Our last Kick-About together was illuminated by Marie Menken’s experimental film, Lights. Made in 1966, the glow coming off Menken’s film is as much powered by a certain nostalgia for a particular time and place, as it is by electricity. Our attachment to artifacts of the past, and commitment to keeping and collecting moments-in-time, however fleeting, is explored in this week’s showcase of new work created by an eclectic community of creatives in the short space of two weeks. Enjoy.
“In 1959, my Mother took an emotional transatlantic flight from Vancouver to visit her folks in Bournemouth, whom she had not seen since 1951. On return, she brought home ‘memorable somethings’ for each of us four boys. At age seven I was thrilled with owning Sooty, hence today he is the most cherished of my possessions. My little 62 year old muse posed as part of ‘paintings of a morning’ achieved across the 31 days of August 2020, which mostly referenced local produce. This past week, this unassuming 20 x 20cm oil on board portrait was on exhibit in Whitstable’s The View Gallery, alongside 40 of my paintings.”
“Hmmm… Just one word, eh? “Souvenir”. First thought was of those plastic lighthouses from the Isle of Wight filled with bands of different coloured sand; or a “Kiss Me Quick” hat from Blackpool. (Don’t know why. I’ve never owned either of them.) Second thought was the original meaning of the word, “to occur to the mind”. And the third thought was… my little red tartan box! Never having been the sort of person to let one word stand where a few hundred words might happily swarm, I hope the following words and images impart to you something of what my little red box means to me.”
“This is via a friend who has a friend, who bought the watch back from China (obviously a while ago), so not my own souvenir but one I couldn’t resist! The star goes around, and I think the arm must wave on the hour… brilliant. ‘Keeping Time’, graphite and watercolour on paper.
“We recently had a wonderful day visiting the Queensland Art Gallery, which was showing a selection of master works from the Met. Great show. Halfway through it they offered a number of activities to clear away the visual overload, including a costumed life drawing station. I took the weight off my feet and did a quick sketch – my souvenir from the show. Since then I’ve been layering the sketch over some brightly recoloured charcoal layers. A bit of fun for me to do.”
“Here is my souvenir. A shell picked up on some holiday, turned into an etching a long time ago when I was studying under my maestro, now turned into a memento of another time, another place, another life…” Drypoint 15 x 12 cm.
“The prompt of souvenir seemed perfect: my daughter had given me a small sketchbook, and every day I sat on my beach chair with my feet in the waves doing a drawing, and then writing a haiku to accompany it. The sketchbook would be my souvenir.
On the last day the ocean was quite rough, due to Hurricane Henri passing by, so I sat far up on the sand, where only a small piece of a dying wave occasionally brushed my toes. Holding my sketchbook up to let the watercolor pencil drawing dry I was suddenly totally upended by a rogue wave that covered me completely. I stood up, soaked, clutching my pencils in one hand, but watching my sketchbook being pulled under and out to sea. I will replay that image in my mind for a long time, maybe forever. When I got home, I channeled my emotional turmoil into neocolors, drawing from memory the ocean that was now fixed in my mind. The sketchbook drawings were so much more beautiful though. At least that’s how I’ll always remember them.”
I could not look at it from be fore or aft er, only the angle of gone, dissolved, empty, vanishing–
not just the material thing that had been dispossessed, but what it represented– a piece of myself,
never to be recovered–and here I am left watching, clinging to impermanence like water and wind
“I mentioned before I am a bit if a hoarder, and therefore this prompt was rather a godsend to me. I have had some fabulous holidays but one of the most exciting was a trip to Arizona – the highlight being a trip to Tombstone. It was a fascinating place, and kept in it’s original state with a saloon bar, horse drawn carriages, and, of course, the OK Corral. It is said that ‘Death never took a holiday in Tombstone’ My souvenirs include copies of some old posters and a booklet listing the graves in Boothill Graveyard. The headstones include descriptions of how some residents met their demise, such as ‘Hanged by mistake,’ ‘Wagon rang over his head’ and ‘Discussion over fastest way to draw’. Life was tough in those days! Another treasured poster is an original photo of Geronimo and friends in the battlefield in 1886. The scenery of Arizona is breathtaking and I have attempted to paint the Chiracahua National Monument where Geronimo and his Apache band once found refuge.”
“I’ve got a number of scars on my forty-six year old body; the ubiquitous BCG crater on my arm, a hernia scar from when I was a tiny baby, a ‘hole’ between my eyebrows where I picked a chicken pox spot, and more recently acquired, a scattering of other facial scars following a particularly nasty attack of shingles back in the winter of 2015. You might call these dents and puckerings my ‘souvenirs’ of the wear-and-tear of just being alive.
One of my favourite scenes in Jaws (1975), is the sweet, funny moment when grizzled shark-hunter Quint compares war wounds with the more academic oceanographer and shark expert, Matt Hooper. The two men trade stories about the various different ways various different things have taken lumps out of their respective flesh, leaving them with anecdotes written into the surfaces of their bodies. Meanwhile, Chief Brody looks on, deciding against sharing his own battle scar, because, we suspect, his ‘souvenir ‘ is unlikely to impress. I know how Brody feels. With this in mind, I’ve imagined myself as being as colorful a character as Quint, and with just as many stories to tell about terrifying encounters and near-death experiences, and all of them leaving their mark on my body. These imaginary encounters derive from the spectacular dangers of my adolescent life, or rather from my formative confrontations with a host of larger-than-life fictional perils found in paperbacks and on VHS cassette tapes…”
“I don’t know about anyone else but I have felt a shift in the air with things starting to feel more autumnal. I may have been watching too many horror and slasher films, but for this prompt, my head went straight to the macabre…”
“Near to my place here in Japan is a lonely, tucked away and somewhat overgrown Buddhist temple. There are thousands of these all over the country and they are always filled with interesting statues, iconography, mementos and architecture that give us a glimpse and a reminder into the history of places and people. I braved the 32 degree sunshine and mosquitoes so that I could capture the moment of that place and perhaps in the future, look back and be reminded of hot and humid August afternoons somewhere far away from home.”
