I can’t date this photograph exactly, though it was taken at some point in the early 2000s, but I can tell you where I was when I took it: somewhere along the banks of the River Slea in Lincolnshire on a winter’s morning. Looking like one of those heraldic banners, I was obviously drawn to this surviving crisp of grass and snapped it using my old 35mm camera.
Back in 2015, I took 30+ students to Barcelona. Student field trips are exhausting and stressful for all the reasons you might well predict, but they’re also a huge amount of fun and invaluable experiences. This photograph of Girona – which we visited for a few hours after our visit to the Salvador Dali museum – reminds me of the gentle sunshine of that day, of the sneaky lagers we quaffed together before getting back on the bus, and of the very real privilege of working with young creative people.
A few more on this Friday from this 2020 trip to a curvaceous field of flax.
I must have been drawn to the subtle, graphical quality of this mown path at Mount Ephraim, enjoying its scorch and desaturation, and that lovely curving line. Whatever the reason, I liked it enough to take a photograph of it back in the late summer of 2009 and squirrel it away until now.
Our last Kick-About together was a celebration of the idea of tea-making, tea-drinking, and its various rituals. Without this activity, with its powers of comfort and displacement, I wonder sometimes how we would otherwise negotiate some of life’s disappointments, large and small. Disappointment is one of the themes of Molly Drake’s I Remember, and it is Drake’s delicate, if devastating song that has this week inspired us to produce new works in a short time.
“My story begins with our family holiday to Dorset. It was probably early 60s and I think we were staying in Swanage. We were usually quite lucky with the weather, but it was not to be this time. As we had no car then, my parents decided on taking a nice coach trip to Lulworth Cove which was a famous beauty spot not far along the coast. My sister and I wore our summer dresses and warm hand knitted cardigans, as it was getting a bit chilly, but when we arrived at our destination the heavens opened and rain looked likely to be set in for the rest of the day.
‘Quick – let’s run up to that beach shop’ said mum. ‘We’ll buy something waterproof there for you both.’
My heart sank, as I could see at a glance it was a typical seaside shop that sold everything from buckets and spades to thermos flasks, and Mary Quant it was not!
So in we went and the kind lady behind the counter said, ‘I have the very thing – plastic macs!” My heart sank even further. She proceeded to pull out a white one for my sister, which had a small plastic headscarf, and as she was 4 years younger than me, it looked quite cute. However, despite a long search, there didn’t appear to be another in my size. Hooray!
Then just as I thought I had escaped, she found another bigger mac tucked away beneath the rest and, horror of horrors, it was luminous pink! I mean ‘day glow’ and ‘get your sunglasses on’ pink. (I know the sixties fashion was all about these bright colours, but this must have been very much a forerunner!). Even worse it had a matching hat, rather like an upturned flowerpot, that tied under the chin.
‘That’s just the job!’ said mum.
I spent the rest of the day skulking along the shoreline, trying desperately to hide amongst the overturned boats, but there was no way I could disguise myself; if I had stood on some rocks, I could have done a turn as a lighthouse beacon!
So that is my memory of Lulworth Cove, which is a place of peaceful serenity and muted beauty to many, but all I remember is psychedelic misery!“
“The source of much pain (for the individual) and much humour (for the group) lies in the gap between one’s aspirations (or expectations), and one’s achievements. This is particularly true when we are young and in love. We want to be ‘soul-mates’ with our loved one – to share the same experiences, the same emotions, the same memories. Alas, it is rarely achievable. We recognise Molly Drake’s pain, because we have felt it too. But it also raises a wry smile. For we have learnt, as we grow within a relationship, that no two people experience any shared event in the same way. So we adjust our expectations accordingly.
By the time we have aged within that relationship, we come to recognise that it is an achievement for any shared experience to be remembered by both of us at all, without several minutes of dispute over location time of year, weather, and reason for being there. And why is it that I find I cannot remember the name of a place, I cannot remember how to get there, or why – but I can remember exactly what we ate and the colour of the waitress’s nail polish? What’s all that about?”
“This one was a bit of a late starter for me. Having given some early thought to it and tinkered with water colour washes as a response to the words, the result didn’t quite live up to my expectations . Initially I was thinking in terms of printed textiles based on the stanzas and 1950’s, but a few scribbles and doodles confirmed that wasn’t ready to work for me. So it rested until almost the deadline and, as a final go at it, I tried cutting up the original into sections and rearranging in an effort to express the ‘you and me ‘ idea. That practice put me in mind of putting together a shade card.
