The Kick-About #78 ‘156.536’

Welcome to this anniversary edition of The Kick-About – a fortnightly creative challenge in which a loose community of artists make new works in a short time in response to a specific prompt. Gathered here, and in no particular order, are selections from one year’s worth of online exhibitions, with works inspired by a richly eclectic range of starting points, so everything from drum solos to volcanic eruptions. To everyone who participates, regularly or otherwise, a great big thank you for all your time and energy. I enjoy your company and relish your creativity and very much hope we continue to meet in the park over the coming weeks and months with our jumpers on the grass for goalposts. Happy anniversary to you all!

Francesca Maxwell – The Kick-About No.56

“I find percussions and drums quite fascinating. When I was heavily pregnant with Sophie, we went to a Kodo Drummers gig. I didn’t realise it would be quite so loud and powerful, I could feel the sound waves going through me like through air, I could barely breathe. I was quite worried about Sophie, but she started kicking madly as soon as the sound stopped, which I took as a sign of appreciation. So here I am, back on the heart, and the heart beat responding to the drumming.” Acrylic Inks on watercolour paper, 25×17 cm.

Graeme Daly – The Kick-About No.64

“As always it’s hard to pick a favourite from the past year as the kick about has taken me in places I never imagined. I decided to go with the sound suits Kick-About, purely for the automatic response of chucking a load of sequins into a wok and waving a few LED lights about and not knowing if the output would translate to what I had in mind. I remember feeling so enthralled with the process but contemplating if I had captured anything worthwhile at all; but upon importing the footage to my laptop, the videos I thought were duds turned out to capture the same primal element I got from the soundsuits.  The edit was an absolute dream and all in all one of my favourite Kick-Abouts thus far.”

@graemedalyart / / / /

Phill Hosking – The Kick-About No.67

“On seeing El Anatsui’s incredible sculptures I felt exceptionally inspired to make. There’s something about his process of turning discarded relics of human mass consumption into objects of such beauty that resonated with me. Over recent years I’ve collected bucket loads of plastic from various beaches in Kent, never really knowing what to do with them, suddenly when I laid a bucket full out on the work bench, I started pulling them together and adding some order, which is what I got from Anatsui’s work, order brought to valueless trash. As the wired-together plastic was only about a foot across, I cut out and painted a wooden frame, as if the silhouette was intentional.” / /

Gary Thorne – The Kick-About No.74

“Reflecting back, Kick-About No.74 provides good example of the ‘pleasurable’ creative struggle when handling materials which resist, go against a personal inclination, instead ask for respect to limitations. You just cannot bend something your way, instead its happen-chance and an unpredictability which often rewards you. Which is the joy of KA – in joining up with like minded KA-ers in pursuit of surprises.”

Judy Watson – The Kick-About No.57

“There’s much to explore in response to Peake’s work, and I don’t think I can do it on one hit, so let us see where it takes me. But to begin with, it has taken me back to two mediums I loved in earlier years but have neglected more recently. Obviously this is all about the line. But it’s also about embracing a medium that can’t or won’t be fully controlled. I worked pretty small with these and just enjoyed making lots of small doodles. Perhaps some more finished work will come later.” / /

Tom Beg – The Kick-About No.53

“I was instantly drawn to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s line drawings that he produced much earlier in his career, and felt perhaps there was a way to capture the immediacy, simplicity and instinctiveness of those sketches with the modern digital tools I typically use. Channelling the spirit of an earlier Kick-About, Herzog’s Dancing Chicken, which also evoked manic movement and energy, I just applied the same techniques but attempted to reduce it down even more. I think there is an entire series to be made of these at some point!” / /

Kerfe Roig – The Kick-About No.54

‘Whirligigs was a challenge for me in that it called for a three-dimensional response.  I had the idea right away to do something with birds.  But it took a while for me to come up with the rings within rings to incorporate motion.  I wanted to hang all the birds, but couldn’t figure out how to do it.  But I like the way the outer mandala turned out, with all the birds moving at once contrasted with the birds in the center on their strings.  I can’t tell you the steps I took to get there – I just keep going until I get something that works. /

James Randall – The Kick-About No.65

“Sometimes you push and push for the birth of an  idea and sometimes they tumble out of the dark recesses. Tumbling out were my Halloween themed Long Vehicle images responding to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris – home to Jim Morrison etc. I had taken consecutive photos passing a long load truck on a road trip and combined them with other photos into a gothic narrative within five deconstructed letterform frames. Whoosh!”