“Apart from my huge collection of pods I have brought back, or been given, from all over the world my inspiration for this Kick-About came from a specific experience that continually informs my work. I’ve spoken of it before in a previous KA. It’s that time of year again for the storms to transform the coastal dunes around the island of Isle D’Oleron. It will always mark that change for me between Summer and Autumn. So I am taken back to the dunes, and those battered fences that are twisted and turned by the raging sea.”
“I love the prompt for the Kick About this week. Ever since I can remember I’ve been excited by Christmas lights and decorations, things that only have one purpose and that’s to be lovely to look at. As a kid I yearned for Christmas as it was a time of the year when the beige colour palette of 70’s life was momentarily broken and you didn’t need any excuse to cover things in glitter and garishly-coloured baubles. Marie Menken’s film makes me quite wistful for those childhood Christmases. It’s summer and still sweltering here in Berlin, though, and Christmas trees feel a very long way off. So, for my response, I’ve filmed some Alder trees which overhang one of our favourite bathing lakes in the Grunewald forest to the south east of the city. In the late afternoon the sunlight is reflected off the rippling surface of the lake onto the undersides of the Alder leaves and the effect is like being in a giant green disco ball. It’s rather lovely, relaxing and cheering at the same time.”
“The theme of lights made me think of city lights and as I was enraptured with the Olympics I managed to find a wonderful photograph of the city of Tokyo. It’s so dazzling and vibrant I feel that you would need to wear sunglasses permanantly if you lived or worked there. I just love the contrast of the vivid reds and neon oranges against the blue of the skyscraper buildings. You can just imagine the crowds of onlookers gazing up in awe and wonderment. Not so sure what they would think of my Japanese lettering however!”
“There is something so emancipating about Menken’s experimental short film, Lights; it expresses a sort of child-like wonder in the way in which the camera transforms what it sees – municipal Christmas decorations into streaking discs of glowing colour and traffic into living electrified scribbles. You get a sense of Menken playing and exploring, embracing the ‘failure’ of the technology at her disposal to cope with light, time and motion, producing vibrant smears and patterns from otherwise rather ubiquitous components.
With this playfulness very much in mind, I tried something quick and dirty: painting a sheet of glass with black acrylic, before scratching parts of the painted surface away in the form of lines of irregular dots and dashes. Very simply, the painted sheet of glass was then positioned in front of windows, bright environments and television screens, and the surface of the glass photographed. Sometimes, during one exposure, I would push the focus from pin-prick sharp to diffuse, which had the satisfying effect of ‘spherizing’ the scratched patterns on the surface of the glass, producing the illusion of strings of lights or illuminated bubbles. I don’t mind admitting some of the resulting images had me laughing out loud with pleasure, so closely did they recall the aesthetic of mid-century avant-garde animations and the like. It gave me a secret squizz of pleasure too – the trick of it, the very fact of me not, in fact, photographing strings of fairy-lights or pastel-coloured Christmas baubles, or those long balloons out of which you might fashion a poodle: no, just a sheet of glass, painted black, with marks scratched into it using the end of a matchstick and a zester swiped from the kitchen drawer.
After that, there was no stopping me, and for days afterwards, I was lying on different floors around my house trying a bunch of different things with this same sheet of hurriedly painted glass. There have been moments over this last fortnight when I have been completely at peace creatively, just trying stuff out and worrying not at all about the other things a man of my age and responsibilities should probably be thinking about.”
“I wanted the capture the potential that experimental filmmakers like Marie Menken saw in the mediums of their era, and just make something that moved and tickled the senses, without being overly narrative driven or thematic. I’ve always been inspired by the directness of film, and the lack of control, so when using modern software, I try to look for ways of losing control to get the kind of happy accidents that occur when you use analogue formats.
The lights and camera effects in this animation were all generated semi-randomly so seeing the final visuals in this animation made me feel in the same way that Menken and her peers probably felt when they got their processed film back, and marveled at the bizarre and wonderful things they had captured. In the spirit of that, I named the animation after her.”
“This prompt was perfect for an idea I’ve wanted to try for awhile. I did a layered collage with a drawing and a map with circles cut out on top awhile ago, but I wanted to try it with two layers of pattern, and the lights were a good inspiration. It took me a while to figure out how to do the watercolor to get the effect I wanted, but finally I got two paintings I thought would work well as layers. I cut circles out of one of them, and made different arrangements of all 3 components–ground, cut circle painting, and the circles themselves. I’ve photographed both the original elements and some different layerings. I was pleased with the way it managed to evoke the flashing and moving lights of the film.”
“I See The Lights: I’ve been taking a lot of iPhone shots of light through windows landing on walls – through palm trees outside and through screens so I used those as a basis for this KA. Layered them in different colours then added some charcoal scribbles and a few shapes from previous Illustrator files. Not exactly cheery again – maybe therapy!”
Chris Rutter & Evelyn Bennett
“Evelyn is being ‘Guided by the Lights’ in her painting. I am noodling on ‘Always on your Mind’ by Elvis (today I bought a motorbike, which is the same as Elvis used in ‘Roustabout’). Evelyn was wearing a cowboy hat, as she was feeling Mexican. Alf Rutter did the filming. Loved the last Kick-About…”
“I did not know the work of Marie Menken so as often with the Kick- About, I have to do some research and to enter an unknown realm. It led me to wander round with my camera to my garden. It sent me back to childhood and watching the sparkle of sun through trees and fences near the cherry tree that supported my swing. I have tried to recreate this feeling by moving the camera in that lulling motion.’
