This week, The Kick-About No.75 had Hieronymus Bosch’s deliciously abstruse painting, The Garden Of Earthly Delights, as its prompt, and I was prompted to produce a little maquette in homage to the strange pink architecture in Bosch’s landscape and likewise his swarms of small pink people.
Having made my little ball of Bosch, I got thinking about raves in woodlands and the likes of the Glastonbury music festival, and I was reminded of a bit of footage I once saw online of an alfresco raver dancing away in the dawning light – even though the music had long since stopped and everyone else was heading home. I thought about Bosch’s garden revellers and how, exhausted from their various exertions, and stoned on strawberry pips and pectin, they might commune nonetheless with the sunrise. By way of a response, I made this little film quickly and simply, with Tuinvolk being Dutch for ‘Garden Folk’
“I can’t help wondering what the people around Bosch thought of this painting; family, apprentices, neighbours etc. I suspect there must have been quite a few raised eyebrows, disapproving looks, perhaps one or two lascivious leers. But the painting has survived, and been treasured, for over 500 years. You wonder how it would be received if it had been painted today?
Although Bosch was in middle age and beyond when he painted his Garden of Earthly Delights, I tried to envisage a scene where Bosch’s mother was called in to have one of those chats at his school, when Bosch, as a young boy, first began to show signs of his artistry…”
“I decided to explore the architecture in the Garden…”
“When I was a student I made an animation based on The Garden of the Earthly Delights, which now, much to my embarrassment ,is posted on numerous places on the internet and still gets the odd random YouTube comment. Looking at it now, it’s clearly the work of someone still trying to understand the esoteric world of computer animation software with mistakes and oversights galore. I can only say that it is what is, but I used this prompt to go back and refine some of the things on one of the original models. Mostly it’s minor things, like adding ridges or holes where two objects originally penetrated through each other. Going back and fixing some of these has added an extra level believability to the model, and I have a bit motivation now to give the rest of the models the same 2023 treatment. Stay tuned!”
“I’ve always been intrigued by these paintings of such weirdness and complexity. They remind me of so many things and of the artists who have been influenced by them that, to find my own angle, and what intrigued me, took a while to arrive. So I returned to the earth and the recent work that biologists such as Merlin Sheldrake have been studying in the realms of the entangled lives of mycorrhizal fungi and mycelial networks. It has turned my head upside down to think about these organisms as being the predecessors of us as beings and how much we depend on them. My model making does not allow too much close inspection but I did enjoy creating creatures that sprang from the network webbing of the roots that surround us. They remained white having only recently come out of the earth! We are a flawed species and still evolving but at the beginning we may have been something totally mixed-up. We still enjoy dressing up as creatures whether from this planet or another. The fantasy of becoming Other is still with us.”
“I was very drawn to all those shell-pink structures and prawnish people in Bosch’s wonderfully strange and limpid painting, so set about building a miniature version of something so inspired. Sadly, I couldn’t get my hands on a more lewd assortment of little people, so this lot seem content to stand about as silent spectators. I rather think they’re missing out.”
“Having made my little bit of Bosch, I got thinking about raves in woodlands and the likes of the Glastonbury music festival, and I was reminded of a bit of footage I once saw online of an alfresco raver dancing away in the dawning light – even though the music had long since stopped and everyone else was heading home. I thought about Bosch’s garden revellers and how, exhausted from their various exertions, and stoned on strawberry pips and pectin, they might commune nonetheless with the sunrise. I made this little film quickly and simply, with ‘Tuinvolk’ being Dutch for ‘Garden Folk’.”
“I am in the process of a big DIY project at the moment, which is turning a shithole of a room in my shared house that is used for storage and discarded items into an artist’s studio where I can work on creative things such as the Kick-About. In the process, I happened to come across the box where I kept all my life drawings from uni; being the sentimental type I could never throw them away and I always wanted to create this project – so the kick about provides that drive yet again.
I decided to focus on the busyness of Bosch’s painting with emphasis on the figures and go against my usual likeness towards landscapes. Realising I didn’t need to photograph every sheet of life drawing I dusted off my old hard drive that contains photographs of those life drawings and re-photographed a few that were otherwise of an abysmal quality. I then popped them into Photoshop and cut out each figure from the sheet of paper and collaged them together accordingly. A very sentimental feeling seeing all my uni life drawings in one place together and a fulfilling experience.”
