The Kick-About #39 ‘The Children Of The Night’


Our last Kick-About together was kicked-off by the cut-outs of Henri Matisse, and specifically his White Alga on Orange and Red from 1947. Inspired by one of Matisse’s less well-known cut-outs, regular Kick-Abouter, Kerfe Roig, treated us to something with touch of Halloween about it – a trio of rather dashing devil masks, and a foretaste of this week’s showcase. With dialogue uttered by Dracula himself as our starting point, it’s little wonder things have taken a spookier turn…


James Randall

“One of those Kick-Abouts that seemed to have a life of its own. The colours were fun to try to control.” 



Vanessa Clegg

“Based on childhood nightmares this is a painting I did a while ago but by re-photographing the unmounted slide, it could become a still from a seriously spooky film…make up your own narrative!”



“All I can say is that it’s a classic thriller/horror trick of dark shadows, tangled forest, mounting soundtrack, being lost, sense of being watched… Whaaaaaa!”


vanessaclegg.co.uk


Graeme Daly

“Some painted over photographs from a forgotten forest in Ireland. Inspired by the stagnant stillness of nature in the night, where no street lights are seen, and only the little tufts of smoke from chimney spouts signify life. The thick fog and heavy mist hiding and shielding much of what you should see, like a visceral view of brain fog. But still, our imaginations would always be lit, ablaze.”


@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly / gentlegiant.blog


Tom Beg

“Without knowing where the quote for this week’s came from my mind instantly jumped to Victorian-era gothic fiction and ghostly visions and apparitions. With perhaps the help of some otherworldly spirits guiding me, I got a nice little phantasmagoric effect going in the same kind of magic lantern ad hoc way the horror theaters of old used to employ.”


twitter.com/earthlystranger / vimeo.com/tombeg / tombeg.com


Phil Gomm

The prompt comes from Bram Stoker’s Dracula – the count is talking about the baying of the wolves beneath the moon, but I was never truly scared by vampires and the like. This was due in part to my fascination with the nuts and bolts of horror – its trappings, its effects and its preoccupations. The early horror actor Lon Chaney, was known as the man with a 1000 faces, on account of the ways he transformed his face for his performances in films such as Phantom of the Opera (1925) and London After Midnight (1927). Inspired by Chaney’s lo-fi monsters and the lurid short stories of the Pan Book Of Horror, I set about producing a series of self-portraits.

The way in which the resulting images were produced involved conscious use of my webcam, as opposed to my digital camera, courting the particular effects of low-light levels and low-resolution. I was going for something nostalgic, what it was like as a small boy catching glimpses of disturbing things on small, poorly-tuned black and white televisions. I wrote the captions to further enrich these imaginary moments, ranging across a host of hoary old tropes and cliches familiar to me from those wondrous Pan Books of Horror and countless old movies. That said, for all my obvious enjoyment in producing these portraits, one or two even left me glancing uneasily over my shoulder…”



You’ll find a larger PDF here.


Phil Cooper

What a juicy, exciting prompt this week! Children of the Night is such an evocative theme. For my contribution, I’m submitting work I made a few years ago, but it’s something that has never seen the light of day, and I thought this Kick-About prompt was a good occasion to give it an airing.

I’ve written here before about some design work I did for a touring stage production of Hansel and Gretel back in 2018. Working with director Clive Hicks-Jenkins, the overall concept for the staging involved using children’s toys and building blocks to conjure environments and scenery for the action performed by two puppets.

Before we arrived at the final approach, I played around with some other ideas, most of which were discarded once we had nailed the shape of our vision. The idea I’m submitting here focused on the witch’s cottage, traditionally made of sweets to entice the starving children into the witch’s clutches. Simon Armitage had written a wonderful text for the piece that provided a rich, dark re-imagining of the traditional tale, with a contemporary edge to bring the story up to date. One of my earlier ideas for the cottage involved incorporating sweets into the architecture, but to depict the confectionery as rotting and putrefying. The witch in Simon’s tale is a rather desperate creature, half-blind and cack-handed, and she hadn’t kept on top of the window-dressing designed to entrap lost children.

