“Having swam my way through sciatica, it seemed appropriate to channel that commitment into a Whirligig self-portrait. It is not quite pivoting smoothly on turning into the wind – so more engineering fun ahead yet, it was massive fun to make. Apology for the amateur film making!”
“I found myself with a bit of time for a 50 second whirligig video, made of junk I had, but not having touched Premiere or After Effects for years – and playing in Garage Band too… It was fun. Thank you very much! “
“I had no illusions I could construct an actual whirligig. But I figured I could do something that moved, with birds. As usual, not much like my original vague idea. And I had a very hard time finding a place to hang it where there wouldn’t be too much stuff in the background for a photo. As a result, the photos aren’t great, but they do give an idea of how it looks in motion. And now that it’s fan weather, it’s in motion much of the time.“
“Rowland Emett was a cartoonist and sculptor of automata. He created things that are whimsical, English and eccentric and which serve the purpose to raise a smile and be enjoyed (Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway Festival of Britain 1951). To me, his work is like a cross between early steampunk and Festival of Britain surrealism. I also wanted a theme to work around, and an illustration of the cross section of the (art nouveau/steampunk) Nautilus in a 1950’s Disney children’s book provided the theme. The first idea was to imagine a whirligig (generally a wind driven automata) for Captain Nemo’s garden. Unfortunately, he never made land and I am no mechanical engineer, but I did put one together and rough-tested it with white card model. However, a lot of time was spent in the processing and considering its movement, and I felt the fantasy and whimsical Emmet elements were getting a little lost, so in the late and last hour, to refresh, I returned to doodling and to the train idea. Times up and I have a beginning and some initial responses. It’s been another great Kick-About and provided a lot of material to mine….. plenty more left in this Kick-About to chase.“
“Developing some ideas first inspired by a previous bird-based Kick-About, I set about thinking about how I might release a bird into the rooms of my home and photograph it. Actually, I set about constructing a cardboard, bird-shaped whirligig that I could suspend along a length of white elastic, which I then sent twanging around the low-ceilings of our tiny seaside home and photographing on longish-exposures. From humble ad-hoc origins (I spray-painted the cardboard bird-thing with cans of old car paint from the shed, using our landfill wheelie bin as an impromptu spray booth…), I was able to produce some surprisingly transformative photographs. Some of them even left me thinking, ‘It’s an actual bloody bird!’. I did four different shoots over four different days – an hour-a-piece – and tried a few different things each time, with the resulting photographs moving quickly towards more impressionistic effects.”
After the pudding-weight of festive expectations associated with our previous Kick-About, Alexander Calder’s light-weight dance of shape and colour sends us turning gently into the new year, with another showcase of new works made in a short time by a loose group of artists with homes all over the world. A happy and transformative 2022 to all of you!
“I loved the prompt this week. I’m a big fan of Alexander Calder’s sculptures. By happy coincidence there’s a big exhibition of his work here in Berlin right now at the just-refurbished Neue Nationalgalerie. Quite how I came to write such a story in response to the beautiful, elegant mobile in the prompt is a bit of a mystery. I think too many mince pies and liqueur chocolates over Christmas sent me a bit funny!”
“I love Calder’s work and wanted to build some similar whirling thing in my house and then seek to capture ideas of movement, flight, shadow and light in some kind of photographic response. At first, I settled on the idea of producing this impression using virtual components only, building some Calder-inspired shapes in Photoshop and then using them to produce a snapshot of their imaginary interactions. I’ve included two of those attempts here…”
“… but then, I happened on a much more lo-fi opportunity, resulting from my husband’s impressive consumption of Quality Street chocolates over the Christmas period; Quality Street come wrapped in these lovely squares of coloured cellophane, which my husband turned into an ad-hoc garland hanging down from the mirror – in glorification of his gluttony! Suspending the streamer of sweet wrappers from the ceiling, I set out about photographing it from below – lying on my back on the floor and framing the shots to avoid the presence of the cobwebs and the smoke detector! I enjoyed very much the water-colouresque results in all their floatiness, and I’m tempted to draw some conclusion here about the routes towards inspiration being found more-often-than-not in the realm of more analogue activities.”
