Christmas Tree #2 (2022)

And so, making full use of the strange, empty room in the middle of our small, cold house, I set about recreating another semblance of the Christmas tree for our room-without-one. A few little lights tied to a long drop of black thread later, and I set about manifesting this Fritz Lang-meets-James Whale-style Christmas tree (in response to The Kick-About No.69) and enjoyed all the old-school sci-fi spook of it. In some of them, there’s even the ghost of some mid-20th century Americana in-the-mix, in large part due to those masking-tape atom-age snowflakes I stuck to the wall on a whim.

The Kick-About #69 ‘The Christmas Tree’

Our last Kick-About celebrated an art form and creative practice form more readily associated with home and hearth, and while not everyone may identify as being as creative as quilt-maker, Harriet Powers, it’s also true that Christmas is a time when many people assume the role of installation artist and transform their living spaces into something more extraordinary. Consider the Christmas tree, a simple enough idea of evergreen hope and light-in-the-darkness, but complex too in terms of issues of matters of tradition, culture and taste. With the season of goodwill fast approaching, enjoy this latest selection of new works made in a short time, and with the Christmas tree – in all its creative incarnations – as this week’s inspiration.

Tom Beg

“I have more lasting memories of my mum’s attempts at putting together artisanal and minimalistic Christmas trees (a few twigs with some baubles hanging on) than I do of a proud-looking pine or spruce in the corner of the living room. Thinking back those twigs were actually impressively avant-garde and experimental in the all the ways I wish I could be, so here’s my ode to one of mum’s many avant-garde trees.” / /

Kerfe Roig

“I wanted to make a cosmic tree–and I made three that were supposed to stand up, but they were very hard to photograph that way. So for most of the photos I took them apart and laid them flat.  I used various grounds you may recognise from past projects. I was also thinking of the EE Cummings poem Little Tree and did my own cosmic version.”

big universe

big universe
vast and filled with wonder
endless and infinite
everything all at once

how is it we are here?–
looking up, far, into infinity–
we stand inside the glitter of dust
seeking to capture the stars

a seed was planted–
a long sleep surrounded by a dark womb–
an unformed dream
awakened into manifestation

we hold our children close
and then release them–
what will their spirits carry
when they open to the light?

will there ever be an ending?
a time when particles cease to wave?–
we can only hold hands with the spiral
and continue dancing /

Charly Skilling

“When I was growing up, everything about Christmas decorations was either handmade or used year after year after year.  The Christmas tree (all 2 ft 6 of it) spent 50 weeks of the year resting quietly in the soil of our back garden. Then, a week before Christmas, Dad would go out, dg it up, re-plant it in a tall wooden planter kept specially for that purpose. The tree then took pride of place in the bay window in the front room so it could be seen from the street.

Dad and the older boys would wrangle the tree lights into working order, whilst we younger children made yards and yards and yards of paper chains, plus a small mountain of paper lanterns.  The paper chains would be strung around the middle room (the family room, less likely to be viewed by discerning visitors, I realised when I was older!), and the best of the paper lanterns would hang on the tree amongst the home-made angels, card and glitter stars, and the twelve precious glass baubles that only the most responsible and well-behaved of us were allowed to handle. (No, I don’t think I ever made the grade!). Crepe paper streamers curled amongst the branches and a sprinkling of ‘Angel Hair’ and our tree was complete!

I really miss making those paper chains and paper lanterns, while all around the buzz and hustle of Christmas preparations rose to a steady crescendo… to the moment the lights lit up the finished tree and the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ of a wondrous content settled the room into quiet… Shortly followed by a collective groan as the tree lights flickered once more – and went out!”

Vanessa Clegg

“As I missed the Harriet Powers prompt I wanted to do a small overlap with this one, so have done more stitching. This is really a fantasy of my ideal ‘get away’ Christmas… in a forest somewhere North, sitting out in the snow in the soft, muffled silence that pre-empts the opening of the curtains and seeing all that’s familiar negated in white. The sense of being at one with the elements, smelling the conifers and burning wood, the chilled skin and numbing fingers, a deer in the distance… but eventually returning to the warmth of the cabin, a small silver tree, wine and a sleeping cat. Happy Christmas fellow kick abouts – may it be one of peace and warmth.”

Phil Cooper

“When I was a kid I remember there were particular things I used to dread about Christmas; endless meals with extended family, carol singing, being stuck in the house being made to play with cousins I didn’t get on with. But there were marvellous things too; brightly coloured decorations, fairy lights, beautiful cards and wrapping paper, the foil wrappers of sweets and toffees, and a fabulous, six foot  tinsel tree that came out every year. At any other time, such a preposterous, garish and tacky-looking thing wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the carefully controlled space of the living room, but, for some reason, Christmas meant you could cover everything in technicolour glitter – I loved it!