In this one, ‘me’ is represented by colours for Molly’s words. ‘You’ are the stencils that stand separate until used on Molly’s colours, and that combination can be read as the ‘we’… though here, as in the poem, the two together do not represent a happy ‘we’ of Molly’s expectations.
The card is done from scratch and the colour swatches are gouache and then laminated. The script is traced from the text using a Word font. The miniature stencils are handcut and pierced oiled card. Yet another very interesting Kick-About for me and a real challenge to express an ‘abstract’ visually.”
“Both of these pieces come under the headings of love / regret / romance and memory, all of which are sparked off by this prompt…”
“Goodbye to all that” oil on gesso on board. 60cm X 60cm
“Always” Stitching on old handkerchief and oil paint on waxed paper
“Molly Drake’s words brought a tear to my eye, how such a poet can write something so striking about the melancholic juxtaposition of both light and dark. It brought back memories of people that have come and gone out of my life but also the places where those memories and faces come bubbling up when passing in a car or walking past a particular patch of land, like reveries of times I will never forget.”
“What a wonderful song by Molly Drake, and so beautifully sung. This piece of music is like a faded old photograph, looking back at a bittersweet time, the little vignettes of holidays and days out are achingly nostalgic.
I’ve been on both sides of the dynamic expressed in this song at one time or another and either position is just grim and sad. I did some sketches this week in response to the prompt about a weekend trip with one of my first boyfriends over thirty years ago. We stayed in a guest house and went for a walk to a beautiful waterfall nearby, It should have been a carefree, loved-up, fun few days, full of laughter and lovemaking, but I’d reached the point when I realised I didn’t want to take the relationship much further but my boyfriend did and we separated soon after getting home.
This waterfall makes me think of that lost weekend. I wasn’t really mature enough at the time for a serious relationship; it would be some time before I was emotionally grown-up enough for that . I hope that boyfriend is happy now, wherever he is. He was a lovely guy.”
“You might consider this a sequel of sorts, as back in March 2021, when Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities was our collective muse, I photographed and catalogued a selection of my own keepsakes, the emotional importance of which I couldn’t actually remember. Molly Drake’s ‘I Remember’ isn’t so much about the fallibility of memory, but rather the different ways in which we remember the same thing. Drake’s song also captures very truthfully how the significance of something can be quite wasted on someone else – even those closest to us. With this in mind, I turned my attention to some of the objects with which I share my home, but with which I have no emotional association, but which resonate very powerfully with my husband. I see a rather retro-looking glass paperweight, while my husband experiences a Proustian rush returning him at once to the comforts of his grandparents’ home and all the love he found there. There are objects collected here the provenance of which is still unknown to me, and their emotional heft as mysterious, but ‘he remembers firelight’.”
“Back to jugs. Hoping a narrative might be staged within a shared space, in order to portray intimacy and separation and where the suggestion of alternate ‘points of view’ (that which each jug points to) draws a parallel to Molly Drake’s poem. Respecting the natural linen and pencil line seemed the right approach in order to deliver something feeling a little more natural than a paint saturated canvas at 30x30cm.”
“I wasn’t aware of Nick Drake’s heritage, but Molly’s song immediately made me think of ‘River Man. I took the feeling I got from both songs, and made a prose poem, then some art to accompany it.”
She did not remember the way, but she remembered the times, the place. She wanted to connect present to past. She did not know how or where to begin, and yet she needed to try to construct that bridge. Words were all she had now.
Two ways, really, even though she always pretended they were the same. Or maybe it was only her longing that failed to understand that they were two, not one.
She had been dreaming of a river. A man, a boat. Trees, weeping, or was that her own voice, crying on the wind? It had been summer once. Flowered. Sweet.
But here was the river again, littered with fallen leaves. What magic word would turn back the seasons, dispel the haze, repair a lifetime that had already disintegrated into dust?
Was she coming or going? In her dreams a voice kept repeating you have to choose. But between what? Who? Did she get to choose who would be waiting on the other side of the river? Or was she to be the one left waiting?
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, Tom Beg, we have our latest prompt, the short 1977 film Powers Of Ten, directed by Charles and Ray Eames.