“After watching Marie Menken’s ‘Lights’, I found myself walking around muttering ‘lights, lights, lights, lights’ over and over in a sort of chant. As I did, I became very aware of the number of lights, large and small, significant and insignificant, that fill our modern lives. This poem is my attempt to express that awareness.”
“These long exposure photographs were taken a while ago, situated in one of the turrets in our home and framed by its long theatrical curtains. One day I would like to try and make an animation out of these techniques and mimic Menken’s inspirational film more.”
The Kick-About No. 29 was inspired by Murakami’s description of the all-seeing moon, and this, our latest creative shindig together, has been prompted by an image of the human eye no less planetary…
“In eyeing things up, this KA drew my attention to the bees snuggling into, and reversing out of the foxgloves so, being nosey I had a peak, and discovered a tunnel of pure exotic joy with bright saturated light (optic disc) at the end of the tunnel. Taking a closer look meant later on recalling sensations, avoiding loyalty to the order of nature’s design, to arrive at – maybe the same for the bee (how presumptuous) – memory of that which came to me as a rush.” Oil on prepared paper 25cm x 25cm.
“Dear Charly Skilling – thank you for your beautiful moon submission – enormous hugs to you and your beloved. Unfortunately I didn’t read it until after bouncing out of the kick-about gates – it would have changed my direction by 180 degrees.
The fundus spiralled me through cyclops thoughts – not wanting to approach the glaucoma too closely. I added some Royal Academy on-line life drawing, a Tasmanian beach and sky, some sea birds from Byron Bay then decided it was to be all about emotion rather than narrative and substituted the cyclops for the falling upside-down life model to get to my pic. During this process I gazed longingly at our washing machine as I removed another load and noticed the similarity between the fundus image and the inside of the machine and took a series of photos with my head and camera wedged there – the obvious ones made sense thematically but I only really like the attached blurry detail.“
“I guess the first thing to establish is no actual eyes were harmed in the making of these images! I should say too, no actual eyes were photographed either. In common with these recent images, I looked to various commonplace things at my disposal and once again channelled my inner low-budget film-maker. I won’t reveal my secrets just yet, but suffice to say there is now a shortage of red food colouring and olive oil in our kitchen. I don’t think I will ever tire of the ‘in-camera’ transformations produced by light, specularity and depth-of-field, the magic that sometimes happens between the subject and the lens. I was inspired by images of cataracts and ‘damage’ to the eye (and I think, more gruesomely, by A Clockwork Orange too). This set of resulting images is but a small sample, as I did a bunch of different things over three different days. From these very biological-seeming images, things became more painterly and strange, so I’ll be sharing some more ‘fundus photography’ in the coming days. I’ve certainly been having some fun.’
“For these images I essentially constructed a mass of veins and vessels and trawled through dozens of randomly generated variations looking for the perfect image akin to how a photographer searches for the image of a perfect snowflake amongst hundreds of failures. I somehow managed to generate the aesthetic that I had in my mind after the first attempt, but beyond that lucky first hit I spent a considerable amount of time just staring at blurry orange images, only occasionally getting a glimpse of the things that had initially made me so excited. In a somewhat scientific manner, and after many experiments and further failures, I was able to come up with the formula and methodology that yielded more productive results. Thus was I finally able to reveal the secrets of ‘the eye‘.”
“I thought I would do a collage pattern of eye shapes, and began by sketching the outlines. As I did this a fantastic SF story came into my mind entitled ‘Dark They Were, and Golden Wyed’ written by Ray Bradbury. So I ended up with “Martian Eyes” which was fun to do. The background is a wax/wash and I used a combination of paper and material scraps.”
“The prompt this week sparked all kinds of thoughts, feelings and associations for me. I’m a visual artist, so the workings of the eye, and the connections between the eyes and the brain are pretty darn important, Artists have been exploring how we see things for a long time, not just how they record visual information, but how they can also play tricks, and see what is not there.
For example, before I get a migraine attack, I sometimes get visual disturbances, like veils of glowing zig-zag patterns that drift into my vision from the periphery of my sight until the cover everything. It was terrifying when it first happened, I thought I was having some sort of brain haemorrhage. And there are certain substances that can produce dramatic hallucinations that are totally convincing, but are created entirely by our minds, but the eye can see them.
I went to see an exhibition recently by Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist who has suffered visual hallucinations most of her life. Early on, she decided to include them in her art and they have become a signature of her work. Kusama has spoken about her wish to create work that conveys her desire to melt into everything, to dissolve and become one with the universe. Her mirrored rooms, or ‘infinity rooms’ as they’re called are particularly effective.
I’ve written a short story about a rather grumpy old man and his family who went to see the Kusama show. He’s a very imperfect man, but not all bad, like most of us, I suppose.”
“Whenever I see one of these retinal photographs, it makes me think of alien skies. Not that I know much about alien skies, except as depicted on the covers of sci-fi paperbacks or in Hollywood’s representations. So I decided to create my own “alien sky” with sharpies and alcohol on ceramic tile. While I was playing, I got to thinking about ‘Ingenuity’, the little drone helicopter NASA is using to map the terrain of Mars. Here are the results.”
“I just really wanted to do some digital drawing, I haven’t done much of it lately and I miss how relaxing it is to put some jazz music on, get in the flow and let the lines go where they may. Picturing different landscapes centred around the fundus photograph, a sprawling metropolis materialised, with vivacious characters and stories between them, feeling so close but far away.”