I made a model of two stone gate posts, the entrance to the cottage garden, topped with a couple of rather mouldy-looking liquorice allsorts. The images here include the original sketch from my sketchbook, the models, and some test shots on a table top environment of the witch’s garden. It was all good fun, even if the idea never took off. I did make loads of fake gingerbread cookies, which we used in a filmed animation sequence, so the concept found its way into the production in the end.”


instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com


Marion Raper

“I find ruined churches and in fact any type of ancient architecture fascinating and love imagining how people lived there and who they were. The fact that when night came and the only light was from candles and fire must have been so scary.  No wonder everyone believed in spirits, ghosts and demons.  Added to that would be the earie sound of wolves howling.  Such clever animals and necessary for the ecosystem. I hear they may even be reintroduced . Hopefully not Dracula as well!”



Kerfe Roig

“I was thinking about this prompt when I found some monoprints in neon colors that I had never finished, being uncertain where to go with them.  I wondered what would happen if I covered them in drips and spatters of spirits and night… And then I wrote something to accompany them.


Children of the Night

There’s a dark path in the forest that reaches not only to the horizon but far up into the stars in the sky.  The contours float, infused inside and out by an endless melody that sings chaos into shimmering pattern.

Where does the story end?  Perhaps it leads to dreams that have been hidden away, to possibilities invisible in the light of day. To once upon a time that becomes here and now.

If you listen – still, silent, boundaried by the night – it’s possible to catch a glimpse of these distant voices. But only a child can find the entrance to this liminal landscape of matter, spirit, and sound.


wonder shines
silvered, transcendent –
opening


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Chris Rutter & Evelyn Bennett

Here is the latest effort. A cut-up poem from the text; ‘Listen To The Music’.”


rutterandbennett.com / instagram.com/rutterandbennett


And for our next creative prompt…

“The spinning saxon, flying pigeons, polka batteries, jumping jacks and firecrackers, squibs and salutes, Aztec Fountains, Bengal Lights, and Egyptian Circlets, bangers or bungers, cakes, crossettes, candles, and a Japanese design known as kamuro (boys haircut), which looks like a bobbed wig teased out across the stratosphere. . . the language of fireworks has a richness that hints at the explosive payload it references. And yet, anyone who has ever held their camera up to the blazing sky knows that a brilliant firework show can rarely be captured to any satisfying degree. Perhaps this is what makes a nineteenth-century series of catalogue advertisements for Japanese fireworks so mesmerizing: denied the expectations of photorealism, these images are free to evoke a unique sense of visual wonder.”

More here and here and here.



Throwback Friday #13 The Lion & The Ivy (2006)


In writing about my enthusiasm for the Brothers Quay’s stop-motion animation, Street of Crocodiles, I was prompted to recall memories of my visits to Stoke Newington’s Abney Park cemetery. In turn, I was prompted to disinter some of the black and white 35mm photographs I knew I’d taken during these trips, but had otherwise forgotten about completely. I also forgot I’d written a short accompanying article on Abney Park for a magazine entitled Bite Me. The article was never picked up and the photographs likewise went unseen. For this week’s Throwback Friday, I’m sharing both.


The Lion & The Ivy

It will seem like a deficit of literary style were I to describe Abney Park cemetery as eerie – an ‘eerie cemetery’ is pretty much a tautology – and yet I can find no adjective better suited.

Abandoned by its original owners twenty-five years ago, but rescued from leafy obscurity by the London Borough of Hackney, Abney Park feels like a secret stumbled upon, its aura of neglect both poignant and perfect.  I’ve just entered its gates, but I’m already seeing ghosts, though not the maggoty kind – rather the diaphanous spectres of Victorian ladies, who once came here to perambulate with parasols.  After a moment’s hesitation, I follow in their long-dead footsteps.



Like the plush baize of ivy upholstering its tombstones, the extraordinary hush of Abney Park enshrouds me as completely. Before me lie thirty-two acres of simple slabs and sad-faced angels. Lying beneath me are three hundred thousand bodies resting in peace, and in pieces too – sixty-one million bones improving a soil that once nourished a thousand cultivars of rose, and a collection of named trees and shrubs surpassing that of the Royal Park at Kew. All of that was a hundred and sixty-five years ago. Today, the only roses on show are silk, their colours leached and cheerless. The only skeletons are those belonging to the withered docks, their desiccated flower spikes as upright as candelabras.



Again, the deep, evergreen quiet of the graveyard impresses me. Hard to believe that just beyond the boundaries of this once-forgotten necropolis, the yummy mummies and charity shop fashionistas of Stoke Newington are boarding buses, ordering lattes, and fretting about the organic credentials of their purple sprouting broccoli.

My ancient camera hanging from my shoulder, I journey deeper into the cemetery. 

