A few more from the gloom of Seasalter beach, the scarcity of light and sprinkling of illuminations across the horizon producing some satisfying results. That done, it was time for a mince pie back in the warm.
On a whim one drab December afternoon, we drove out to the nicely forlorn stretch of beach at Seasalter just as the last of the meagre light was leaving the sky. I was after a bit of pre-solstice melancholy and some smudging, so went for long exposures and a touch of de-focusing mid-shot. Lots of grain and seasonal desaturation ensued, and some spectral appearances too.
After our short city break for the KA No.41, we’ve taken a brisk, bracing detour out into the wintry countryside, where we encountered Ice Spiral by the celebrated land artist, Andy Goldsworthy. Enjoy this latest collection of artistic responses to Goldsworthy’s fleeting installation of ice, light, place and form.
“When I felt the cold from this week’s prompt, I wanted to recollect the bitter winter in rural Ireland from last year. When I look at these photos, all I can think about is miniature vistas frozen in time: pocketed air bubbles, mimicking silver dollar plants, are trapped among planes of ice like tiny moons; milky swirls of frozen water interjected with brambles, which loop in and out like a serpent on the hunt, and if the camera panned up, something would surely arise from the mist!”
“Right on cue for this more wintry Kick-About prompt we actually had some snow yesterday. I woke up to a blue opalescent sky this morning and a white frosting over the ground, ice crystals twinkling on every twig and leaf. It was lovely.
I like Anthony Goldsworthy’s ephemeral land art interventions, especially the snow and ice work. They are so striking, but they disappear without a trace so quickly, with only the photographs remaining as evidence that anything happened. He transforms what he finds in the landscape, and it’s this transformational thread running his work that’s caught my attention.
I was out cycling through the forest on the outskirts of Berlin recently and, with the Goldsworthy images in my mind, I tuned in to the natural processes of transformation that were going on in the woods; everything was changing constantly, some things quickly, like the opening of a flower, and some things very slowly, such as the decaying of a fallen tree, or the erosion of pebble. The trees were all in different stages of their life cycles, from tiny saplings to great fallen giants.
I’ve focused on a tree stump for this Kick-About. The tree itself has gone, but the remaining stump has become home to a host of other life forms – moss, fungi, insects – that step into the gap left by the tree, adding their own voices to the story of the forest. Water crystallising into ice adds another momentary layer of transformation over the surface, changing the top of the tree stump into a tiny winter wonderland of frosted sculptural shapes.”
“I couldn’t rustle up any snow or hard frosts, so I settled for capturing a winter sky in the cupped hands of a friendly neighbourhood tree. Really enjoyed this Kickabout!”
“Although the weather has turned much colder here in the UK, it’s not yet cold enough here in Whitstable to produce or happen upon any Goldsworthy-esque installations out in the wild. No matter, as off into the garden I went, looking for interesting seed heads and any flashes of remaining colour, before pulling out some handy Tuppaware and a big Pyrex dish, filling them with water, then entombing my finds from the garden in ice, courtesy of the bottom drawer of the freezer. Once released from their adhoc moulds, I then moved quickly to photograph the resulting artefacts, squizzing with pleasure at their magical displays of colour, light and translucency… while all the time mopping up the pools of melt water with an old dishcloth.”
“I wanted to jump into the magical spiral of the prompt image as if I was travelling into the eye of a storm. Eventually I got these suitably frosty and rather sinister effects. Not so much Christmas morning whimsical but more like an icy maelstrom.”
“My first idea was to do something with layering ensos, but it looked too stark. Then I monoprinted over them, which I liked better, but it again seemed unfinished. I decided to cut them out and put them on a collage landscape – still not right – so I stitched over them. Not happy with that either. Turn the collage over, and the stark stitching is better: maybe I should have just stitched? At any rate I have some spirally circles and a collage, which I’m sure I can incorporate into something else somewhere down the line. They have a wintery feel anyway.“
“Off Faversham’s Western Link are woodlands and ponds offering willows of sorts. There’s a thrill in avoiding the required week-soak, instead cutting and speed crafting, playing with irregularities, and breaking craft rules to solve structural issues. It’s a great craft for keeping warm. (No eggs were poached in the making).”