“I know this orange orb from personal experience. It unnerves me and intrigues me at the same time. A tricky subject for me from a very early age. I became a pirate at 4 with a constant patch over one eye that made my ‘lazy’ eye do a bit more work. Why am I lazy? I queried. Banned from games requiring throwing a ball. I saw two and had no idea which one to catch. At 8, I started putting lions in cages. I hate zoos. Terrified of balls coming towards me. Fascinated by cages and getting out of them. Set caged birds free.”
“Ah, the joy of that tiny piece of plastic. The contact lens! Free at last to see clearly, use make-up, change hair styles, join the world. My eyes did not agree and rebelled years later, after I had often rammed them back in my eyes with grit and detritus just licked off, as there was nowhere to rinse them up mountains in deserts. The dreaded Orange orb showed a bump that was dangerously close to detaching the retina of my right eye. The bump caused a sentence to dip in the middle on the screen or whilst reading a book. Back to wearing glasses despite trials with soft lenses and many a red eye, and now spiders appearing across my eyes! Back in my cage.”
“So why this lengthy preamble? It could have been much worse. I am obsessed with fencing and seeing through. The lion is sleeping, He has left the cage. The cage has transformed naturally.”
“Watching dancers and working for 25 years to understand the body in movement through the Feldenkrais method (Awareness through movement), I understand and feel the natural combination of the spiral of movement from the eye to the feet. It reminds me of twisted fencing that often crops up in my work and connects me to the natural world to which we all belong.”
“Having googled what fundus photography actually was, I realised I was vaguely familiar, as a long-time glasses wearer. Needless to say I was drawn to visually representing my experiences. My most prevalent memory (since I was about 5 years old) is of the ‘balloon machine.’ A standard test in most eye examinations: the grainy image of a distant hot air balloon against a blue sky, blurring and refocusing, is a distinct childhood memory. Plus, the unique set of noises the machine would emit as it altered the focus. It sounded a lot like an antiquated printer. Going beyond the physical tests I’m fairly familiar with, I looked into more metaphorical representations. Fundus photographs show networks of blood vessels. Leading me to networks of nerves, images being processed and the like. So I envisioned snap shots transitioning from one to the next with the blink of an eye!”
Our last Kick-About together was inspired by the lunar-like landscape of Dungeness beach and Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. This week’s creative run-around-between-friends is inspired by the actual moon, or rather by Haruki Murakami’s evocative description of its silent, watchful orbit…
“I won’t over explain this, so it is what it is: the human need to control the natural world, and the eye in the sky bearing witness. (Moths were already dead)”. Moon and pinned moths. 2’ X 2’. Graphite, oil paint and pinned Moths on Gesso.
“It is usually thought of that our humble moon is essentially a big dead rock in floating in space, but I have always liked how Murakami imbues the objects and places in the lives of his characters with surrealistic life or uses them to communicate something from other strange and unseen worlds. Perhaps in our world, the moon might just appear to be a a big dead rock in floating in space, but in Murakami’s world things are always saying something, even if they are silent.”
“I used Yupo paper and acrylic oils to produce the marbled background for this picture. For the earth and moon I used tissue paper and water colours. Really not much more to say except I am intrigued by 1Q84 and feel I must make an effort to read it, although 3 volumes is a bit of a tall order for me!”
“Inspiring prompt, this Murakami extract about the moon, so much could be done. Here, I wanted to catch the stillness of the moon, beautifully conveyed in the novel, with the perpetual action and energy of the cosmos around it, and particularly on Earth. The painting started originally as a “calligraphy”, expression humanity and history, then all the movement and happenings over time as creative chaos. The “moon” with her round shape, so self-contained and seemingly detached.”
“I’m always photographing the moon. I decided to go through my archives and make some postcards from some of my pictures. The results proved to me, once again, that if you take enough photos, some are bound to look good. I then consulted with the collage box Oracle. The Oracle knows the moon well.”
“I think this is probably an instance wherein the methodology behind the images is ultimately more arresting than the outcome itself, but having tasked myself with the challenge of trying to recreate the silent surface of the moon under largely straightened circumstances, I ended up working with some very earth-bound materials – principally, eight bags of plain flour, a plastic spatula for contouring, and three big glass paperweights!”
“I feel like with the words of Murakami, the moon has an element of ominous brooding and a spark of stoicism at remembering what used to be. The light I am capturing with these long exposure shots, which rim the highlights of ornate wood panelling and makes the hard wood floor sing with colour, makes me wonder who used to reside in this old house previously? Who wandered through the hallways? Who ran their fingers along the wood panels? Who tended to the rose gardens? Who hung up all the photos that still have a small circular imprint on the ancient stained walls? I imagine the original family in black and white or faded sepia, posed on an old chaise lounge, looking dapper but serious. This old creaky house with its not so glamorous leaks and constantly breaking faucets still has so much charm to it, bursting with history as high as its ceilings. The mammoth floors above us are now converted into flats, but one wonders how it all looked in its original form? How would the moon have shone into those vast rooms above me? I can only fantasise.”
“Once again I appreciated Gary’s KA topic. Very evocative. I made a quick sketch as soon as I read the passage, but it has been quite a long process evolving this into a submittable form. I created several moons with face and/or textures before finding Nasa’s library of images and finally trying to recreate a moon in Illustrator (why didn’t I just use the original photo I ask myself – well I try and justify it with ‘it better fits stylistically with the rest of the image’.) The Earth (temptation) was originally going to be a simple arc containing temptations. It evolved with more Nasa pics, before it was abandoned for type and amorphous shapes with tangled line work set in a frame that pulls/clutches at the moon, and the sheer curtain acting as a barrier to the earth’s attraction. In amongst this, one sunny morning, I spotted some very attractive light and shadows on my glass-topped table around a full moon-shaped ring of water, which probably fitted the text better – anyway they are both here.“
“As soon as I think of the distant moon, I think of this one moment, which changed my way of thinking, so I thought I’d share it.”