“Have you ever spent a long time thinking something was going to be rather difficult to achieve? However, when you actually begin, you find it is a lot easier than you thought? At first, I deliberated making material into dangling swirls, then I tried something using beads and twisting them, and finally just went for it with good old card and scissors. Result! Fingers crossed 2022 will go just as easily for everyone! Happy New Year!”
“Once again, I had an inconclusive result, but now I know how to get closer to my original idea, had I time – and a spare wastebasket! One thing I really like about these challenges is the ephemeral nature of them; this will exist only in photos, but it may lead to other more permanent installations, who knows? It’s always fun to try new things. The metal in the Calder mobile reminded me I had a fish mobile/wind chime made of recycled spoons that my brother had given me years ago, which I never could figure out how to hang correctly. So I took it apart, traced the fish, painted watercolor paper in primary colors, and made more fish. I used a hole punch to make eyes, and simple cotton thread to hang them. I had an idea to use an embroidery hoop and circle the fish around it at different heights, but I didn’t think of the wastebasket to hang it in until after I had attached the fish. I think if I hung the hoop over the wastebasket first, and then attached one fish at a time, I could get a better, more balanced result. Another problem was no sun for the entire week; I tried three different lightings to photo it, but natural light, I’m sure, would have been much more satisfying. But they did move and the metal occasionally chimed, so a definite improvement over the original set up, and I like the interaction with the mesh of the wastebasket too.”
“Thank you Gary, this was a terrific challenge! One of the many things I love about Kick About is that it winches me out of my usual way of working and into the arena of experimentation. Many failures, but what the hell. It’s fun and can sometimes lead to an opening up in my work. Happy New Year everyone! Some wire drawings… celebrating 2022, (we can only wish).”
“Three deep breaths and I jumped into the festive season with some Calder focus padding. Minimal thinking involved when I read about the gongs in the piece sounding only rarely, and that this unexpected element was what one audience member regarded as the key. I had just made my Gerry a gif festive greeting for his correspondence, so I made a few more for KA, but they are too short for the final frame to feel rare, but hopefully they are cheery. Hope you all had a lovely couple of weeks.”
When looking at Calder’s “Double Gong”, I couldn’t help wondering what shapes and patterns it might make with a loaded paint brush attached to the end of each arm, then set against a huge sheet of paper, and set spinning. And that got me thinking about my stick.
To help me get around, I use a metre-long white stick with a ball on the end. This I roll back and forth across the path in front of me, (a bit like a minesweeper!) to alert me to bumps, potholes, changes of texture, kerbs and so on. I considered using a huge piece of paper and a pot of paint, and rolling the paint across the surface with my stick, but soon dismissed this as unlikely to result in anything which conveyed much to anyone (or even me).
So then I started thinking about what the stick conveys to me and how it conveys it. So much information travels up from the ball through the stick to my arm and brain.the ball vibrates differently on different surfaces; it can flow smoothly over some surfaces or jump and jerk over others. It will sometimes catch on a raised paving slab or unsuspected step and stop with a suddenness that sends a shock wave to my shoulder. And sometimes the ball slides away from me down an incline or steep camber. The friction between ball and surface also makes noise that forms a constant background to my walks.
So I fixed my camera/phone to my cane (with a bit of help) and went walkabout. The resulting raw video provided some interesting sounds and images and, with another bit of help, I can present ‘Stick and Ball’.”
“When I saw the colours and shapes of Calder’s mobile, I was reminded of the seventies, and I have always been in love with mid-century architecture, so itching to do some environment art, I drew a house surrounded by Calder’s colours and shapes.”
“Happy New Year to all. Tried creating a still-life mobile, hoping to better view ‘variations on a theme’ in support of being freer with composition when painting. Well that failed! Rethinking demanded reusing again these miniature cut-outs in a 3-D manner. How I wish magic powers could float objects where ever they are placed in space!”