For my response this week I took a few wooden tree ornaments that sit on the windowsill and photographed them with coloured lighting, editing the photos to try and evoke a bit of that lost childhood Christmas wonder, seen through the eyes of my jaded 57-year-old adult self.” / /

Phil Gomm

“One of the places in the house you might expect to encounter the simple delights of a Christmas tree is positioned just so beside a warming fire… unfortunately, my house of late has been in a state of disarray, plastic dust sheets covering the furniture, the stove disconnected, and everywhere looking a touch forlorn and far from festive.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but notice the way all those plastic drapes brought a Narnian frost to this empty space in the middle of the house and was suitably inspired one exceptionally drab afternoon to create a winter wonderland, complete with frosted cones of pine trees (or rather plastic sheets suspended from the ceiling using black sewing thread and some drawing pins).

With the addition of some tiny coloured lights sat atop the trees like stars (and the magical powers of long exposure photography), I was able to produce a few festive scenes, however unpromising the starting point…

“… and making full use of this strange, empty room of ours, I set about recreating another semblance of the Christmas tree for our room-without-one. A few of those same little lights tied to a long drop of black thread later, and I set about manifesting this Fritz Lang-meets-James Whale-style tree, and enjoyed all the old-school sci-fi spook of it. In some of them, there’s even the ghost of some mid-20th century Americana in-the-mix, in large part due to those masking-tape atom-age snowflakes I stuck to the wall on a whim…”

“… and finally, like the little match girl herself, I popped outside into the bitter cold and dark, and snapped a few images of our ‘Christmas tree’ as it might appear to curious kids and dog-walkers, as the green glow of it flashed in the long night.

To all the Kick-Abouters, wishing you a wonderful, restful and creative Christmas. I rather cherish your company and the balm of your imaginations and when my husband spies me on a chair, whirling coloured lights about the room, and says ‘What now?’ I reply, gladly, ‘The Kick-About made me do it!'”

Marion Raper

“As usual these last few weeks before Christmas become more and more frantic. We seem to spiral into a whirlwind of parties, present buying and food planning. However, there is still the calmness of the Christmas tree.  A symbol of new life and dating back to pagan times to brighten the darkness of the winter. So Merry Christmas to all who contribute to the Kick About.  May your Christmas Tree shine brightly and light the way to a happy and creative New Year.”

Gary Thorne

Last year’s KA ‘The night before Christmas…’ rang loud in the ear so, it seemed appropriate incorporating this into the pendulum bauble. Perhaps a wrecking ball to some? Perhaps chaos which settles through gravity? Perhaps a fragile sphere risking self-destruction? Or more simply an upbeat swing containing seasonal cheer? Happy holidays KA-ers.”

James Randall

After the quilt KA I was still on a photograph-pattern high so I thought I’d have a go at animating them. When I jumped into the software I found the kaleidoscope setting, which I applied to some of my Brisbane photos. All happened quite quickly and then it came to making a tree out of the patterns – quite quick also. Then in adding a Christmas message and creating a soundtrack it all got a bit quagmire-ish but I kind of finished it and discovered another effect along the way. Hope your Christmases and New Years are full of good cheer. Looking forward to seeing your big beautiful ideas in’23 and thanks for being so inspiring in ’22.

And as we contemplate the opaque horizons of a brand new year, why not let the mystic visions of abstract art pioneer, Hilma Af Klint, light the way towards inner contentment and existential equilbrium! Until then, wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas. Be seeing you again in 2023.

Glove #1 (2022)

When it comes to meeting the fortnightly creative challenge of The Kick-About, needs must, and so it was I fabricated my own much down-sized ‘soundsuit’ from a single yellow glove, wooden buttons, glass eye pieces and strands of colourful wool. I was drawn to some of the goofier, ‘Jim Henson-esque’ elements of some of Nick Cave’s soundsuits (the prompt for our latest Kick-About) – hence the Muppet-y character of my resulting hand-puppet. Turns out, however, even the goofiest glove puppet can throw some shapes on the dancefloor!

The Kick-About #64 ‘Soundsuits’

If our last Kick-About together was characterised by muted tones and pensive atmospheres, this latest showcase of new works made in a short time is a celebration of colour, movement, costume and dynamism – and how could it not be, inspired as we have been by the artist Nick Cave and his sumptuous soundsuits? In other news, a warm welcome to artist and animator, Claire-Beth Gibson, who joins us this week for her inaugural run-about.

Claire-Beth Gibson

“The sound suit with the spinning tops made me think of the clackety-clackety noise of the whirly spinner I had as a kid.  It smelled of old metal and played a strange song. Starting out with so much enthusiasm, it would spin gloriously for a short while and then gradually teeter more and more as it slowed down, before a final wobble into its death fall, spinning on its side and rolling away. Of course, I wanted it to spin the first high energy part longer than it did. Sometimes I would just keep it in my hands, continuously whirring it, keeping that bit alive for as long as I could. This little animation is some of that moment.”

