”
“I have run out of time for this kick-about so I am sending you my Christmas card. Wishing you all a warm, safe and cosy Christmas and may 2021 brings us all a way out of such a strange time.”
“The music of this prompt felt very christmassy and warm indeed. To me, nothing feels more christmassy than going for a walk in the countryside of Ireland, where the invigorating air hits you with pure refreshment and the frost glistens the shrubbery and flora. I spent a lot of my time, when I was a young lad, outside, building rickety hideouts and treehouses with my friends and cousins. Going for a walk near my family home always feels like I am dipping into my memory vault, where walking past a bparticular tree will spark a memory of us building and climbing away; walking through the grasses of the fields reminds me of being cut by barbed wire, and being so dumbfounded by having fun, I didn’t realise I was bleeding with barbed wire marks in my palms.
I remember the beehive camouflaged into the ground of one particular field; I can only imagine the sight of us all running and screaming our heads off as we ran for our lives from the angry hive – after we’d awakened it! Memories like that are scattered around the countryside of Ireland. They echo as I stroll past them, and now I am older I can really appreciate them. Although all the hideouts and treehouses are dismantled, and our worn-down trails filled by vegetation again, the clean air and bright stars haven’t changed.
Although isolation has, for now, stopped me from revisiting those actual areas of my past, I remember them as I walk through the bogland surrounding my Mam’s house, where I know I would have been in my element too. I am still drawn to those picturesque areas and the crisp, clean air – and I really appreciate the little bird houses built into the trees to shelter the birds in the bitter winter. I still walk past a particular tree and think – that would have been a good one to climb.”
“When I listen to this particular movement from Hely-Hutchinson’s A Carol Symphony, I almost feel the temperature drop. It’s like that moment from The Sixth Sense, when the kid’s breath is suddenly visible in the presence of ghosts. The plucking of the harp is the musical equivalent of frost moving its way across the landscape – hard, sharp, crystalline and magical in some ancient way.
The house I grew up in had no central heating, only the gas fire in the living room. There was no double-glazing either and it was quite normal to wake up and see your breath in the bedroom. It was also common to find ice on the inside of the windows – frost ferns of extraordinary beauty. In response to this music, I wanted to capture those patterns of ice, but the weather here is stubbornly mild and ordinary. Undeterred, I set about recreating the sorts of photographs I might have taken, but had to rely on some digital transformations, taking an image of an actual frosted fern taken in my garden several winters ago, and pressing it against a window of my own invention. When the first of these images coalesced, I gave a small cry of delight – for yes, here they were again, those delicate veneers of ice, just as I remembered them, and for a moment at least, I was my small pyjamaed self.”
“As an 11th hour coda to my efforts at faking frost, I sent my resulting images over to CGI-whizz, Deanna Crisbacher, and asked her to have a kick-about too…”
“… and this last image is where Dee and I met in the middle to produce one more.”
“The musical selection of seasonal carols made me think of the cosmos – not just the return of the light this season celebrates, but the vast circles of time and space to which we belong. But how to show this in a concrete way? I turned to sacred geometry – the Seed of Life and the Egg of Life, images based on seven circles as a framework for the whole of creation, forms that also echo the tones of the musical scale. For my collages I used images from 2 of my reference books–Majestic Universe and Space Odyssey. It was a learning process, fitting all the pieces together like a puzzle, but I eventually approached the images I had in my mind. And for the poem, a seven line form–appropriately named Pleiades. Its six-syllable lines also reflect the 7 + 6 circles of the Egg of Life mandala.”
in the beginning, dark–
isn’t it always?—then
inside the seed, the egg,
invoking each other,
imagined, conjoined, kin–
instruments of (re)birth
“Listening to Hely-Hutchinson’s A Carol Symphony, I found myself wondering about the meaning and roots of the word “Noel”; why the Coventry Carol, also featured in this piece, could sound so gentle and loving when it was about the mass slaugher of children; and generally, how tradition and custom allowed us to sing of the Christmas story, without really registering the words at all. So I have tried to restore some of the words most associated with our Christmas carols back into the context of the original event – a re-telling of the nativity, which is all mine, illustrated with some beautiful paintings, which aren’t.
I’d also like to wish each of my fellow Kickabouters a safe and peaceful Christmas, and a much happier New Year! Thank you for making this year so much better than it might have been. Love and virtual hugs to you all.”
“Chris Rea once sang “I’m driving home for Christmas” Over the years I have often found myself doing the contrary. Whether it was for work or escapism, I would often find myself in a red and white queue, wending my way up some motorway or other. Rea shares an empathy with his fellow travellers, as they sit in their cars waiting to continue their journey to meet loved ones. I often experienced it in a different way as I was driving on those dark evenings; I was leaving home going somewhere, not back to family or to the out-of-town shopping centres, or to the supermarket to get the turkey dinner and this congestion Rea sentimentalises was a hindrance. I craved the dark mornings, or the late-night finishes. I knew the people on the roads then were the same as me, their purpose not driven by consumerism or sentimentality but by necessity.
Come Christmas day I would often find the ceremony of the event claustrophobic and melancholic. As the darkness settled in, I would make my excuses and leave. The streetlights led me somewhere – and away from something – neither the ‘somewhere’ nor the ‘something’ were tangible or important – the act of travelling was the goal. I would simply travel without a whim or care, but inevitably the ley lines of the world would draw me to the coast, where I would park by the harbour and watch the dark waves for a while before reluctantly returning home. Whichever way I experienced my Christmas lights, there was a freedom on those sodium drenched roads, no top-to-toe tailbacks, no red lights all around.
Now, having had a family, my house has had its share of being festooned. Christmas day isn’t so much of a chore, even with in-laws and pets and the general hullabaloo. I can even survive the most banal Christmas hit (just), but occasionally there is still that yearning to travel and experience those quiet routes again.”
“A mini mystery with a touch of fairy tale. We will pretty much all be indoors this year (especially if the rain goes on) so I’ve brought the spooky woods into the house and paused the singing… With luck it’ll resume. Winter Solstice! Light is on its way. Meanwhile, I hope everybody has a cosy creative few days with positive thoughts for 2021.”
“Well there you go – 2020 is almost over. I am a humbug from way back, so this really was a challenge! I guess I sidestepped it by jumping to a new year’s message, hopefully as treacley as the music. Based on some pics of cockatoos in Centennial Park – such wonderful clowns – which were taken a few weeks ago with grevilleas and bush cherry flowers, which are out in the garden now.
To all the kick-abouters Season’s Greetings and best wishes for a bright shiny 2021. It’s been marvellous seeing all your beautiful works.”
We have the lovely Gary Thorne to thank for our next Kick-About prompt, which will no doubt come as a very welcome distraction from all things titivated, gilded and ‘Christmassy’. Gary presents us with simpler fare this week – left-overs from the great feast, perhaps?