Our last Kick-About together introduced me to an artist I didn’t know, Peter Mungkuri, whose monochromatic and illustrative paintings simplified plant forms in feathery marks and concentric circles. This week it’s Matisse, an artist with whom we’re likely more familiar, but whose cut-outs remind us of the joy of colour, form and working directly. But just before you settle down to enjoy this week’s showcase of new works made in a short time, a few words of congratulation to regular Kick-Abouter, Brisbane-based artist, James Randall, whose painting,Card Players, is a finalist in the 2021 Brisbane Portrait Prize. Boom! Congratulations, James.
“Matisse said collage was like ‘drawing with scissors’. Having been using collage to make images for quite a few years now, I know what he means. There’s something very direct and liberating about snipping away and playing with cut up paper. I find I can create such lively and dynamic juxtapositions that I’d never be able to make any other way. I think Matisse made his paper cut-outs when he was getting old and increasingly ill. The exuberance and joy in these simple responses to nature, made by a man who was nearing the end of his life, really touch me, and they act as a powerful tonic in these increasingly fractured and unsettling times.
I made this collage using paper I’d painted myself, along with cut up fragments from old magazines I’d bought in a second-hand bookshop. It was made after a magical encounter I’d had with a hare in the forest on the outskirts of Berlin last week. It was dusk, and I was having a break during a cycle ride through the woods. As I was sat on the edge of a sandy glade in the twilight, I noticed the hare, sat upright, about ten feet away from me. We looked at each other for a minute before he loped off into the trees. I’ve never seen a hare so close, they are such beautiful creatures, so when I arrived home that evening, I got out the scissors and paper and set about trying to capture the moment.”
“The idea here was to tap into the seaweed cyanotypes of Anna Atkins by cutting into one of my own, in this case of an iceberg, but sea-related nonetheless. Sadly, time ran out so it didn’t progress from there, but maybe I’ll develop the idea at some point, as it has potential…”
“I’m a big fan of drawing with scissors, as Matisse described it. But I didn’t pick up the scissors. For one thing, the bees kept swarming! Three more times. I mean, crikey! As soon I saw the prompt for the Kick-About, I thought of seaweed, (not bees) and in particular I thought of the seaweed I painted for When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna; the book I have just finished illustrating. There are several pages featuring the sea in this book, and in three of them, I took the opportunity to create underwater scenes full of colourful seaweed. So when I was working on ideas for the endpapers, one of them featured crabs and seaweed. I never finished this concept, because it didn’t seem as apt as some of the other ideas, but after spending a whole day painting tiny crabs, and working them into patterns, I did fall in love with this little guy hiding behind his seaweed…”
“Today, I revisited the unfinished endpapers and played around a little bit more.”
“A fun prompt with so much on-line inspiration available – thanks Evelyn and Chris! Rather than painting paper and cutting it out, I cut, curled and tore a couple of A4 sheets of blank paper then photographed them up close. Then I digitised them and Illustrator and Photoshop combined and coloured them. They evolved quite a bit over the two weeks.”
“Henri Matisse’s cut-outs got me thinking about the shapes that are left behind, not just the pieces cut out, but the effect of the space where the cut-out had been. I used first some old yarn, and them some strips torn from a magazine to glue, in a wrap, around balloons. After several coats of glue had dried and hardened, I burst the balloon and eased the remnants away from the inside of the shapes. Here are the resulting structures.”
“I also tried the same technique with some beautiful autumn leaves, but this was not very successful, partly becasue the leaves needed to be dried for longer, and partly because I cannot tie a knot in a balloon to save my life. The balloon just gently deflated long before the leaves were hard enough to support their own weight. But I could see the potential for some beautiful shapes, so I’ll just have to keep trying.“
I’ve used Matisse and his cut outs so many times as a reference; I found a cut out I photographed at an exhibition at the Boston Museum of Art, one I had never seen before then, and realized the top image reminded me of a devil mask, so that’s what I decided to do, in the spirit of Halloween. I used Mexican masks as an additional reference.