Phil Cooper – The Kick-About No.66

“I’ve enjoyed the Kick-About posts so much over the last year and I’m gobsmacked every time by all the amazing work people create in just two weeks. One of the many things I love about this forthnightly challenge is how it gets me doing all kinds of things I never usually do in my creative practice. The prompts themselves, and the timescale which stops me overthinking, push me into trying new things and not worrying so much about whether what I’m making is ‘good’. I’ve found it so rewarding and the experience has opened up new ways of working for me.

For this ‘best-of’ edition, I’ve chosen the mask I made last autumn in response to Turner’s Vesuvius painting. If it hadn’t been for the Kick-About, I can’t imagine I would ever make a demon mask out of a paper bag and get my husband to photograph me wearing it whilst wandering around an industrial estate at night. It was great fun and I’m looking forward to trying all kinds of other weird and wonderful things for the Kick-About prompts to come.” / /

Lisa Fox – The Kick-About No.73

“How this piece came about is when I became part of a postcard exchange mail group and was making my first group of cards to mail out. I looked to a book I have called Art Deco: Design Fantasies by E.H. Raskin and took illustration #7 as my starting point for inspiration. From there, it took on a life of its own. As I put it together, I imagined two spiny sea creatures, cephalopods, if you will, reaching out for each other. Of course my mind operates in metaphors and I see them as two people who ordinarily do not do well with others but still need the comfort of human companionship, reaching out to each other. The companionship is represented by the little pink in the center.”

Jordan Buckner – The Kick-About No.57

“It’s hard to resist that textural ink approach Peake was famous for. I recognised some of Peake’s work but didn’t have a great knowledge on who he was, or what his work amounted to. It’s wonderful to see that even in his more observational work, that gothic storytelling still feels present.”

Charly Skilling – The Kick-About No.64

“I have had great fun with many of the Kick-Abouts this year, but the Nick Cave prompt was undoubtedly one to remember.  It was certainly the only Kick-About to leave me literally breathless with laughter!”

Claire-Beth Gibson – The Kick-About No.65

“I suddenly remembered my idea this morning – and the fact I had not actually made it – so I rustled this up whilst still in my dressing gown. Cemeteries gross me out and my experiences have been grotesque and disorientating. I’ve lost two loved ones to the cold empty box of the same French grave. The absurdity of putting bodies into boxes into little stone houses. A conveyor belt of bodies. Trapped in boxes. In stone houses. The voice says: Dans une boîte / Perimé / Tous ensemble / Détaché : In a box / Expired / All together / Detached.”

@claire_beth_claire / /

Marion Raper – The Kick-About No.67

I very much admire the work of El Anatsui and his amazing way of using recycled items such as bottle tops and turning them into fabulous artworks and metallic cloth sculptures.   I was trying to think of a way that I could emulate such wizardry and came up with the idea of weaving some of my stash of old ties. I used some black crinkly wool for the weft threads, which I stretched over an old picture mount to make a loom. Next, I cut the most colourful ties into long strips and threaded them in and out as the weft threads. I must say I was rather surprised at how a few vividly coloured gents’ ties (from the last few decades) could transpire to resemble a wonderful African fabric, but weirdly they do!

