The Kick-About #45 ‘Splendor Solis’

From the effortless, airborne whirligigs of our last Kick-About together to another transmutation of matter into something elemental and illuminating! For this week’s creative challenge, we’ve been in the business of summoning the sunshine, and, at risk of seeming self-serving, I want to give special thanks to Gary Thorne for his contribution, which has something nice to say about all these continuing acts of creativity of ours, and the light they bring.

Vanessa Clegg

“I was thinking what could be the most ‘alchemical’ transformation imagined? What on Earth happens in those tiny parcels called the chrysalis? From the juicy tube of a caterpillar, wrapped tight and left to transform, an entirely new creature is made: the butterfly, drying and pumping its wings in the sun, a symbol of summer. The image is upside down, as I wanted the cases to look like ‘sort of’ vessels, with the butterfly levitating and held by one antenna; the dark and the light existing together.”

Charly Skilling

“I have tried to capture the colours and shapes of the Sun, as depicted through centuries of astrological and alchemical treatises and depictions. It was much aided by photographing in the bright clear sunshine of an unexpectedly lovely January day.”

Tom Beg

“Of all the imagery in Splendor Solis, what amused me the most was the theatricality of three-headed dragons, peacocks and a menagerie of other bizarre things magically appearing in bottles by the presumed mixing of various materials and more than a bit of a hocus pocus. I decided to conjure up some of my own alchemic creations and create something a bit fantastical.” / /

Phil Cooper

“I was making a collage earlier this week, painting textured papers to make the raw material and then snipping and glueing into place for the final image. When I’m working with collage, the papers and leftover cuttings get strewn about the floor and quickly build up to form drifts of scraps around my feet. While I was making, from time to time, I’d muse on the beautiful Splendor Solis prompt, and what I might make for this week’s Kick-About. 

I started to focus on the transmutation of alchemy, and so turned to the flotsam and jetsam surrounding my desk as I was messing about with collage. It’s a medium I enjoy working with for many reasons, mainly for the surprising juxtapositions that can emerge as I put one piece of paper next to another; effects that would never have happened if I’d tried to direct painting. When it works, it’s transformative, the separate elements of the collage become more than the sum of parts and something new is created. 

So this piece is using up some of those paper scraps that have been generated by my work earlier in the week. Using the alchemy of collage, I’m reflecting on the rather everyday, mundane alchemy that we’re all doing all the time; how our thoughts, words and actions ripple out into the world, influencing and changing things, sometimes dramatically, sometimes subtly.” / /

James Randall

“My pic was born a couple of days before the KA announcement but I thought it fitted in – colour if not theme. It’s about how we are just ‘other’ animals – not nearly as clever as we’d like to believe. It is also to do with male sexuality (cue an old book “Sex On the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women”). I added a couple of quick sketches fully in response to the KA.”

Marion Raper

“It’s been a hard 2 weeks at the office! I have tried various methods to obtain my Eureka moment – one of which included getting up at 5.30am to capture the sun rise ( which when it happened I seemed to miss!). Eventually I decided to use a sacred geometry and alchemy symbol and copied the design using black threads on a painted background. However, being a ‘perfectionist Virgo’ I was not content with the result, so I then spent some time adding various bits of crochet , threads and material scraps from my ‘magpie stash.'”

Kerfe Roig

“Thanks for the introduction to this wonderful book!  I could have gone on and on time permitting, and will keep it in mind for future expLorations. Out of the 22 images of the Splendor Solis, I chose to work with Plate 2, The Alchemist: “Seek the Nature of the Four Elements”.  First I did a collage based on the painting alone, then, after reading a bit about its symbolism, I made my own, looser interpretation.  I was especially drawn to the Alchemist’s connection to the natural world, in particular flowers and birds, and his alternate identity as the Deity of Celestial Light.”

The Alchemist

Below my feet the path waits
for the earth to open me–
the layers of brown and green
remember the moon, its circles
orbiting continuously
through both dark and light.

The chill of morning warms
to birdsong. The seasons
endure.  In spring the autumn
seems far away, but life is
always preparing to die
and start all over again.

What is the secret of transformation?–
ancestors embedded in every root,
in every branch rich with leaves
that will blaze in a sudden last glory–
nourishing what follows
with what has come before.

We know so little, after all,
of the workings of nature,
of its consciousness.  Does it
even have yesterdays or tomorrows?
Does it acknowledge return, or is all
but a single endless moment in time?

We mirror our own inner maps
as stars–the dust of elements
contained in our bones–
merely vessels, seeking
the essence of who we are
inside the question itself. /

Phil Gomm

“So, how to conjure an astronomical phenomena into being in a short space of time, when access to fusion reactors, rocket-ships or celestial wormholes is otherwise unavailable? There’s a part of me that wants to keep the whole process behind these photographs as mysterious and unknowable as their subject; another part of me can’t wait to tell you I quite literally put a source of light into a glass vessel and then gave it a bloody good shake… light and time producing an alchemy all of its own.”

Gary Thorne

“When in the period of the Post-Covid, people’s minds were waking from the long sleep of darkness, Phil Gomm, one of the well known Adepts of Inspiration, went forth (with his followers) in further search of that secret knowledge, the possession of which leads to Alchemical Adeptship for the Truely Motivated. Let those, lost in times of darkness, reflect on the reputed works of the KA Adepts, to ignite their own transformation.”

And for our next foray, ladies and gentlemen, a few expansive words on the theme of home and habitations from the likes of Gaston Bachelard…

After Calder #1 (2021)

I love Alexander Calder’s work, so in response to the prompt for the Kick-About #44, I 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. I settled on the idea of producing imagery using virtual components only, so first building some Calder-inspired shapes in Photoshop and then combining them to produce these ‘snapshots’ of their imaginary interactions.

The Kick-About #38 ‘White Alga On Orange & Red’

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.

Phil Cooper

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.” / /

Vanessa Clegg

“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…”

Judy Watson

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.” / /

James Randall

“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.”

Charly Skilling

“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.

Kerfe Roig

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 /

Phil Gomm

“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.”

Graeme Daly

“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.”

@graemedalyart / / / /

Gary Thorne

“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.

Tom Beg

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. / /

Jan Blake

“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…”

Marion Raper

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.

Chris Rutter & Evelyn Bennett

 “Here is ‘Moss Man'”. /

… and for your next hit of fortnightly inspiration, something literary with a seasonal touch of spook about it…