“Moons have appeared often in my work, usually over a landscape scene. I’m drawn to the more transformative atmosphere of twilight and moonlight; the appearances of things change, shadows thicken, possibilities open up as less detail is described, and the mysteries of night hold sway. This is a collage I made earlier in the year that seemed to fit the brief this week. A huge full moon hangs in the sky, illuminating a couple who are toiling their way up a path to a lighthouse – to what end we’ll never know…”
“Warm Italian summer evenings, with a moon-filled sky, a handful of Peroni, a couple of friends and that simple pleasure of stripping off. Memory is a fine thing yet, with the weather improving, temptation is at it again so, may not be long before it’s time to escape the constraints.” Oil on prepared paper 50×57 cm.
The Kick-About No.26 – our one year birthday bash – was, at first glance, a collection of disparate things brought together into a single composition. In actual fact, however diverse, the work in the last edition of our fortnightly run-around was tightly associated: the shared dreams of an eclectic community. Our new prompt, de Chirico’s The Song Of Love, is another assembly of seemingly incongruous artefacts and what follows are our respective responses, taking in photography, painting, drawing, and collage, digital art and animation, poetry and spoken word.
“I have been having wildly vivid dreams as of late, the kind of dreams where you wake up in the middle of the night and need to write them down, the kind you remember so clearly when you get out of bed in the morning, the kind where you try to decipher their meaning to see if its some sort of cosmic message within your unconscious psyche that needs to be brought to fruition. These dreams feel as though they relate to the collective phenomena, where people at the start of lockdown had extremely vivid dreams, probably in relation to their unconscious being so fired up because their everyday lives felt like Groundhog Day, something I still feel like I can relate too. Surrealism, as an art form, is cemented in the unconscious, with surrealist painters adopting many techniques to unlock the power within their unconscious, so that it translates through to their art, including many being influenced by allusive dreams. With this in mind, and with this week’s The Song of love prompt, I have created a landscape of some of the symbols I have recently seen in one dream that has had a lasting effect..”
“Looking through a Sotheby’s 1977 catalogue, I discovered this Georgio De Chirico self-portrait from 1924, and liked it enough to do a sketch. It then seemed appropriate to introduce Georgio to Faversham, as under lock-down I did a few sketches which all of a sudden seem like a De Chirico painting. Outside the studio sparrows are active, and a homage to Morandi seemed appropriate being weekends now favour lunch in the garden.” Unfinished oil on prepared paper 50 x 65cm.
“Well this is multilayered in more ways than one but suffice it to say that I used the globe, glove and shadows from the original artwork and then wove it into my own song of love! Coloured crayon on paper.” 60cm X 55cm.
“I took three things from the de Chirico painting; the rubber glove, the perspective, and the uncanny…”
“As many have written over this past year, our lives have become perhaps a tad too much like a De Chirico or Hopper painting. The empty, beguilling landscapes feel a little too familiar for comfort, but nonetheless, these sorts of spaces are my stomping ground. The unease of architectural space has always been an inspiration in my work, and so here are a few strange tableaus inspired by De Chirico’s The Song of Love. These images are my first renders and experiments using Blender. Essentially, Blender is an open-source CG software to compete with the likes of Autodesk Maya. It’s amazing so far, and because it is open-source, it means that the software is completely free. The dream for a low-budget indie animator like myself. “
“I’ve always liked de Chirico’s strange and unsettling paintings. Still and airless, in a perpetual sickly twilight, they are at once magical and slightly menacing. There are peculiar objects populating his spaces, they look like props and theatre sets to me, everything rather hollow and dead looking.
De Chirico influenced the surrealists with his explorations of the metaphysical. The unusual juxtaposition of seemingly disparate elements in his paintings, such as in The Song of Love, stimulate odd associations, and the emotional bandwidth of the image is that of dreams and distant hazy memories. Freud published his book, The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900 although Chirico denied being influenced by Freud’s ideas. It would be easy to believe that he was, though, looking at this painting.
So, for this prompt I’ve used photo collage to shake up a conventional portrait image of a respectable looking woman and reveal layers of her psyche hidden beneath the surface. I think she may need professional help!”
“My first reaction, when I saw this prompt, was OMG! I had no idea what to do with it, so I resorted to research (the procrastinator’s friend), read around it, looked at it again, read some more… Then one day, as I sat staring glumly at the painting on my computer screen, my husband Billy looked over my shoulder and gifted me the first line of my poem. The rest of it just sort of fell into place. After that, it only seemed natural that Billy should assist in the vocals. We had a lot of fun and discussion and laughter with this poem, and I hope some of that comes over in the recording. I still don’t really know what de Chirico wanted to convey in “Song for Love”, but I do know Billy and I will always think of this painting with affection.PS _ Billy’s got the performance bug – he keeps asking if there’s a part for him in the next one!”
Wasted On Some, read by Charly & Bill Skilling
“I’m in a bit of a quandry re. De Chirico’s Song of Love – not that I haven’t given it a lot of thought! So my offering is almost an insane antidote to the subject matter, but none the less a real metaphysical concept of a building that I saw in Mexico some years ago. There are no holds barred when it comes to planning permission in Mexico. This curious mixture of ideas is an artwork in itself. Originally a thirties building full of the symbolism that pertains to that era in cinemas and the like, now it is the premises of car mechanics, and they have proudly painted it bright yellow. This is a poor area of Guadalajara, full of artisans and mechanics. The joy in colour and self expression shows a true love of their craft and life itself, whatever the hardships.”