Colin Bean – The Kick-About No.53

“I was about eight (late fifties) when, on a Saturday afternoon, the treat was a trip to the circus that had arrived in town. It was traditional in every way, clowns, band, ringmaster, plumed horses  and glamorous riders, acrobats, contortionist, flying trapeze, performing chimps, lions and tamers, tigers and camels.  My great Uncle Arthur was a forward agent for circuses, and I believe he supplied some free tickets. By that time, he had taken over a zoo and kept chimps and a lion called Sultan, amongst others animals. The zoo, and an accompanying Archery Stall, was in Ramsgate on the far end of the sea front, and at the time, part of the complex of amusements known as ‘Merrie England’ (later ‘Pleasurama’).  I doubt if it was that merrie or pleasurable for the animals. Welfare and safety concerns were soon to radically change the idea of circus and zoos. For me, this Kick-About is about nostalgia, and the memory of Merrie England, the circus and zoo, and great Uncle Arthur…”

Jan Blake – The Kick-About No.56

“The one I have chosen is KA 56  For drummers only. This piece was truly compelling and i think it continued into paint in the following KA when I travelled around Cornwall. The anticipation of allowing myself to travel further for the first time during Covid unleashed my imagination. I need to take more journeys!”

Phil Gomm – The Kick-About No.53

“My choice dates all the way back to the short story I wrote in response to a particular painting by Toulouse-Lautrec featuring a clown performing alongside a little black pig. As revenge narratives go, it’s as black-as-pitch and I suppose there’s a part of me that glimmers away quite darkly beneath my otherwise mild-mannered and restrained exterior. I recall a snippet of an interview with the late director, Wes Craven, talking about Hitchcock, saying how Hitchcock presented as an avuncular, rather urbane character, but how there was something feral at work beneath it all, and I’ve always liked and identified with that description. Certainly, it just felt liberating to be in the company of this story’s motley crew of showbiz misfits, and to allow things to run their course – however despicable.”

Vanessa Clegg – The Kick-About No.77

“This was a perfect prompt for me as I’ve long been a fan of Eliot’s work, so pulled out my battered and very old copy of his poetry to refresh my mind as well as do a little online research. The effect of WW1 struck me as the dominant first layer followed by references to sexuality, love and its unpredictable consequences; so with the help of an extremely scratched record, my dansette record player, iPad and a lot of soil and cardboard I cobbled together what I hoped would be (as near as possible) some kind of atmosphere of war and its encroachment on everyday life, as well as the post-war period of the 20s/30s when The Waste Land was published… it was a great way to spend Easter!”

And just like that, the wheel turns and we’re into another cycle of serendipity and playfulness, and we’re kicking things off with the sumptuous large-scale installations of Sheila Hicks. ‘Happy New Year’!

Ash Crowd #1 (2022)

A few points of reference going on in these images produced for The Kick-About No.66, as inspired by Turner’s 1817 painting, Mount Vesuvius In Eruption: of course, those ash-encased bodies of Pompeii’s unlucky inhabitants, entombed where they embraced by the volcano’s pyroclastic flow, but also memories of watching the news in the aftermath of 9/11, people walking through the city streets, bewildered, made ghostly by their lamina of ash.

I sourced some of those little people architects deploy to bring their scale models to life, coated them with a few blasts of hairspray, then rolled them in wood ash from the stove. I was particularly taken by the figures’ humdrum poses and, in some strange way, find the resulting photographs comforting. It’s as if those poor Pompeiians got up off the floor one day and resumed their lives, chatting, flirting, popping down the shops…

The Kick-About #66 ‘Vesuvius’

In contrast to the sombre and sepulchral offerings of our previous Kick-About together, this week’s collection of new works made in a short time is a more explosive affair. Inspired by Turner’s painterly apocalypse, enjoy the flash and sizzle of our own creative outpourings. Boom!

Francesca Maxwell

My take of an explosion of some kind, more of an emotional kind, I think, so I wanted to feel surrounded by and immersed in it.  Not the beautiful and dramatic rendition of Turner’s Vesuvious one – close enough to make us feel the power of it but from some safe distance. Nor the fireworks we seem to get these days, more noise than light! I used to love watching the fireworks over the sea for Genova’s Saint Patron’s day as a child. It was a glorious spectacle of lights, colours and patterns, mirrored on the water surface – and far enough not to be too noisy. I suppose now we need to be more environmentally conscious with these things as well. Hope you all had a fun weekend!