And a poem also in the spirit of Matisse:
The mask is mute—it does not tell what lies beneath– layers falling backward, a way from the present– unglued, it rearranges, becomes paper becomes scissors cutting through the air– thought stilled before form
“Matisse turned to scissors and coloured paper for expediency to produce his celebrate cut-outs, which surely derive their energy from that directness. In thinking about my approach to this prompt, I wanted to identify an equivalency for Matisse’s scissors – a ubiquitous tool – and the speediness of producing shapes, for then combining in different ways. So it was I began my image-making with Powerpoint – oh yes, the infamous ‘presentation-maker’, notorious as software for producing will-sapping slides to be shown in under-ventilated rooms. One of the application’s off-the-peg tools is ‘Insert Shapes’ – which allows you to draw simple shapes with a quick drag of your mouse, and then colour and outline them as you see fit. I used Power Point to produce collections of basic shapes – circles, rectangles and squares – and then brought those ‘cut-outs’ into Photoshop, where I set about layering them one on top of the other with as much immediacy as I could muster.”
“This felt very much like a meditative practice, in which I lost myself in the process of creating such squidgy shapes with an abundance of colour. I wanted to reflect Matisse’s practice and keep things fluid, as he did in his old age. I felt very much like a kid again, by keeping things as practical as possible and avoided any overly cerebral thoughts, so a lot of these designs took on a life of their own, and I thoroughly enjoyed letting them be.”
“Working with a palette knife is refreshing, as it encourages blocking-out of form avoiding details early on in the process. Obviously quite abstracted, this is based upon a partial still-life within the studio, yet the colours were not local to the objects. Once dry I couldn’t resist a bit more control using a brush. Matisse and colour are joyous things to live with.” Oil on canvas board 25 x 25cm.
“I enjoy Matisse’s cut-outs because it’s the type of work that just makes you want to get some colour paper and scissors and get all arty and creative without any inhibitions. Unfortunately, when you use a computer it’s easy to forget all of that, and often I get lost somewhere in the fog of the minutiae of digital art and CG. To be honest, for a while I approached this in completely the wrong way, but in the end I just went with what I can only describe as the CG equivalent of some pieces of colour paper and scissors.“
“I love cut-outs. Mine rarely stay in 2 dimensions. I resisted hanging them and lay them on the background. I still want to hang them and see them moving. Time caught up with my wishing to make a little film of them spinning in space. Later maybe…”
“This was great fun! The wonderful fluid shapes of Matisse are just timeless. They fit in with today’s world as easily as when he created them way back in the 40s. I thought I would use October’s vegetable harvest for my design and chopped a red pepper and cabbage in half and made a sketch of them. Then I looked for some interesting’ Matisse like’ shapes. That actually was the easy bit! The more difficult task for me was arranging my cut out shapes and finding a colour scheme. After many alterations I was happy with my layout of some trees .I then decided to do a second picture and hey presto my shapes had turned into a vase of flowers with the help of a recycled painting that I always knew would come in handy.“
Another quartet of Rutenberg-inspired abstract photographs, inspired by the Kick-About No.32. Once again, the images are the result of first fabricating and painting some cardboard maquettes, which were then used as ‘Lego bricks’ to produce the sorts of three-dimensional terrains suggested by Rutenberg’s panoramic painting, Low Dense.
From the previous Kick-About’s deep and velvety shadows, courtesy of animator of silhouettes, Lotte Reiniger, to this Cinemascopic vista of glowing, saturated colours by the painter, Brian Rutenberg, and all the new work Low Dense has inspired in the same short space of fourteen days. Enjoy the view.
“When I was an ambassador for University one hot summer, similar to the melting heat in the UK at the moment, I was tasked with taking down the graduate shows of the students that proudly presented their creative work to their family, friends and fellow students. I spent a few weeks dismantling the makeshift wooden stages, pulling out nails and painting over the brightly coloured stripes and symbols that students designed to present their work in theme with their creations.
One task I had to do was take large canvases students had painted on, and throw them into the skip near the smokers’ shed (where I spent many lunch breaks laughing and smoking my lungs out with my friends and classmates). It always saddened me to know some students would rather dump their work, no matter how large the canvas, so instead of giving them the heave-ho into the trash, I told my thrifty friends about the canvases, who happily decided to take them back to their uni homes and upcycle them to their hearts’ content, painting and drawing on them however they pleased.