“After having a quick read up on some of the influences behind Chirico’s work, I felt like attempting a surrealist version of my lockdown environment! I was inspired by an article written for the ‘museum of modern art‘ on Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘The Song of Love’. The author described de Chirico’s marrying of ‘dissimilar objects’, and noted that some of the eerie shapes and anxiety-inducing forms in his paintings may have been de Chirico depicting his world utterly torn apart by the first world war. It’s very hard to ignore our own monumental world event with it still happening- so I explored the absurdity of life in lockdown in the style of Giorgio. The space depicted is the dining room in which I have spent the vast majority of my time. I developed a love/hate relationship with that particular corner. Firstly my computer became less of a fun thing. It was previously a place I could work and also unwind. But then the internet dissolved into a white noise of concern and anxiety. And it became my main bittersweet connection to much missed family members. I, like many, took a deeper interest in what few houseplants I have. (We don’t have a garden) So they lived on the windowsill next to me bathed in sun for a couple of hours every morning. My routine would see me coming in each day, armed with a cup of tea and putting the computer on – except for the rare occasions I had to go outside, then breathing obscured my vision in fog. (Glasses and masks don’t work together too well during winter). Lockdown turned the world on its head and I imagine there are millions of often overlooked objects out there, whose value has been totally altered as a result.”
“Apparently, in this painting, De Chirico refers to his life and the fundamental things that keeps us alive. Based on Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” «Aren’t all the words made for the heavy? Do not all words lie to those who are mild? Sing, don’t speak anymore ». From this, de Chirico took the title of his painting: Il Canto d’amore. So, not the words. but the song of art is what makes us overcome melancholy and still love life. This painting is the song of love for life and beauty, so this is my version of the song of love to life. I grew up in Genova, a city with wonderful architecture, built on steep hills, full of steps and narrow roads. As children our daily walk was, at the end of a long tree-lined avenue, to the Rotonda over-looking the sea and the harbour. I tried with this to show a bit of the joy I felt every day running to the balustrade and breathing in the sea. I had no time to painting it, so it is a pencil sketch.” 41 x 31 cm
“The collage I did evolved from a lot of other ideas, merging with Merril’s quadrille prompt at dVerse to use the word seed, and Brendan’s prompt at earthweal to write Songs of the Earth Shaman. I needed to consider this seemingly unsolvable riddle that is human life on earth from more than one side.”
a handless glove, a stone visage. A blue orb planted with life. Dust seeds blown by cosmic winds.
Look backward to see the future. Ruins of visions. Monumental doors to nowhere. The detritus of humanity. Is this all that we wish to leave behind?
2 A Meditation or Maybe a Prayer
for those who ask and those who don’t answer. For those who always make way and those who have never been found. For what we know and refuse to acknowledge. For what stands in the center of what we think we believe. For what remains when faith has fallen apart. For the times that we begin again and the times that seem to have no ending. For what we hold against others and what we keep to ourselves. For the impossible and the improbable and all the borders we draw to keep from finding out.
“These photos taken in Japan are a mix of old and new, but in all instances I was probably looking for and trying to capture the same thing. Mostly, the sense of a passage of time, and a kind of dreamy nostalgia. These just so happen to also be the themes of De Chirico that resonate with me the most.”
With thanks to Berlin-based Kick-Abouter, Phil Cooper, we have a highly evocative film by Howard Sooley, as our new prompt, and its subject, Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. Lots of jumping-off points here. Have fun and see you again on the other side.
Welcome to this first anniversary edition of The Kick-About, a fortnightly blog-based creative challenge in which artists of all stripes come together to present work in response to a given prompt. I asked contributors to choose a favourite work of their own from the previous twenty-five editions so I could celebrate them all together here.
I just want to say a personal note of thanks to everyone who takes part. Producing new ideas and new work in under a fortnight brings with it its own challenges, insecurities and pressures, but if you’re anything like me, you will have enjoyed the otherwise simple satisfaction of making work, getting it done, expressing your creativity, and sharing it with a supportive community. Some of you have thanked me for hosting the Kick-About, and some of you have even worried about the work and time I may be giving it; rest assured, this is the work I like to do and I’m very happy to do it.
Thanks to everyone who has taken part this last year, and I’m very much hoping we can continue to combine our efforts as productively and imaginatively in the coming weeks. Now, just look at what you did…
“Thanks for the Kick-About. For some of us, making art is as natural as breathing, and sometimes almost as necessary to life. During a dark time in history, thanks for stimulating art prompts among creative friends, unfettered by constraints, rules or judgement. Freedom to make in any direction. It’s been a joy. And since you want one favourite, I’m selecting those Bird Ladies from Kick-About No.2. And I hope they sort themselves out soon and send that bureaucratic penguin back to Antarctica.”
“I’ve not been as involved as others in the bi-weekly Kick-About posts, but I’ve seriously enjoyed the challenge of completely unexpected briefs. I’ve chosen to include my piece ‘Orpheus’ this week. This one stood out to me for several reasons, partly because it allowed me to flex my digital painting muscles again, something I’d neglected for a while. Also it was a powerful story that instantly brought up images, compositions and drama. That narrative aspect is something I often neglect in my personal work. This was the challenge, like I had to capture the story, as if on the front cover of book. Our hero enters the underworld, ‘hell’ bent on saving his wife ‘Eurydice’ from the clutches of the dark forces below. Everything a digital painter wants in an image.”
“Selecting KA9 is easy, as it reminds me of how important instinct is within process, as well the time span of sitting across 4 hours 40 minutes to complete a process. I trusted my responses to the music, invited in chance, kept the demon of doubt outside the door, and I enjoyed colour as an adventure. KA9 felt like a pure creative experience and it beckons me on to do more. The community of KA has been totally enriching and so rewarding.”