Marion Raper

“It came to mind I had previously done a painting entitled “Volcano”, albeit about 55 years ago!  This was when I was at senior school and the reason it has stuck in my mind… is because I never actually finished it! I had painted people trying to escape, and running away in panic from a volcano, but the thing was the bell rang for end of lesson before I had time to put in their faces!  It was therefore quite a surprise for me to see, about a week later, my unfinished masterpiece hanging on the wall outside the headmistress study! It was even more of a shock when the headmistress herself happened to be walking by, as I stood with my mouth open saying to some friends “Blimey! That’s my picture up there!” She gave me a very stoney stare (which others who went to this same school may vividly remember) and said “Did you mean for all the people to be faceless?” I was always taught that honesty is the best policy so I said, in a very feeble voice, “Well actually Miss I didn’t get to finish it” Wrong answer. Next day my painting had disappeared from the wall.”

Charly Skilling

“When looking at images of volcanoes, I am always struck by the contrast between the life and heat and light and movement of the explosions and the lava flow and the  cold, dark, stillness of the ash and landscape left behind.  I have tried to capture some of this contrast with a freeform crochet, approximately 25″ x 38″. I used  a yarn with sequins for the lava itself, the sequins reflected light giving life and movement  Other yarns, with a fine silver fleck running through them, helped bring a suggestion of light and movement to the more distant volcanic cloud and  the night sky.  The landscape surrounding the volcano is made up of greys, charcoal and blacks, with streaks of fire giving the terrain some definition. Finally, an old tree, lit by moonlight on one side and firelight on the other, stands poised at the moment the first flames begin to lick – on the cusp of flaring into destruction.”

Vanessa Clegg

“1983: I close my eyes. Hearing the crunch of hardened lava… a calcified sea leading into the forest… ascending into the thinning air, straining the lungs, weakening the legs, pumping the heart… progress slowing. Six hours later: emerging into mist, temperature dropping, giant pointed succulents scattered over rubble, light failing, crawling to the crater’s lip, peering into the depths… a stomach flip from the power and scale… molten lava hidden by cloud smoke. Three metal huts… most without floors… just below the peak. Eating out of tins, curling like squirrels into a deep damp sleep… the bass notes of the mountain penetrating our dreams.”

Mt Meru, Tanzania, stratovolcano (last eruption 1910) Walk: 2001. Pen and ink on paper

Nyragongo, Congo, live stratovolcano last eruption prior to walk in1977) Walk: 1983. Pen and ink on paper

Jan Blake

“For many years I had this desire to go up a volcano on horse-back. The fact I had never been on a horse before was not going to deter me. My dear friend Penny, who died a few months ago in Mexico, was Don Quixote to my Sancho Panza. Jesus and his little son, Simon appropriately led us up the volcano. There was no-one else for 8 hours. So the prompt this time for me was not the blazing furnace of a volcano erupting, but the life-changing experience of climbing this steaming, breathing volcano. It had grown to eruption in 10 years in 1952, enveloping the pueblo and ending abruptly at the altar of the church. From the top you can see across the whole of Mexico and the fault line runs steeply down to South America. When we arrived back to Guadalajara I made this first painting. It was as if the volcano had entered my entire body, so visceral were the feelings. We hardly spoke for hours. Here is that drawing and a detail of the core. I selected out a photo of the volcano landscape itself, so still, silent  and empty on the downward slope, a complete opposite of the Turner eruption and magnitude of its flaring torment. The earth talks to us very clearly. I hope the politicians are listening.  Maybe they should take them up to the top of a breathing earth next time – rather than a mega-rich paradise!”