I kept the largest canvas for myself. Dripping in sweat, carrying this beast down the iconic Rochester hill, I ended up sandwiching it into my tiny uni bedroom, but I never did anything with the canvas for years, which has since followed me along with two house moves. I have had ideas; I cut out all the silhouettes I kept from life drawing classes, and thought about doing a collage of all of them together on the large canvas, but never did, but I always knew I would do something with it when the time was right.
I have always loved Rutenberg’s kaleidoscope of colours, with the blocks of different variants of hues having such an immense power of depth to them. I thought it would be the perfect chance to finally let loose upon this canvas, and use the many tubes of paint I have stashed from many Christmas gifts that otherwise have been left to gather dust. I couldn’t think of any better way to spend a hot day – sitting outside in the heat with a cold beer or two, and painting away in the garden. It was a therapeutic experience to say the least. I think I may have to figure out how to make my own canvases”.
“Colour: I’ve had this beautiful little pot of rouge for years and would guess it dates back to the 1930s. It’s such a vivid pink and lifts my spirits in the same way the fabric (a recent buy, reminding me of the 70s) does… a perfect zingy combination! The “rainbow” appeared on the wall of my studio: a tiny oblong of jewelled colour in an otherwise white space.“
“Kick-About colour: I have been toying with a method for applying colour to my electronic scribbles with mezzotint filters in Photoshop. I applied it to a section of a refrigerator totem image I am continuing to work on and it seems to have worked, but you have to zoom in to see the colour which works in a kind of pointillist way without the effort. In other news, I have been short-listed for the Kilgour prize at Newcastle (in New South Wales) Art Gallery with my Isadora Duncan Kick-About painting (red jumpsuit / yellow car). It is a competition that actual artists enter so I feel quite chuffed. It’s now framed and will be couriered down to New South Wales on Friday for judging and exhibiting with the other finalists.*“
This weekend, I happened to go to an exhibition at Bristol’s Botanic garden. It was showing work from a residency by Artist in residence, Alex Hirtzel, in association with biologist, Dr. David Lawson. It was called Displays Decoded – The Multi-sensory language of flowers. In part of that exhibition, the artist had explored how, scientifically, the bee or other insects see colour. For us it appears that they see the ultra violet, and radiation of heat attracts them, as bees particularly cannot feast on the flower until it emits over 30 degrees. So there are lots of them around at the moment. Making hay while the sun shines! Thinking of Brian Rutenberg, I found myself watching a bee entering the Antirrhinums on my balcony and wondered what they would be seeing or feeling within that flower that they seemed to have to force their way in. I have tried to capture some of that possibility without UV! It looks a little Georgia O’Keefe to me now. Getting into sensations and how to describe them needs a lot more exploration.“
“This painting makes me think of shanty towns, rift valleys, and the coming of night. I was interested in the way Rutenberg combines angular blocks of colour with broad sweeps of undefined colours that merge and separate. I played about with some paints and pens, but my thoughts kept turning to how I might create a similar effect with yarn. I decided to have a go. It is still a work in progress, butt here is what I have done so far. In my head, it is called ‘The Last Ray'”.
“I had not heard of Brian Rutenberg and the first impression was ‘Wow! Very powerful!’ So I spent quite a bit of time ‘deconstructing’ his technique. The apparent abstract nature is, of course, in reality highly stylised landscapes. If you put aside the idiosyncratic drawing style they are quite simple compositions. The cleverness for me is the use of colour; he has substituted primary or secondary colours for tone on most of the pieces, enhancing the abstract qualities. The texture and randomness is the product of palette knife work – that said, given the size of the canvases, it was more likely a large trowel!
I must admit, as a figurative painter, once I’d analysed the HOW, for me, much of the work lost some of its WOW. It’s the kind of work I have come across in large corporate boardrooms (not that I have been in that many), designed to impress or intimidate.For my pieces I took the technique I had unpicked and tried a few landscapes of my own, with very mixed results. It is one thing to understand a process but quite another to create in that genre. A lot of my work is marine in subject, so for the first piece I took an image of reflections on water and upped the colour values and worked largely with a palette knife. I think you can still just about make out it is meant to be liquid. For the other piece, I chose a lake surrounded by trees and threw away the tonal values, replacing them with primary colour. I failed to match the stylisation of Rutenberg, but I think they are just about going in the right direction.”