These photographs were taken on the day after the UK saw those uncanny, record-breaking temperatures. We went to the beach to escape the strange temperature of our terraced house and swam gratefully in the shallowing sea. A few people wondered what I was doing with my camera pushed into a translucent bag and photographing into the sun, but I was out there, experimenting, gunning for heat haze and the shimmer. Turns out that double-wrapping the lens with gauze makes moonlight out of sunshine.
A final set of Lamplough-inspired golden-hour grasses.
A second collection of photographs inspired by the watercolour paintings of Augustus Osbourne Lamplough, our most recent Kick-About prompt. In order to emulate the soft tonal range of Lamplough’s landscapes, I photographed this unkempt basin of umbellifers and grasses through gauze to flatten everything out and spread the sunlight liberally. In some of these images you can see the weave of the gauze producing a cross-hatching effect across the surface of the image.
I wasn’t familiar with Augustus Osbourne Lamplough’s work (our latest Kick-About muse) but I find his paintings completely magical, and can hardly believe they’re paintings at all, in so much as all that soft golden light and gauze is produced from paint and brushes onto paper.
In Lamplough’s landscapes, I find the impressionism and light-play I always want from my own photographs, and it was a happy coincidence the Lamplough prompt should arrive in the same week I was experimenting with physical gauzes to produce more diffuse lighting effects of my own.
Suitably inspired, I returned to a local bit of unadopted scrub set just back from the sea front (last seen here under very different circumstances) and indulged once more my love of grasses, in all their billowing contours. First putting my camera into an organza bag, I proceeded to photograph the scrub as the wind pushed it this way and that, and the sun illuminated every quill and strand of it. Meanwhile, the gauze served to flatten everything out and flood the subject with light, producing some Lamplough-like atmospheres from a largely over-looked landscape. There are a few more to follow in coming days.
Our last Kick-About together was fired off by the super-saturated decor of Henri Matisse’s 1908 painting, Harmony in Red, also known as The Dessert. As Vanessa Clegg observes, there is but a small difference between the word ‘dessert’ and ‘desert’, but a whole world of difference between Matisse’s spatial effects and use of colour and those distinguishing the paintings of Augustus Osbourne Lamplough. With Lamplough’s evocations of exotic landscapes as our muse this week, enjoy this latest collection of new works made in a short time.
“The magic of Lamplough’s work is all in the soft, low contrast haze. He managed to capture those dusty, golden hour landscapes with a gentleness and calmness – a painting that feels barely there. My own contribution isn’t quite as calm – perhaps a little more sickly, but an exploration at least of the similar, low contrast magic landscape.”
“One process I often use to get a composition off the ground, is to take my old paintings and remix them. I collage and collide them together to create new forms, compositions and colour harmonies. It all feels a little mad and chaotic but it is the only way in which I can find some spontaneity in the digital medium.”
“I love the mirage-like quality of the African desert paintings and was instantly reminded of fata morganas and mirages in endless landscapes. With that in mind, I just had a bit of quick fun with some minimalistic desert imagery and a simple impression of mirages. Are they distant columns of lights? An epic oasis city in the desert? Or merely just a trick of the camera lens?”
“I met this Kick-About with a beautifully decorated box, which, some years ago, was given to my father on a removal job. He said it belonged to a nun, but it’s unknown to me if it was she who presented it to dad as a thanks, or if it was just something the owner no longer needed. My dad was never one to refuse anything.
Inside the lid is a sticker marked ‘Relics’ and four smaller boxes are revealed. Each box, decorated all over with detailed floral sprays, contains fragments and objects collected on travels. Sadly, no body parts. In one are two pieces of building stone from the Great Pyramid… and so my rather obvious connection with the prompt. It’s a marvellous object and a bit like a transportable ‘cabinet of curiosities’. Apart from the pyramid fragments, there are some shells from the Sea of Galilee, a chunk of Fountains Abbey, and a bit of brick from the spyhole through which Wellington spied the French at Waterloo – and numerous other bits and pieces.
So the drawing (collage, coloured pencil and ink) that came out of this, is of that inner box: its contents and dedication. The obelisk (foam board, pins, beads and Pritt Stick materialised as a way of using the pattern of the red granite – useful if you happen to be staging ‘Aida’ or ‘The Magic Flute’ and you need a desk ornament.”