“I love the simple yet complex nature of this work from Andy Goldsworthy, the ephemeral quality and the beauty of their creating. It takes me back to making daisy chains, playing with mud and making sand sculptures on the muddy expanse of Weston Super Mare as a child. I’m still playing, and have been intrigued by making these sculptures from the unlimited supply of cardboard boxes in every street and doorway. I started this in 2011 and the possibilities are endless. For me ,the fact that I could create a structure that becomes delicate and organic, and see-through in certain circumstances due to light from behind, has continued to intrigue me. For this Kick About I have just continued work I was already involved in that happened to be exploring the possibilities of spirals and fossils within the escarpment of the Pyrenees in Spain. The fossil had been given to me by a friend. I’m also including the outcome of this exploration with the spiders web that were strewn across my garden every Autumn.”
“I went to the Boondall wetland reserve to undertake this one – just took photos around the mangroves and made some images – small and intended to be quick but not really.”
“Children these days miss out on the magic of seeing icicles hanging from window sills like we used see back in the day. It is even quite unusual to see frozen puddles to slide on in this country. There was, however, a big freeze in December 2009, which after a brief respite at Christmas, resumed in January 2010, with temperatures as low as -17 in some areas. I remember it well, ,as I had to try and get down to open my shop in the High street, which was downhill all the way, and absolutely treacherous, as no roads were being cleared, let alone pavements. I decided to send off for some “snow crampons” that were advertised as ‘simply fitting over shoes or boots to make you more secure’. What they didn’t say was they also slip off your shoes or boots and flap around your ankles! I ended up waddling along like a duck and was lucky not to fall and break anything. However besides this crazy memory of The Big Freeze, I also remember the incredible and spectacular ice sculptures which were everywhere, and I was so amazed I took a few photos.“
As our thoughts inevitably turn to the holidays, a suitably seasonal prompt, courtesy of golden age illustrator, Arthur Rackham; an illustration from the 1931 edition of Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, A Visit From Saint Nicholas, better known by its opening line, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
I’m happy to report When I Was A Boy, I Collected Pebbles From The Beach (2021) has been selected for the Crossings Poetic International Film Festival 2021. Thanks very much!
Twenty years-or-so ago, one of my oldest friends and I went on a couple of road-trips, stopping-off both times at Sidmouth in Devon. Sidmouth is a very genteel seaside town distinguished by its red sandstone cliffs – which you can’t appreciate in any of these black and white photographs! Our first visit was in the first month of 2000. I was packing some lovely 1600 black and white film, always good for cranking up the drama. In the topmost image, my friend, Jules, is wearing my blue and white striped jumper, a wonderfully heavy thing I was rarely seen out of in those days, a comfort blanket with sleeves. I think Jules must have been feeling the cold that day, and I was feeling chivalrous – which is why she’s wearing it, and not me, as she stares moodily out to sea. Our second visit to Sidmouth was more seasonal, Summer 2001. The day we arrived at the beach, the air was soft and luminously bright with sea mist. I happened to have some black and white infra-red film in my camera, which produced some richly atmospheric pictures with a sense of silence and timelessness.
Another set of photographs from our 2009 trip to Shellness, which included games of pétanque on the beach’s perfect surface of pale, crushed shells.
Another set of preposterously colourful photographs from the echium field at Church Plantation; like something from the seabed of a storybook.
Summer, 2009: a day trip to Shellness, on the Isle of Sheppey, noted around these parts for its nudist beach, but what I enjoyed about our visit was the beach’s silence and its strangeness. Another one of those end-of-days places with an atmosphere all of its own.
A few evening’s back, we went out to Sheldwich to see the field known as Church Plantation, with its dazzling crop of echiums. We weren’t the only people drawn to the improbable spectacle of blue, pink and white flowers, with its thrumming of bees, a young couple parked up and staging photographs for their Instagram accounts. We got there late, the sun all but gone, which meant the echiums were kicking out an almost neon-like glow, their green stems making for welcome contrasts, and the white echium flowers smattering the rolls of blue waves like foam.
Okay, so just a few more skyscapes taken from Whitstable beach back in the Summer of 2009, for this week’s blast-from-the-past. Like something from the ceiling of Sistene chapel.