“The colors immediately made me think of Monet, which made me think of the grids I did based on Monet’s work. This is a very intense way to look at art, and I learned a lot from it as I not only did some of Monet’s paintings, but an entire book of other artists for The Sketchbook Project. The subtleties of color are amazing when you look closely at them. Rutenberg clearly has an eye for color. You can see my work with Monet here and here, and my Sketchbook Project book, Art I Like, here.”
everywhere falls apart mind to eyes expanding
falls apart becomes its opposite expanding into stories
becomes its opposite days into nights into stories the sun intersecting the moon
days into nights future and past the sun intersecting the moon enlarging the horizon
future and past the surprise of delight enlarging the horizon to leave is to arrive
the surprise of delight mind to eyes to leave is to arrive everywhere
“I really love Brian Rutenberg’s painting, with its wonderful explosive colours. My own attempt at an abstract was inspired by my recent (surprise) gliding experience, and the view of the fabulous patchwork of fields below me. I firstly made a rough sketch of my ideas and then took some prewashed pieces of crinkled cotton and stuck them onto A2 paper. After this I proceeded to add acrylics with a very large brush and just primary colours. All the while I tried to remember how it felt to skim 2000 feet up over the air currents. I then used a fine brush to add details of contours and rivers in contrast colours. The thing that I found most difficult was knowing when to stop! I mean, it’s not that easy on an ordinary illustration, but an abstract seems to have its own momentum. Well, I finally came in to land – so to speak. However, the painting as a whole doesn’t seem quite right. My other half says it needs a focal point and I fear he’s right. Ah well, here are the best bits.”
“This is glorious, what a great painting and a new discovery for me, thank you, Phill Hosking, an inspiration, and also a new addition to my list of abstract artists I use for my painting classes – particularly the abstract and colour courses, but also brilliant as an example for composition and depth. So this is one of my abstract paintings that deals with space, macrocosm and microcosm, more than rooted in the landscape, as I feel Brian Rutenberg’s are.” Ink on watercolour paper, 76×56 cm.
“When I looked into Brian Rutenberg’s work, I was struck by the lush sensual paintwork, the bold abstraction, and the immersive scale. I was also intrigued by his limited range of subject matter, and how he explored a few subjects repeatedly, always managing to find new emotional responses. I’ve honed in on a particular landscape that I’m fascinated by; the shingle spit of Dungeness. I’ve made a few semi-abstracted images of the scrubby vegetation that colonises the shingle with Dungeness B nuclear power station looming up behind. I never tire of this place and I could explore the strange, wild landscape over and over. These images are made using the monoprint technique, with two monoprints digitally overlaid and edited to make the final image.”
“After the first big hit of colour, the next most immediate thing I got from Rutenberg’s painting was its three-dimensionality, that strong sense of folded planes and faceting, as if we’re stood on the floor of some Technicoloured canyon, staring off into the distance, or more precariously, standing with one foot on either side of a rainbowed crevasse, and looking down between our feet at the prismatic chasm below. This was a vista I could feel with my fingers and I found the desire to build some Low Dense-inspired ‘chunks’ irresistible. Fabricated quickly by folding cardboard and taping it into shape, and reaching once again for some tried-and-tested PVA goop, I whipped up some ‘Ruten-Bergs’ and then painted them up in a manner meant to emulate some of the characteristics of the painting. That done, I then pushed my Ruten-Bergs together in different configurations and photographed them in various different ways, under various different lights, until I was achieving some suitably painterly effects.”
“Looking at the painting, I imagined that I was staring through the viewfinder of an inter-planetary rover on the surface of some dusty and rocky multi-coloured planet. With this planetary vision in mind, I explored the idea of creating computer generated ecosystems. Through multiple iterations and experimentation, it started to develop into models and images that seemed less about surface and into something more microscopic. Perhaps these could even be particles of paint magnified to impossible levels.”