James Randall

“Way back in 2008 we walked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand – eight hours, 19kms – along the way reaching the top of the still active red crater. A fabulous walk full of fascinating natural wonders- a yellow lake, emerald lakes, areas of snow, waterfalls, steam rising from rocks and amazing colours. When we got home I spotted a photo I had taken of a ridge line which was part of the track and there was a row of tiny people one after the other on it. Who knows how many people walk the track every day, but it would be enormous. I wouldn’t want not to have undertaken this marvel trek, but the impact on nature must be devastating. So my image is of the pleading volcano – I suppose a comment on over population. Also time for a gouache painting I thought. And I was inspired by several of the last Art challenge submissions that took a simpler approach – not that I achieved simplicity here, but I really liked what they achieved!”

Phil Cooper

“Turner’s painting of Vesuvius is so sublime, so epic. I can’t compete with that, so I’ve gone to the other end of the scale – a bit of a damp squib compared to Turner’s fiery mountain. I photographed a fire demon who has lost his mojo. He should be running around causing mischief, but he’s over it and doesn’t quite know what to do with himself; what does a demon do if he’s not wreaking havoc? His demon friends think he’s a loser and ordinary folk run away screaming. He doesn’t fit in anywhere these days. He did go off and get a prospectus from the community college last week, so that’s a start…” / /

Phil Gomm

“A few points of reference going on here: of course, those ash-encased bodies of Pompeii’s unlucky inhabitants, entombed where they embraced by the volcano’s pyroclastic flow, but also memories of watching the news in the aftermath of 9/11, people walking through the city streets, bewildered, made ghostly by their lamina of ash. I sourced some of those little people architects deploy to bring their scale models to life, coated them with a few blasts of hairspray, then rolled them in wood ash from the stove. I was particularly taken by the humdrum poses of the figures and, in some strange way, find the resulting photographs comforting. It’s as if those poor Pompeiians got up off the floor one day and resumed their lives, chatting, flirting, popping down the shops…”

Graeme Daly

“I was awestruck by the colours of Turner’s painting, especially the light and darkness, and contemplated how the land after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius would have been nothing but dark ash and charred to a crisp, the poisoned, suffocating smoke billowing into the air, the wispy remains of trees, and how the lava cemented the landscape. I decided to comb through the surplus of landscape photography I have of rural Ireland, and gave a whirl to producing apocalyptic, darker hues. Here are some mixed media images created by digitally painting over my photography of those images of rural Ireland.” / / @graemedalyart / / / /

Kerfe Roig

Vesuvius has always seemed cosmic to me, so I consulted my stash of cosmic reference photos in order to construct some collage.  The third one didn’t work as I originally created it, so I cut it into two—much better.  And when, after doing the collages, I did a little research and discovered that Venus is the patroness of Pompeii, I thought:  perfect!  I’ve also put together five volcanic haiku to make a cadralor.  According to Wikipedia, “The root of the word Pompeii would appear to be the Oscan word for the number five, pompe”.  Venus is also associated with the pentagram, another five.

in search of Venus

what season is this?
dark, enigmatic, grown wild–
spilling from our eyes

the madness of fire–
consummation and release,
sweeping life away

inside opens out
disintegrates unbound–
what was not, now is

random lines break down–
the page explodes, caught trembling–
from nothing, vast light

the locus that gyres–
gravities of orbiting
become somewhere else /

Gary Thorne

KA coincided with a nice surprise of an abundance of flowers arriving to the house. Try-outs to capture the explosive nature of this group proved difficult, until the rain chucked it down beneath a heavily overcast sky. I simply rotated the vase 90 degrees, trying to capture subtle differences. I find it is with zoomed-in examination that things appear really sensual. Zoom-away to freely discover your own hidden treasures. ”

And for our 67th run-about together, feast your eyes on the extraordinary sculpture-come-wall-hangings of the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, who uses recycled materials to produce huge, sumptuous installations: “Anatsui refers to himself as both a painter and a sculptor. He essentially ‘paints’ and builds up colour and pattern with the bottle-caps – with his works have been compared to traditional Ghanaian kente cloth, Western mosaics, tapestries and paintings by Gustav Klimt…”