“Kick-About No.1 was a cathartic experience as I’m often caught up on details and reasoning. And those hang-ups can sometimes paralyse my creativity. I realise now, sometimes it’s just a simple premise, and it’s dumb fun and exploration that’s needed. And I definitely found joy and a small sense of achievement in that process!”
“Weirdly enough I’ve chosen this..a tough call but although I loved putting together the installations I only record them as 6” X 4” photos, which are then put into a KA book as a record. However, I do have my drawings, so could take a better photo, as they’re bigger! I chose this as it WAS tedious in its repetitive way, but after a while it became a form of meditation, and I was happy with the outcome, which is rare. Actually I could have chosen any as far as enjoying the process goes, so onwards to the next…” Graphite on Fabriano.
“An epic and bi-sectioned electronic piece telling the story of the cicada life from a more dark point of view. Beware – the first four minutes are much quieter than the last two. Good speakers or headphones are recommended.”
“The Kick About has brought me to places I’ve never dreamed of going. I’ve dipped my toes into mediums, styles and parts of myself that have otherwise been sealed off. I have learned to find magic in the mundane, while learning a great deal about films, authors, and artists, from the many prompts we have created together. I always feel inspired to see what you all have created every fortnight, so for that I am thankful to all you fellow kick-abouters for your words and creations.
In saying that, it is difficult to choose a favourite, as they all have been a joy to see flourish. One Kick-About does come to mind and that is No. 22, which was the art, life and times of the Austrian painter, Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, and with it the Pools film. The reason why it is my favourite is because of the way it came to be and the journey it took to get it to that state. I wasn’t seeking this film out. I wasn’t trying to capture anything like it, I didn’t even know this place existed. I was merely bouncing around the innards of the forestry one bitter cold winter morning when a dumping of snow was beginning to melt, and where I set out to capture the extrusion of thick snow rimmed treetops. I found all that, but I also found this film – in a trench of shallow, glistening water.
Making Poolswas a creative journey, and I’m thankful it happened in such an organic way: from finding the place and deciding to film it, to viewing the resulting footage as flawed, while still being preoccupied by it, to the Kick-About prompt providing the perfect opportunity to salvage the film into something I’m proud of.
It was a pure delve into the unknown to make something just for the sake of it, not knowing how the outcome would look but just enjoying the whole process of making this thing. I think, in its essence, that is what is so great about The Kick About and why I love being a part of it with you all.”
“At the time of the making of my Metropolis images for The Kick-About #2 I had been living in the same apartment for over three years, and for some reason had never really taken the time to explore the surrounding area with the eye of a photographer or an artist, mostly because it all just seemed very boxy and residential in a way that I have become totally accustomed to seeing every day.
However, with a lot of free time and a phone-camera in hand, I thought that surely the true mundaneness of a real metropolis could be made into something interesting somehow. After fiddling with some images, I ended up with some quite authentic looking silent film production set photos which of course really reminded me of that other Metropolis. I think they even capture the unusual atmosphere and uncertainty of the time they were created.”
“I choose this one because I managed to capture a very personal sense of nostalgia, which is something that I had been trying to crack for a while. Also, it was the first time I had been motivated to break out the paints for over a year, which is a long time, especially when I had been making work every day. It highlighted to me that I need to stronger with myself as a creative and have the fortitude to keep pushing through various blocks and it did herald a period of increased productivity. Also, it is one of the artier of my submissions…”
“The Kick-About #6 is still one of my favourite prompts, and one of the most meaningful series of paintings I have done in the last few years. It represents the beginning of a new creative journey for me, a new painting style, and, at the same time, it encompasses much of my life and experiences. For this “anniversary” I picked just one of the four, my favourite, and the first one I painted. It was originally inspired by a photograph of the Canadian winter landscape by Evelin Berg and, as I mentioned, were partly concept paintings for a short animation I haven’t finished yet. The journey, the film, the story….all still ongoing.” Ink on watercolour paper, 240x680cm.
“I have learnt so much over the last year from participating in The Kick-About, and enjoyed so many different aspects, that I found it really difficult to pick a ‘favourite’. Some pieces have stretched me technically, some have taken me into totally unfamiliar territory, some have felt satisfactorily “complete”. But one submission made me smile when it first occurred to me, smile as I worked on it, and smile even now when I read it back. I can’t think of a better reason for re-visiting it, so my ‘Favourite Kick-About’ is Field Guide to Getting Lost and The Ballad of Ethel and Hilda’.
“It’s the Five Canons of Rhetoric! I’ve chosen this one as it made me really think about my work and its origins and process. It led to the story of this Sea Heart pod that continues to fascinate me along with all the other seed-pods in my life! The journey of this pod crept into the following Kick-About as well, maybe because I can’t travel at the moment and I long to be doing so. It always refreshes my mind and creativity… apart from missing my friends in distant lands.”
“The prompt was Cocteau’s Orpheus, because of the element of serendipity: on a Covid walk, I dragged home two entwined ivy trees, saw the prompt, (not sure which happened first) something clicked, and I set about exploring the potential…”
“The KA’s have been a great way to divert my attention and have provided reason for exploration of deep buried thoughts. Thank you’s to all of you who have donated jumping off points – sometimes they resonate so deafeningly – not always at the point of conceptualising – the museum KA didn’t kick-in for me until I started putting paint to paper but then it dragged up some of the creative juices that I thought had been long gone. So I guess that makes it my significant KA moment. I love the tantalising breadth of work created by all of you. KA reveal days are always so exciting. It amazes me how you seem to tumble out great pieces or concepts. Also amazing how open you have been with background stories to some of the works. Thanks again and I hope KA can continue long after lockdown.”
“In response to the “Kick-about anniversary” (and my very small contribution to it) I have chosen to revisit my take on the Eugen von Ransonnet Villez submarine paintings.