“There are two portraits in question of the illusive H. Bosch, both proposed as possible self-portraits, and it was this which triggered my thinking across a fortnight of bitterly cold mornings. Catching the first of the sun’s rays as they peaked over the fence, avoided the glass table-top from losing its filter characteristics yet, it demanded a somewhat contortionist approach to taking a selfie.”
“To me, The Garden of Earthly Delights is one of the most extraordinary paintings every made. I was looking round one of the big state museums here in Berlin last week that had a collection of art from around the same period. I came out feeling like I had gone slightly mad, the paintings and sculptures were so weird, so peculiar to my 21st century eyes that I couldn’t find a way into most of it at all. Having read up about The Garden of Earthly Delights, it seems nobody really knows what the painting is about either. Academics seem to disagree as to whether it is a celebration of erotic joy, of the Garden of Eden before the Fall, or rather an admonition of fleshly pleasures. Certainly, it is a work of the imagination, a world conjured from the internal life of its maker. So I’ve made a self-portrait image, a photo of me with my eyes closed, looking inward, overlayed with some drawings I made in one of the glasshouses at the Botanical Gardens in Berlin. Many of us yearn for ‘the garden’, whatever that means to each of us, a paradise free from the stresses and strains of the mundane world we live in. Bosch’s painting seems to express that feeling in many of the innocent playful figures that frolic about in the soft light and benign green landscape of its central panel. Sometimes we experience it for real, and sometimes it lives mainly behind our eyelids…“
“This is kind of a tall order to condense the woes of civilisation into just two weeks work! However I’m up for a challenge! Coincidentally, as I sat looking at the image of The Garden of Earthly Delights the radio played the beautiful song by Mark Knoffler “Are we in trouble now”. How very apt.”
“The Garden of Earthly Delights is so dense it was too much for me as a youngster and too strange. Even now I find there is an unpleasant cartoonish characteristic to much of it.
What to say in our AI-driven world? I began this challenge thinking about a visual language beyond zeros and ones perhaps so dense with information that it could be represented by strips of colours so my triptych backgrounds became stretched pixel samples from the original artwork. Then what to say? Something true to homosapiens, and what may come perhaps. I think existence is simple. Then I tried to add a visual representation of this simplicity.”
And with thanks to Brisbane-based artist and regular Kick-Abouter, James Randall, we have our new prompt. And you thought Bosch’s garden took some puzzling out! Have fun in this painter’s room…
As for New Year’s Eve 2022… weather-wise, it was a big wash-out, and the usual ad-hoc displays of fireworks on Whitstable beach noticeably fewer. No so back in 2019, which was a proper instance of Whizz Bang Ooh Aah.
A second bunch of photographs inspired by Ruth Asawa and produced in the run-up to The Kick-About No.74. This set were taken under different lighting conditions, producing these more sepia tones. They put me in mind of old architectural prints or zoological cross-sections.
Ruth Asawa’s sculptures – our prompt for The Kick-About No.74 – at once reminded me of the sorts of drawings produced by childhood Spirographs – not so much the organic shapes, but their transparency, layering, and particularly the densifying of line and mesh as the interior and exterior shapes combine.
Without recourse to an abundance of thread (or time), I wondered how I might produce some kind of equivalent impression – of volume, but also some of those wonderful floating overlaps of cross-hatching and shade.
Reaching for some acetate sheets, an old wooden ruler, and a permanent marker, I marked up a few of the sheets with lots of fine straight lines, then turned the sheets into funnels and cones with a square or two of Selotape holding them in place. Turns out, when you photograph these cones, something rather lovely transpires.
In common with our last Kick-About together, which was inspired by cephalopods (those buoyant, ballooning denizens of the deep), this latest showcase of new works made in a short time features a further array of responses to floating, globular forms – specifically to the work of Ruth Asawa. Happy browsing.
“I was reminded very much of the fluid melting magic of lava lamps and, in certain elements of Asawa’s creations, I envisioned eyes that reminded me very much of Hitchcock and Dali’s dream sequence in the film, Spellbound. My images were created from photographing melted wax accumulated on a wine bottle over a period of time, with a couple of videos of my own eyes overlaid on top to pay homage to that surreal dream sequence.”