Above me, the vaulted arcs of branches close out the milky November sunshine, but spy-holes in the shrubbery afford tantalizing views of inner sunlit chambers. With their cheery illumination, and table and chair-like arrangements of headstones and graves, these vignettes remind me of parlours, and my imagination populates them with skeletal families.  As clouds obscure the sun, these sanctums fade – as vanished now as the rooms of the original Abney House, the demolition of which in the mid nineteenth century inaugurated the cemetery.  All that remains of Abney House today are the wrought iron gates at the cemetery’s entrance and, less tangibly, a brooding sense of history.       



Departing from the graveyard’s more manicured pathways – so maintained by the Abney Park Cemetery Trust volunteers, who fight back the rising tides of ivy with garden shears and admirable philanthropy – I pick my way amongst the clutter of headstones.  The upheavals of trees and the worming of roots have left these monuments skewed, their angels leaning like drunks.  In places, the ground itself has opened, the graves cracked and yawning.  I try not to look inside these sepulchral hollows, fearful of glimpsing more than decomposing leaves and the corpses of crisp packets.  My ‘Rotten.com’ side wants to risk a closer examination of these cavities, but I sensibly pass them by, disallowing myself the sort of lethal curiosity favoured by first-to-die teens in dumb-arse ‘and-then-there-were-none-a-thons’.

Arriving now at the barred and burned-out chapel at the centre of the cemetery – an impressive gothic edifice boasting a large circular window and an air of despondency so potent the building almost seems to sigh – I do succumb more entirely to an involuntary attack of movie-induced paranoia. Craning my neck to gawk at the chapel’s impressive spire, I recall the moment Richard Donner made shish kebab out of Patrick Troughton, and I distance myself swiftly.



The Omen isn’t the only film evoked by Abney Park’s especial ambience. The mise en scène couldn’t be any more cinematic – an attribute not lost on the various film crews who’ve already snapped their clapperboards here.  Indeed, I’m tempted to think the prop-wranglers may have left some of their set-dressings behind. The decapitated statue of the maiden I pass seems too designed to unnerve to be the work of mere vandals.  Even some of the urns are gilding the lily by sporting Tim Burton-style fright wigs, fashioned from congested tendrils of ivy.



Somewhere behind me, dogs and their walkers are snapping branches. I can’t help glancing over my shoulder. As it happens, I am being tracked through the shrubbery. A furtive looking gentlemen wearing a black bomber jacket and a come-hither expression observes me optimistically from behind a voile of leaves. I realise I’m in more danger of having my bum pinched than my neck-bitten. 



Signalling my disinterest in any such brief encounter, I change direction, but soon find myself face to face with another constant inhabitant of Hackney’s unlikely Eden – not a lusty queen this time, but a king of the jungle. The great stone lion watches me from his plinth, his supine body so powerfully white against the cemetery’s patina of shadows, the light meter in my camera goes berserk. The lion stands out for another reason, its design being more ostentatious than most of the other monuments here. Abney Park is unusual in that no part of its grounds is consecrated, and – phosphorescent lions excepted – the graveyard’s general abstemiousness from ornament reflects the non-conformist principles of its occupants.  I’ve never heard of Frank C. Bostock – the individual commemorated by the show-off cat – but among the other eminent bones interred in Abney Park are the remains of William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army.



I notice the light is failing, and with it, a large part of my bravado. I didn’t even know I was nervous – until now. The lion is glowing with an almost spectral light, while the deepening shadows are stretching like panthers.  Both my eyes and my camera are struggling to see, but my ears are acutely sensitive to every snap and heart-stopping scuttle emanating from the black valance of undergrowth.  It’s time to leave this secret, sombre garden of the dead.

For a moment, I’m close to panic, certain suddenly I will be unable – or disallowed – to find my way out of these tangles of brambles and back to the noise and exhaust fumes of those red London buses.  I resist the urge to run, but there is little I can do to mitigate the cold slick of perspiration greasing my forehead.  The inebriated angels find me amusing, having witnessed this diminishing of courage a thousand times over, as cocksure visitors to the cemetery find themselves in this same race against the sunset.

I make it out of the cemetery safely, of course, and my fear is rendered instantly foolish by the inner-city milieu. I quickly dismiss my apprehension, but I cannot deny the impression Abney Park has made upon me; its inimitable character haunts my imagination – my camera film too – and like a serene, if lonely phantom, it boards the number 149 and follows me home.