“Rutenberg has me questioning how abstraction evolves from the memory of landscape. So I set up the challenge of memory of still life inspired by his enjoyment and use of colour. Yet I could not break free from the fruit form so, more work ahead on that problem. How jealous I am of his mixing 500ml of richly colour-saturated oil to then apply it with his palm across the canvas!” 25x25cm oil on prepared paper.
“This piece started life as a digital painting, in the style of Rutenberg’s paintings. The more I’ve gotten into his work over the last few years, and as I’ve listened to him speak about his work and process, I’ve absorbed a lot of his wisdom and theory. Painting in Photoshop, from some recent photos I took on holiday in Somerset, I realised that without all the elements of thick oil paint, walnut oil, textured canvas and the monumental scale, this just wasn’t going to cut it. The sense of depth and light depicted in Brian’s work always astounds me, so I took the idea of his interplay of horizontals and verticals into ZBrush. I used the original digital painting to create the colour on the 3D. I made a rough approximation of the artist himself, just as a homage to a bit of a hero of mine, then created a tangle of intersecting forms. I encased this in a glass box to contain this in a 3D space, something the artist conveys so well on his canvases. A departure from my comfort zone on this one, another lesson learned from Rutenberg himself.”
What I love about the Kick-About is the way in which the different prompts send us all haring off in such unexpected directions and producing work we can’t predict. I suspect our newest prompt, courtesy of Tom Beg, will prove no exception: behold Werner Herzog’s celebrated dancing chicken from his 1977 film, Stroszek…
Surely it was curiosity that drove Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, the subject of our last Kick-About, to construct a submersible so he could paint what he found beneath the waves. Ole Worm, Danish physician, natural historian and collector, gathered the eclectic subjects of his curiosity into a remarkable museum, a wunderkammer, which is this week’s jumping-off point…
“What a mouthwatering prompt this week, such cabinets have always fascinated me. I think many of us curate our own little wunderkammers in our homes; on windowsills, mantelpieces and coffee tables; little collections of things we found on walks that sparked our interest and wanted to keep.The prompt brought up memories of early childhood for me, growing up in a rather dull South Yorkshire town where the local museum felt like a magical portal to a different world. It was a mysterious and beautiful world, but also a bit scary at times, because it brought me into contact with things that were strange and didn’t fit. I felt quite at home!I’ve written a little story about it, with a boy who lived in a dreary town, a boy who lit up every time he went to the local museum…”
“My whole flat feels like a Wormianum. so these are little glimpses! My take on this was to echo the idea of travel/ collation/collecting, as well as including my practice in the form of notebooks, some being records and thoughts from the trip and some being journeys of the imagination via reading the accounts and experiences of others. Unlike the seventeenth century, when so much of the earth was whited out as Terra Incognita, there is little left that has not had a human footstep, so that what were once strange and extraordinary objects, being revealed to an incredulous audience, are now widely accessible and available online. (On the other hand, the deep seas are akin to outer space, still relatively unexplored/wish it could remain so/and mind bogglingly full of bizarre and beautifully alien life forms). I suppose, in the end, it comes down to objects being touchstones/gateways back to the time and place or people that passed them on, so more of a personal diary than showcase. The National Geographics are a legacy from my father, who travelled far and wide through the images and articles, in a way he was unable to do in his life.”
“I can see how Mr Worm turned his house into a museum – my house is much the same! I have many collections of items acquired over the years. Starting from when I was a library assistant, I always loved books and anything historical. When I ran a Charity Shop I collected all manner of bric-a-brac, vintage clothes, jewellery etc. One of my hobbies before lockdown was to share my 1950s memorabilia and give reminiscence talks at local care homes. This was very rewarding, and I believe Mr Worm would have felt the same pleasure in showing off his treasures. Welcome to ‘Marionium’.”