“I like the contradiction in Ruth Asawa’s art in that her sculptures appear like they are born from geometry and mathematics but are actually delicately crafted hand-made pieces made one loop at a time. The black and white photography of her artwork really imbues the sculptures with a dreamy quality I also wanted to try and capture in these images of undulating circles.”
“Ruth Asawa’s sculptures at once reminded me of the sorts of drawings produced by childhood Spirographs – not so much the organic shapes, but their transparency, layering, and particularly the densifying of line and mesh as the interior and exterior shapes combine. Without recourse to an abundance of thread (or time), I wondered how I might produce some kind of equivalent impression – of volume, but also some of those wonderful floating overlaps of cross-hatching and shade. Reaching for some acetate sheets, an old wooden ruler, and a permanent marker, I marked up a few of the sheets with lots of fine straight lines, then turned the sheets into funnels and cones with a square or two of Selotape holding them in place. Turns out, when you photograph these cones, something rather lovely transpires.Who’d have thought it?”
“Encasing what, to me, look like eggs in the sculpture of Ruth Asawa, and combining that with the trauma of the internment camp during her childhood, led me to nests (security/home), this one being empty – the cage, rust and decay. Here’s a book: ‘When the Emperor was Divine’ by Julie Otsuka, which tells the story of an American/Japanese family interned during the war. Highly recommended.” Graphite on paper with felt tip on Perspex as top layer.
“I felt a sense of a kindred spirit in Ruth Asawa’s work. The translucence of the hanging sculptures and their derivation from naturally-occurring forms echo my own interests. How curious she was exploring this media many years before and with such versatility AND she had 6 children! She puts my productivity to shame!
I have included in the images a piece I had already started – Pod – and some experiments I have been meaning to do for a while. There is an enormous Cordyline palm that grows in my garden I brought from London nearly 30 years ago as a seeding, which I’d nurtured. It has flourished, so much so it strews plentiful dead swathes of its fronds everywhere. It occurred to me last year that, apart from burning them, I could make use of them, so bundles were made as a temporary fencing, but more kept falling. I started to collect them and strip them apart as they naturally disintegrate into thin strips. It was a bit like making daisy chains as a child, easing holes that became wider to be able to thread them and so on. Soaking them made them more malleable but still tough when I tried to crochet, as Ruth Asawa had done with the metal wire. That was very tricky and needed more time to soak and make them softer to handle… however tiny nests for tiny birds appeared anyway.”
“I went back to my tiny shibori fabric pieces and first did three circles trying to imitate her looped baskets. I think these were pretty successful. Then I attempted to layer circles in chain stitch to reproduce the effect of her hanging circles within circles. I think it might have worked better if I had used one strand of floss instead of two. But even if it doesn’t resemble Asawa’s layering that closely, it’s an interesting idea for future embroidery explorations.”
“When I saw the Ruth Asawa prompt I immediately thought of the lampshade in our bedroom, a bulb-shaped wire structure that looks a lot like some of her sculptures. I like Asawa’s work very much and I like our lampshade so this was an opportunity to make something for the Kick-About that drew inspiration from both.
I photographed the lampshade and then put the images through the Procreate and Snapseed editing Apps. The sculptural form of the lampshade got flattened, like a Ruth Asawa construction that had been under a steamroller and then I added colour to liven it up. I ended up with what, to me, look like designs for rugs or tapestries. The Kick-About often leaves me with the feeling that, if I could clone myself and have another three lifetimes, I’d like to be a rug-maker, potter, fabric designer, film-maker etc…”
“I love the simplicity of line and strength of presence of Ruth Asawa’s work and have often thought about how you could achieve something similar. Asawa often uses wire to create shapes that are both sustainable and supported. I have used wire circles to support the main shape, then used balloons and pva glue to ‘encourage’ the crochet to resist gravity. I don’t know how long my ‘sculpture’ will maintain its shape – and next time I will spend more time on the mathematics of the shape before starting, rather than working it out as I go along. But, for all that, I have learnt a lot from this exercise and will certainly try it again.”
