A final set of Kick-About #45-inspired photographs, produced in response to the challenge of trying to kick-start a small celestial body in the confines of my narrow terraced house… In some of these images, you might think I was photographing a gilded shell or similar as my subject, when in fact you’re looking at the rotations of an illuminated glass vessel spinning on the spot.
A second batch of Kick-About-inspired orbs, spinning around in dark spaces.
Our latest Kick-About was inspired by an obscure (to me at least) alchemical text dated from 1582 entitled Splendor Solis or The Splendour of the Sun. 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.
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
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.”
And for our next foray, ladies and gentlemen, a few expansive words on the theme of home and habitations from the likes of Gaston Bachelard…
A couple of other-worldly manifestations from 2015. What is it? Where does it come from? What does it want?!
There’s a particular row of terraced houses in Whitstable that always looks particularly decorative at this time of year, the residents of Gladstone Road doing their utmost to bring some light and colour to the darkness. I popped out a few nights back and tried a few things to capture its painterly appeal.
As you walk up the beach towards the West Beach at Whitstable, you pass this impressive row of three storied houses, known as Wavecrest, and every year the residents co-ordinate to put a row of diminutive Christmas trees across the front of their respective houses. It makes for a particularly cheering sight, and I went out there for another muck-about, with the gloom and Wavecrest’s demure light-show as my muse.
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.
Inspired by the paintings of Aboriginal artist, Peter Mungkuri, whose work was the subject of this week’s Kick-About, I returned to this Menken-inspired technique to produced some pared-down impressions of desiccated seed heads and grasses. Despite the colours some of us might readily associate with paintings evoking the Australian landscape, Mungkuri’s paintings are monochromatic, and so, in the first instance, I wanted to work in that range too. The resulting images were wintry and very much of the English cottage garden, meadow or coastal path, but much less this second group, which shimmer with heat and blaze with the colours of baked earth.