@claire_beth_claire / /

Graeme Daly

“I knew that I wanted to make a film, I wanted it to be loud, aggressive and primal and I wanted to use some sort of fabric or elements that could make up the intricate soundsuits of Nick Cave’s creations. I decided to chuck a bag of shiny sequins of various shapes into a large wok and film it! Bringing down the shutter speed of my camera and aperture while defocusing so that the tacky butterflies, hearts and stars become nothing but dancing spherical orbs lit ablaze with a tiny but powerful led light. It was one of those moments where everything fell into place so nicely. The edit was a dream and thoroughly enjoyable.”

@graemedalyart / / / /

Gary Thorne

There is something really satisfying about Autumn after such a great summer, so much so I’ve been reluctant to cut back the fading twisting Crocosmia (Lucifer) and towering Buddleja – until now that is!! Flamboyant Soundsuits triggered celebrating the summer die-back so, headfirst into weaving I went with sock yarn, a cardboard frame, secateurs and the garden table in glorious sunshine, and two pleasurable days passed.”


Jan Blake

“I watched a lot on Youtube of the videos made of Nick Cave’s work and was totally drawn into them. His whirling Dervishes of colourful movement reminded me of my view that is a constant in my life. Beyond my windows, I look out onto the city of Bristol masked by this sea of greenery. This last few days those trees and plants have been whisked into whirling dervishes by the wind. I became intrigued by the differences of each tree or plant.  They are all rooted to the spot yet the rhythms of their movement are changed by their shape and weight. Here are three small videos with their own unique surrounding music due to wind or traffic. More study needed to grasp another way of learning from them to use in my work.”

Vanessa Clegg

“I intended this to be a “Barbie/Cindy-lolly” but the felt tip doesn’t show enough on the lolly bit so I’ve given her the chance to be the first girl to enter space single handed!.. Enjoyed playing with all the £1 shop had to offer and go wild with colour… what more could I ask?”

Charly Skilling

“Costumes, dancing, drums – what’s not to love about  Nick Cave’s sound suits? The freedom of self-expression that comes with anonymity is powerful and liberating. and I had great fun with this Kick-About. As you may have  guessed, the costume is mostly crochet and mostly formed by recycling elements of earlier KAs. I hope these images will bring a smile to your lips, even as you shake your head in bewilderment!”

Kerfe Roig

“I hope we will dream together”
Nick Cave

“In 2014, at the very beginning of blogging, I did a post with a dancer in my interpretation of one of Nick Cave’s soundsuits.  I always wanted to do more of them, so I was glad to see this prompt.  The original one is the star dancer.  I hoped to do three new ones, but only managed two.  The flower dancer was the first one I did: it’s small, about the same size as the star dancer.  Then I decided to work on a large one – a cosmic dancer.  It was a challenge to get the look I wanted. I tried a lot of different papers for the circles, but finally found origami paper came closest to what I was imagining.  The background of stars was always a given.  Perhaps I’ll get to one of those toy dancers in the future…”

who am I?
who can I become?
patterned out
side and in–
shapeshifting transformation–
full, entire, complete /

Marion Raper

“I am not sure when I am likely to use or wear a soundsuit so I decided to make something which is more on the decorative side.   Nick Cave uses recycled objects to make his suits – well, my stylised flowers are made from a bag of old ties given to me by a friend, some twisty wire and an old glass bottle.  The flowers tend to sway gently when there is a slight breeze and I was intending to add some old buttons strung together to make a jangling noise.  However, they were just too heavy and didn’t look right, so I decided to go for plan B, and used some old dangly earrings instead.”

Phil Gomm

“Needs must and all that, so I fabricated my own much down-sized ‘soundsuit’ from a single yellow glove, wooden buttons, glass eye pieces and strands of colourful wool. I was drawn to some of the goofier, ‘Jim Henson-esque’ elements of some of Cave’s soundsuits – hence the Muppet-y character of my resulting hand-puppet. Turns out, however, even the goofiest glove puppet can throw some shapes on the dancefloor!”

James Randall

“You have to love Nick Cave’s vibrant animated costumes that make you want to join in. Dance, along with singing and art tends to be a lost activity as you get older. I remember wonderful all-nighters at Sydney Mardi Gras parties vividly. This is my attempt to put down some of the movement. I should have made an animation or danced around – avoiding the computer and put down marks by hand, but the attached, with variation, came out from the computer.”

With a small nod to the current season, a mildly spooksome prompt for our next creative run-about: the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which, with more than 3.5 million visitors annually, is the most visited necropolis in the world… 

Throwback Friday #122 ‘Widow’s House Lights’ (2013)

Another off-cut from early 35mm experiments out in the sultry gloom of the environs of the old French house, from the summer of 2013. There’s little doubt you could produce commensurate effects by layering-up images in Photoshop – an old house composited together with a squiggle of digital light – but the analogue mechanics behind the production of this moment include a clunky old film camera, a camping light encased in an empty blue water bottle on the end of a piece of string, and a human being whirling it about while dashing from one side of the composition to the other – and much to the consternation of the local wildlife!