“Thank you Charly for this wonderful prompt and your lovely cephalopod tale last KA. Lots of lovely works. Ruth Asawa’s gentle pieces often feel figurative to me. So I drew up some body shapes and investigated displacement mapping lines across the shapes without a great deal of success. So I turned to filling the shapes with lines that I ‘roughen’ filtered then mirrored these shapes. I layered a couple of photos to form a background then plonked a few test shapes onto the background – they looked insect-like so I kept building up shapes and played with the colours (and line angles to reference weaving) on the rich blue greeen background (which I kept changing). Finally I thought the colour mix needed a dash of yellow green in the background so I combined a few big shapes and filled them with diagonal lines before adding layers of dark graduations left and right to keep the people bugs a bit more contained.”
“Amazing that wire can weave such intricate organic forms and leave your 10 digits intact. Local resources return into play for KA#74; as Asawa suggests, play enough with one material and discoveries unfold. Struggles to sway a material to bend your way however, demanded an alternative for the side weave, and to the rescue old-fashioned macrame 3mm cotton-wool twist, adding a pleasing colour. Not a basket for much more than Italian Grissini, but, as a lover of all things Italian, that’s just fine by me.”
“I remembered I had made a lot of Irish crochet motifs over the years with wonderful designs from Irish patterns inspired by roses, shamrocks, ferns and leaves. I didn’t want to use PVA to stiffen them so I decided to weave some very fine wire around the edges so I could bend them into some unusual shapes. This proved a rather tricky business, but when I photographed them hanging in the sunlight they appeared like a small delicate chandelier.”
And to mark the occasion of our 75th prompt, I’m inviting you to one hell of a party…
Today’s Throwback Friday is a short one, only as far back as a matter of weeks. For The Kick-About No.73, inspired by cephalopods, I made a short film, prompted by an octopus’s ability to change the colour of its skin. A bit of research later, and I had a new word in my vocabulary – chromatophores – which are muscle-controlled pigment cells.
As a starter-for-ten, I went about producing some chromatophores of my own on a white bathroom tile and some Sharpie pens, and after that, I went about producing a great many photographs of this self-same square tile under a shifting pattern of reflected light. Ultimately, these photographs were compiled as moving image, and from there, I went about producing the final visuals for the film itself. Not so much low-budget then, as no budget, but that’s the pleasure of the Kick-About and the opportunity to make things happen ‘by the seat of one’s pants’.
Our last Kick-About was prompted by a work of art celebrated for its complex commentary on the act of looking. The subject of this week’s showcase of new works made in a short time is no less enigmatic – the otherworldly cephalopod. Enjoy this latest dive into the deep waters of creative play…
“I have to say that cephalopods are not really my favourite thing. They are rather too wriggly and slippery for my liking and have too many tentacles and suckers to grab their unsuspecting prey! However, I do admit they are super-amazing in their ability to survive this world for so long by camouflage and cleverness. I especially like the information I read about the octopus that sneaked out of its tank, climbed over to another fish tank, ate the fish inside and then sneaked back again! I used some yuppo paper, which I marbled to create my octopus collage, with some added acrylic paint.”
“So fascinating, I’ve learned so much about the Octopus; its brainy capabilities, balletic physicality; capacity to mimic and play, and dodge harm coming its way. I’m now full of ‘respect’ for this amazingly exotic creature. Perhaps it’s the playful nature which inspired this simple colourful child-like 8-propellor whirligig.”
“I wasn’t sure what to do after a drawing failed to excite me, but I found some pieces of African fabrics that I decided to make into a stuffed animal. I made no pattern but just started cutting and stitching in the manner of my collages except with fabric and thread instead of paper and glue. My cuttlefish is totally not anatomically correct, but has the general form and spirit of a sea creature with tentacles that can change the color and pattern of its skin. I photographed it on a few different backgrounds, and also did one photo of the bottom. I wanted to do some more embroidery on it but ran out of time…”
“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.”
