Lately, there has been an outbreak of portals here at Red’s Kingdom – the sudden appearance of doorways to other realms. The same was true back in the Summer of 2016, when I was witness to some equally extraordinary sights manifesting in the forlorn empty rooms of an old sprawling house somewhere in the Medway Towns. This is but one of the many photographs taken during that long sleepless night, where wide-eyed and watchful amongst the cobwebs, peeling paint and prodigious heaps of pigeon shit, I conjured impossibilities out of the dark.
No golden hour this evening, only grey light, soft rain and some boisterous breezes. Still, the fresh-looking wheat field at the top of Hart Hill was wonderfully alive with the wind, ears of wheat darting every which way like tiny panicked fish.
Another glorious Summer’s evening, another impressionist monocrop! This time we parked up beside an undulating field of flax, with closed-up flower heads like small pale pearls. The sun was already lowering when we arrived, the shadow of a large tree lengthening across the field, sunlight escaping through gaps in its canopy to here and there feather the flax with gold. Disappointingly, I was too preoccupied with my camera to hear the lark, which my husband says was singing high above us, ascending.
Back in late April, we took a walk into the local woods to see the bluebells and green frills of young Spring foliage, but I was very much more drawn to the sullen pond sitting in shadow below the eaves of the trees. The soupiness of this small body of water shouldn’t have been in any inspiring, and yet it seemed to slow and melt and warp the world reflected in it. The few photographs I took of these reflections possessed qualities that excited me; here was the oiliness and the grubbied silk, and the near-metallic sheen produced by the grey bloom of the water.
The Orpheus portal prompt for the Kick-About #4 sent me hurrying back to the sluggish pond in one of those rare moments of knowing exactly how I wanted to respond. The notably dry Spring meant the pond was rather smaller than before – and the water even blacker and more viscous. The atmosphere was the same – mysterious, solemn, and silent. The lone figure who haunts the resulting images was just the thing to push the idea a little further. Friend or foe? Past or future? Living or dead? I don’t know. This scrying mirror is keeping its secrets.
Our previous kick-about together was a game on the theme of happy shades, which originated a showcase of reflective, nostalgic and mediative responses. Phil Cooper’s Orpheus-inspired prompt has led some of us at least down some shadowier, more mysterious paths, as we consider alternate worlds and the allure of leaving this one.
“The sea is often described as a mirror and the mirage (Fata Morgana) on the horizon is literally looking/entering into another space. These are caused by layers of successively warmer air (shown as horizontal lines) working like a series of eyeglass lenses. It is a world that does not exist but is utterly real to the viewer.” Pencil on Fabriano. 56 cm X 56 cm.
“A Saturday stroll in the blistering summer heat turned into search for other-worlds and distorted realities, which I found in the ripples and reflections of the Ooka River in Yokohama. My final stop on this little solo journey was a lovely park that sits on the edge of Yokohama harbour. I’ve always found the waves and colour of the ocean here completely fascinating. It’s like staring into a thick undulating soup, and it was here where not so long ago the ill-fated Diamond Princess was moored up, quarantined, and its unfortunate passengers cut off from the outside world. It was as if it too had gone through the mirror where things would never quite be the same again.”
“This response evolved from the idea of Opheus entering into an eternal dance of seduction with death. The folds start to talk about ideas around the eternal, where there is no beginning or end just what happens within the unfolding of the middle. Hence the title ‘…and…'”
“As long as there have been mirrors, humanity has wondered what they are really seeing in them – spirits, shades,(usually not so happy) or alternate universes. We gaze in the mirror – and we muse. And being human, we muse about how such mirror worlds might affect us personally.”
“I attempted to illustrate the moment where Orpheus entered the underworld to save his wife ‘Eurydice’. Orpheus stands readying himself for what’s to come as the the dark forces of the underworld surround Eurydice in the depths. This sparked all sorts of possible dark scenarios to illustrate, but I went for a poster-like iconic angle to enhance the drama and jeopardy for the hero of the piece.”
“Mirrors and reflections often feature in my work, but I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to approach the mirror as a portal. I first tried a collage but it seemed too busy. The folded Rorschach paintings I do are already mirrored, so I decided to try that approach.
As often happens, this was not the painting I had in mind when I began. Although the paint didn’t layer the way I envisioned, it took on its own life in the process and I followed along. This is the second painting I’ve done using handprints…perhaps the start of a series?”
circles drumming, spiraling,
held opposite by
here and there
to now—remaining whole yet
existing as both
ancient songs—myths returned as
what will always be
“I began by looking at an old children’s book called The Mirrorstone (Michael Palin, Alan Lee and Richard Seymour). In this story a boy walks through his bathroom mirror, and what I like about it are the illustrations, which include holograms. With this in mind I used some mirror card for my shapes and made shadows using some black organza material from my stash. The pink card is actually sparkly, but this was very hard to photograph and get the same effect. Lastly I drew around my hands and stuck some chiffon over them for a more ghostly look.”