“I am by no means a photographer, but I am someone who collects dead, strange and curious objects. In my own little “museum” that I’ve formed here, I have skulls, bones, vintage photographs, fossils, and the occasional human tooth. The idea of one day having an entire room dedicated to the curiosities I spend time collecting, much like the Museum Wormianum, is a thrilling prospect. What fascinating pieces will I have acquired in that time? In this image, there is a beloved pet, an ice age bone, creatures picked up from roadsides and woodlands, photos of people long gone, and so on. This collection, to me, is a commentary on death not being an ending, but rather an opportunity for something new.“
“When I went up to my attic to retrieve a heavy wooden box – not opened in years – from beneath a collection of other heavy boxes, I rummaged inside it for a parceled-up collection of ephemera from my past I knew I’d squirreled away for one reason or another. When I found the small paper parcel, tipping out its contents for closer inspection, I quickly found I couldn’t remember the import, value or significance of many of the objects I’d otherwise deigned important enough to save for posterity. Incertae sedis is Latin for ‘of uncertain placement’, and is used taxonomically to classify things that otherwise do not fit existing schemas or cannot be categorised straightforwardly or curated into bodies of knowledge more accurately. I present the contents of my own mini-museum, with some artefacts contextualised where possible, but most speaking to the fallibility of memory and the destiny of most of our sentimental keepsakes to fall into meaninglessness, and if not for ourselves, then inevitably for others.”
“The museum topic instantly took me to repatriation of plundered pieces, but then I had to confront my love of museums and galleries where the stimulus from vast quantities of fabulous pieces nicked from all over is so heady it makes me swoon! I went through some pics of objects from the British Museum, and, I think, the Museum of Natural History in New York (and one stray marble angel from Bath) and threw them together. When I gouached them together it felt good to me – rather dark, but I haven’t had that creative groove from the act of image making for some years.”
“I was initially going to use many of the collectable bric a brac scattered around my dads house and superimpose those on makeshift shelves using roof timber slats that are littered with spiders, but I decided to go against that as I wanted to not mimic Ole Worm’s Museum Wormianum but to go on an adventure and create a story around the origins of all the collectibles and relics that Worm has in his possession. I imagined Old Ole as an adventurer, wearing tan colours and a careworn hat bleached from sweat from adventuring to mysterious places where the sun scorches and the animals and plant life are of the carnivorous sort. Old Ole has fought mutant monsters deep within the caverns of caves, sailed high seas, and fought his way through tortuous chambers. Old Ole has earned his stripes and his relics. Since Old Ole’s book of treasure dates back to 1655, I wanted to use a medium that is also ancient, but has stood the test of time, so I turned to collage. I used many of the bric-a-brac that is dust ridden around my Dad’s house to kitbash and collage them together, as well as pages from the Museum Wormianum to create the ocean – as well as some hieroglyphics scattered about. I have become a bit obsessed with house plants, so some of my plants are in there too – a fatsia, Monstera and Schefflera.”
“Grief and cardboard…Not sure if this is appropriate for this week’s Kick-About, but in my head, it fits with the idea of a cabinet of curiosities. A collection of artefacts concerned with investigation and understanding… “
“I have long been fascinated by the strange things people collect and keep. These cabinets of curiosities are often associated with the Victorians; part educational, part souvenir, and frequently macabre, they suited the Victorian Brits’ devotion to exploration, discovery, and gothic, otherworldly tales. (It also helped to have big houses in which to display them, and plenty of maid servants to keep them dusted!) However, Victorians were not the first to exhibit this fascination with all that is strange and weird; alchemists and apothecaries were renowned throughout the centuries for the collections they kept in their shops: stuffed animals, dried plants and “Things” in jars, all of which purported to possess strange properties of healing or death. From this line of thought it was no great step to find myself reading about shrunken heads. (Did you know, the skill lies in removing the skull by slitting the back of the neck and parting flesh from bone, and then wrapping the skin around a wooden ball so it maintained its shape as it shrank? No, neither did I!). So I decided to make a ‘shrunken head’, and as I was working on it, I found myself thinking about the Victorian gothic tradition, and of Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectations – and it suggested a poem. So there you are – from shrunken heads to shrunken hearts in a single step.”
“For various reasons, including a recent dream, the turtle shells jumped right out at me, so that’s what I focused on. Given time, there is much more to mine from even one glimpse of Ole Worm’s collection, of course!”