“I had seen a ghostly pickled giant squid (and other cephalopods) at the Queensland Museum recently, so I headed back there with my camera on a 35 degree day. The museum opened at 9.30 and even then it was full of people (definitely a free public museum in need of expansion.) In the darkish venue I took my blurry pics of the decaying white carcasses. Back home I used Photoshop and Illustrator to come up wth an image. I also began reading Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith: I didn’t get far, but I noted how far back on the evolutionary tree that cephalopods branched away from humans and how their minds developed independently to ours. At that time I also listened to a podcast about AI art – How will AI change our understanding of Art? – my takeaway from that was to ask why we would engage computers to create art when that is something we simply enjoy doing (at the fundamental level of painting and writing) and can use to honestly question existence. We don’t properly question science; we just pursue all of its branches in pursuit of the mighty dollar or genuine, but sometimes flawed curiosity. I think occasionally you need to ask why and say no. I don’t think we will ask ourselves if AI should be pursued, so that generated thoughts on evolution and what hope the future holds if our next iteration is formed from minds that pursue power and profit above all else… So with that I added a couple of words to my image.”
“I love cephalopods, my favourite creatures. So beautiful and so intelligent. So much so, that an octopus is one of the main characters in a story I wrote years ago for a little animation film. Still working on it! It might never become a film but it has become the inspiration for a lot of my paintings. So here is my friend coming to the surface to greet, help and guide the lost girl of the story.”
“These are taken from a set of posts I made a while ago, during a time of drawing practice exploring a new subject every month. These are in various mediums, including coloured pencils, markers, inks and digital. A good subject for loose and expressive mark-making.”
“There was a few failed attempts at different iterations for this weeks kick about, one of which was a lot less colourful and leaning a lot towards the the horror side. I decided to salvage one of the 3D models from that attempt and use the gooey textures from a previous kick about onto the 3D models of Octopuses. Things started to take place when I laid the 3D models onto of each other – as if the octopuses are in some sort of a dance together, possibly one of the lethal kind.”
“I’ve used this technique a lot in past Kick-Abouts for generating all sorts of things in a loose but still recognisable form. It feels like sketching in 3D and it’s always satisfying to see what kind of forms emerge in a natural way, and given the chameleonic nature of cephalopods. I thought I would dust it off for perhaps one last spin. Its tentacle-like quality seemed a perfect fit for creating some abstract and otherworldly octopus-like creatures… although, apparently, an octopus technically doesn’t have tentacles!”
“There’s a longer bit of preamble for another time in which I reveal how the images in this short film were made, but, in typical Kick-About style, no actual cephalopods were employed in the making of it. Instead, this whole thing began with a white bathroom tile, a fish bowl and a single flashing light source, lo-fi, low-budget japes ensuing! Inspired directly by this footage of a sleeping octopus, I went about imagining both the interior and exterior expression of a dreaming cephalopod, further inspired by the finale to Spielberg’s wonderful Close Encounters of The Third Kind.”
“I wanted to do a simple drawing for a change and approach it from a slightly sideways direction. The suckers reminded me of the ‘cupping’ the early doctors/quaks were so fond of by applying leeches for almost any ailment…also of the marks left by giant squid down in the infinite deep whilst battling with sperm whales.”
“This is a strange, calm underwater world where octopuses, and maybe a giant squid or two, roam … above, the world is in turmoil. The merman/maid has yet to be discovered.”
“A few years ago, my brother Jon went on a trip to the Falklands and South Georgia. He is an avid photographer and bird watcher and came back with trillions of holiday snaps. Amongst these was a series of extraordinary photographs of an encounter he witnessed on the shores of South Georgia, an encounter between a seagull and an octopus. As soon as I saw these photos, I was convinced there was a story to be told. When the KA prompt came up as ‘Cephalopod’, the phrase ‘The Seagull and the Cephalopod’ immediately came to mind and the rhythm and alliteration was stuck in my head until I’d written the poem. The photos actually show a black-backed gull, Jon informs me, but I ignored that and used the term “seagull” or “common gull”… easier for scansion and more potential for humour. People who know about these things say it is very unlikely for an octopus to be so close to the shore in this area unless it is on the point of death, but I didn’t want to think about this octopus in that way. In other words, don’t look to my work for scientific accuracy, or indeed, any kind of accuracy at all, but the one particular photo that inspired this poem is absolutely genuine and I am very grateful to Jon for allowing me to share it with you.“
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter and conjuror of crochet, Charly Skilling, we have our all-new prompt, courtesy of Ruth Asawa. Enjoy yourselves!