Marine paintings have become a large part of my creative output over the last decade. As a graphic designer just over ten years ago my health took something of a wobble and the medical advice was to change lifestyle. This evolved over a few years and resulted in less use of the mouse and tablet and more the old fashioned paintbrush. It became as much as anything else a journey of self discovery. Several visual themes emerged but the one most urgent in my need to explore was the sea. I soon found like minded painters at the National Maritime Museum Art Club where I became chairman. The club has had a couple of identity changes since then but still exists as the Thames Maritime Artists and I am still chairman.
The limpid, accurately observed and interpreted tones and colours used by Ransonnel Villez immediately struck a chord with my own struggle to capture how we see water and objects in water. Seascape and coastal painting is quite a niche area in painting, not fashionable, and hasn’t been since the Royal Navy stopped ruling the waves, but I have never been troubled by fashion. For me the test of how well I am performing is to be judged by peers and to that end over a number of years I have submitted paintings to the Royal Society of Marine Artists annual open exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. For four years I failed to get anything into the show, I was disappointed but not discouraged and eventually in 2019 I got a piece into the show. In 2020 in the middle of the pandemic I got two pieces in – and won the Classic Boat Prize. It certainly does not beat taking your life in your hands going under the sea in a primitive diving bell but sometimes dogged persistence does pay off. I have attached a couple of RSMA exhibition to add to the original set.”
“For the Kick-About I’d like to submit my Symbols piece (#5). Of all the digital work I’ve produced over the last year, it stands out to me as being truly different and emotionally driven. Something in Alice Neel’s original painting really clicked with me.”
“I would like to choose ‘Dance of the Happy Shades’ as my favourite piece. It was my very first appearance on the Kick-about and possibly one of my best works. It involved using the mixed media of silk material and painting, and I felt it was a good showcase for my manipulative skills with fabric. I definitely got a buzz from seeing my picture on the internet and I loved using the bright, cheerful colours. It made me feel excited, hopeful and creative even though it was the start of lockdown.”
“While I haven’t been able to contribute as often as I would like in recent months, The Kick-About is a welcome stretch away from my day-to-day. Working in design, I’ve felt it more and more challenging to work without a brief or steer, to make for the pleasure of making, without feeling the need to justify time spent playing as part of a longer project or showreel piece. The Kick-About has provided that stimulus, giving a direction but not a destination, and a space to remember that away from the rounds of amends, renders and timesheets, making is simply, fun. For this reason, making a witches bottle due to a misreading of a painting by Alice Neel was the most enjoyable project for me, reading and researching down whatever avenue seemed interesting, formulating an idea without thinking of demographics or target audience, and then making something however crudely with real physical materials, not worrying about brand guidelines or alignment or safe margins. Looking at the high quality of the other submissions makes it lucky I’m dressing up my motivation in the same outfit as naive or folk art. However, at a time which created a step back from our daily lives and the time to think about why we do the things we do, for me The Kick-About is the reminder I needed to not pack everything in and try to manage a hedge fund. Joy! It’s all about joy!“
“I’m choosing the Invisible Cities (Ersilla) prompt as my favorite. First, because it was something I wanted to do as soon as I read the book a few years ago, but had never gotten around to. And also because it expanded my work from my usual repertoire, which is basically 2-dimensional.
I would say that almost all the prompts have pushed me further than I would normally go outside my comfort zone which is a very good thing. And everyone else’s work is so inspiring, it keeps my mind full of different ideas and inspiration.”
“I’ve loved being part of the Kick-About over the last year. It’s got me doing things I’ve never done before, such as writing and recording my own voice, and it’s going me doing things that I’d never have done without it, so a big thank you, Phil, for putting this together every fortnight. It’s been a real pleasure seeing how people have responded to the prompts and I’m always in awe of the variety, the talent and the creativity that appears in each post.
I’ve got a few favourites from the past year, but i’m choosing this image, which I called ‘Forest Flare’ and made in response to the Orphée’prompt way back last June I think. I painted some 2D trees, an arch and a sky onto card, and then lit and photographed th em on my desk. The main reason I was pleased with how it turned out is that, in the photographic image, a small figure appeared, sitting on the floor, framed by the arch and looking like a faun that had wandered out of the paper forest. It wasn’t there when I looked at the table top set up, but some magic happened in the camera and the image turned out more interesting that I’d planned – quite spooky!”
“I’ve chosen ‘Baba’s Important Work’ because the resulting short story speaks to the power of a random prompt to produce something satisfying, unpredictable and inevitable-seeming. That a story set in a static caravan, in some dystopian society, should have issued from an old book on nautical knot-work, makes me feel excited about the creative process in all its strangeness. I find it reassuring too, a bit like going to Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, opening its doors, and finding, thank goodness, there are still ideas in there after all.“
“Albatross Box is the only sculpture I’ve done for the Kick Abouts – and it is the one that has proven the most constant source of inspiration since I made it. It is still hung up in my house, changing with the light and day and it is a source of endless fascination for my 3 year old. Once COVID restrictions ease a bit, I’d love to scout out some more bones and do a few more bone shadow boxes with poetry and make it a series (I confess to already rescuing another wooden box from the curb in anticipation!). “
“Picking a personal favourite is so tricky! My mind immediately jumps to the Alice Neel prompt from Kick-About #3. I really enjoyed the making of that piece in it’s simplicity and assemblage of iconography. I also enjoyed Kick-About #23 in which I could channel grief into some strange cardboard constructions. Both of those prompts were so calming and helpful to produce. But if I’m honest with myself, I think the very first Kick-About was my favourite subject, largely because the Max Ernst prompt is well suited to my comfort zone – bizarre landscapes and painting methods. What a boring choice I know, but I remember that painting evolving so clearly in my head, and it was a joy.”