“I knew exactly what I was going to create when I saw the new prompt… Twas the night before my birthday and I was sitting out in the tiny garden in my previous London apartment. I was drinking red wine and smoking a cigarette and frankly feeling rather shit – not sure if it was the birthday blues or if it was an amalgamation of other things, but my neighbours behind my house were having a party; they recently installed some outside lighting that surrounded their roomy garden in a blazing warm hue that lit up the brick of their apartment like a beacon in the night. In my garden there was a full length mirror perched against a rickety garden shed that was full of art supplies and spiders. The light from the neighbour’s garden was reflecting brilliantly against the mirror – it looked otherworldly placed against the black shed and darkness of my garden, as if the light didn’t belong in the darkness. I thought to myself, I wish that was a fucking portal so I could step through it, leave this place and see some happy faces. The neighbours next door continued to dance and sing into the night.”
“A few weeks back, I discovered a large stagnant pond in the woods, its water black, viscous and a little sinister. All this talk of magic mirrors and portals to the underworld saw me hurry back to this enshadowed pool, as haunted and obsidian as any scrying mirror…”
“This has been some challenge, having chosen the mirror’s reflection as focus throughout, with three quite different self-portraits beneath this final slightly worrying impression of entering a hot (not tropical) world. Too late for dodging the inevitable, I suspect.” Oil on board 20cm x 20cm.
“Mystic portals and doorways to other realms have often appeared in my work. I guess that’s why I chose the clip from Cocteau’s Orphée for the prompter’s this week; to me, they represent imagination, dreams, and promise.
I made the images by painting 2D elements on card, setting them up on a table-top with a painted background and then photographing them. It was all pretty low-fi; the lighting is a little torch, a candle and my iPhone, and I used a few basic photo-editing apps to add atmosphere and texture. I enjoy seeing how the painted shapes transform during the photographic process. It sometimes falls flat and occasionally something quite satisfying emerges. I’d like to continue to develop these ideas; add sound perhaps, or use video to introduce movement.”
“I have finally finished Orpheus. This is the second version. I must confess I am using these Kick Abouts as experimental ground, trying techniques and styles very different from my usual. Probably because I am working on a topic and with a story, I don’t usually do that in my paintings, I let images, feelings and random thoughts settle down in images and try to capture them. Only when I design for work I follow stories where there are characters and environments detached from me. For this one I used my usual abstract painting style and superimposed a baroque doorway from Puglia; an olive tree, aside from the Mediterranean feel it also represent longevity and, with the flowers, life renewal and Orpheus looking through his fingers at Eurydice who then has to turn back. I used Acrylics Inks on hot pressed watercolour paper. 30 X 40 cm.”
“The first thing I thought of was “mirror neurons” – which are special neurons found (so far) only in primates and birds that activate either when the animal does the behavior or they see another animal doing the same behavior (mirroring them). No one knows why we have them or truly what function they serve, although there is much speculation. It was fun to get out some of the science images I’ve saved over the years for this collage.”
“I did go back and do another interpretation of the theme in collage – inspired by the line ‘and in it, I see an unhappy man.’”
“Went a bit pencilly on this one, I wanted to capture Orpheus at the moment where he mourns the loss of Eurydice, the light of the surface world Illuminates him as the omnipresent darkness of grief and the underworld threaten to consume him.”
With thanks to fellow Kick-About artist, Kerfe Roig, I’m happy to announce the brand-new prompt for our fifth run-around together, Alice Kneel’s 1932 painting, Symbols. See below for the painting, and for our new submission date, and if you’re reading this and want to join our (very) loose collective of intrepid creatives in our continuing mission to make stuff we otherwise might not make, just get in touch at email@example.com
I know, I know. There’s been a whole world of grass-themed posts on here over the last few weeks. Blame the good weather. Blame the lock-down. Blame the Kent countryside. Blame Monet’s and his fetish for haystacks. In my defence, this particular grass was snapped all the way back in the late Summer of 2014 and eschews pastoral impressionism for something markedly more extraterrestrial.
Bringing about these images was a typically lo-fi affair: some lovely slow slide film, an old 35mm camera, a few garden lights with coloured gels held in place with elastic bands, and between ten and twenty minute exposures. The photographs were taken up in the meadow at the old French House, where once again I was making the very most out of the warm still nights and complete absence of light pollution.
Memorably, it was while taking these photographs that I encountered a very large Alsatian dog, that loped silently out of the darkness of the nearby wood to eyeball me with baleful intent. It was all a little bit too Red Riding Hood for comfort. To my credit, I stood my ground and instructed the Alsatian to fuck off – which it did. The short walk back to the house I managed on jellied legs. I wanted to take more photographs. These are okay. They’re beginning to do nice things, but strictly between you and me, I’d completely lost my nerve!
Lilium ‘Night Flyer’ in the late afternoon sun was an impressive sight – nearly black flowers revealing the deepest, richest reds and licks of orange flame. Lilium ‘Night Flyer’ in the early morning after the night’s rain, lit by the soft-box of the clouds, was something else again; black petals reflecting white, droplets of water like garnet beads, and anthers like moist chocolate orange eclairs.
Next to the flowering meadow of wild grasses in all their variance, there is a large field of young wheat, glaucous, uniform in habit and in height, but tipped with spindrift by the gentle play of the wind. Again, in place of an actual space, I could see only brush marks on a flat surface, and the immaculate shading of Gary Thorne’s colouring pencils.
Dangerous-looking and ridiculously dramatic, these ‘Night Flyer’ lilies were glowing in the garden this afternoon, their stamens like pokers left too long in the fire.
A further rush of gauzy photographs from that plushly upholstered meadow of flowering grasses.