“Having missed the last two prompts I thought I’d try, with limited technology, to combine all three… So, drawing (Peake), dessert (Matisse) and desert (Lamplough). ‘Dessert in the desert’ (helped by an old yellow lens filter for the heat!).”
“It just so happened that the week this prompt appeared I was asked to paint a picture of the desert by a friend from Dubai. I thought it was a fairly straightforward task, even though outside my usual oeuvre, but when I started trying to paint the sand dunes in the evening light I soon discovered it was tricker than I thought. The tones and colours were elusive and everything I did ended up too warm, too cool, just not right, and so the prompt was perfectly timed for me; I didn’t know the work of Augustus Osborne Lamplough, but as I looked at images of his watercolours, it was immediately clear this man really knew how to paint sand! The delicacy of the tints he used and the skill of his watercolour painting is breathtaking; so here was the master I could learn from to try and make my Dubai painting more convincing. I found it difficult enough with oil paint, where you can correct your mistakes, so I’m in awe of Lamplough’s skill painting desert-like landscapes in watercolour, where there’s nowhere to hide if something goes wrong.”
“I decided to do watercolors, which perhaps lean more towards Turner than Lamplough, but the sunset feeling is still there I think.”
“Using a tight colour palette with aim for a unified tonal landscape, and making use of the palette knife to harmonise structure and composition, this endeavour at 30cm square, tries to integrate tree structure as much with the air as with the ground. Spatial depth is somewhat sacrificed when a push for atmospheric effect prevails. Lamplough’s blue-saturated ‘Cairo Mosque from the Nile’ (on the Lyon&Turnbull auction website) provided the inspiration.”
“I have a book of sepia photographs I bought in a junk shop many years ago. It is full of these curious landscapes from far away places of a Grand Tour taken in the early days of photography. I was going on some short travels of my own to Cornwall by train and I was prompted to think about my previous ideas of travelling I have been musing upon for quite some time. I love these soft muted colours Lamplough uses and have tried to apply them to a short series of my journey into Cornwall. I have taken the contrast of moving so rapidly from the verdant lush quality that suddenly changes to moorland in a moment as you approach the landscape of the deserted tin mines around Redruth. As I was moving in the train it was like a stage set with moving sections. These sections move at different speeds so the furthest remains for the longest time with new images to the foreground that flash past. The perspective changes as well and I would like to continue this journey so that your eye dips into a valley… but I ran out of time!”
“I wasn’t familiar at all with Lamplough’s work (much obliged, Jordan), but find his paintings completely magical, and can hardly believe they’re paintings at all, in so much as all that soft golden light and gauze is produced from paint and brushes onto paper. In Lamplough’s landscapes, I find the impressionism and light-play I always want from my own photographs, and it was a happy coincidence that Jordan’s choice of prompt should arrive in the same week I was experimenting with physical gauzes to produce more diffuse lighting effects of my own. Suitably inspired, I returned to a local bit of unadopted scrub set just back from the sea front (last seen on here under very different circumstances) and indulged once more my love of grasses, in all their billowing contours. First putting my camera into an organza bag, I proceeded to photograph the scrub as the wind pushed it this way and that, and the sun illuminated every quill and strand of it. Meanwhile, the gauze served to flatten everything out and flood the subject with light, producing some Lamplough-like atmospheres from a largely over-looked landscape.”
“I am trying to convey the idea of heat by using very hot and luminous colours. Augustus Lamplough however, managed to portray this by a marvellous technique of softness and reflection of light and shadow. His paintings are simple but very effective and it must have been so wonderful a time at the turn of the 19th century, to wander around Egypt with your watercolours, and just explore and paint.“
“When I recently came back to London after experiencing the greens of Ireland I was taken aback with how brown and muddy the earth felt, the grass crispy under my feet, the leaves and flowers with burnt liver spots. The world was well and truly scorching alive with a wave of heat that follows your every move. Sweating, I set out with my camera in the sweltering heat to explore the torrid areas and capture similar landscapes to Lamplough’s work, the park near my house where I run every day being the main jumping off point, coupled with the coloured slats, trucks and caravans in the midst of setting-up shop for a funfair. I wanted to explore taking the photos that step further – upping the exaggeration by adding a plethora of different shapes hinting at some civilisation in the distance. But is it nothing more than a mirage?”
With many thanks to Berlin-based artist and regular Kick-Abouter, Phil Cooper, we have our latest jumping-off point, but before you take a look, you might want to pop the kettle on…