The Kick-About #67 ‘El Anatsui’

Our previous Kick-About was an explosive affair, as Turner’s Mount Vesuvius in Eruption re-surfaced the land, sea and sky with glowing skeins of lava and fired our imaginations. No less spectacular are the sculptural installations of artist El Anatsui, whose enormous, glinting mosaics drape gallery walls like bejewelled magma. Enjoy this latest showcase of new works made in a short time inspired by Anatsui’s works.

Phil Hosking

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

Gary Thorne

“I had some other intentions as to what could happen making use of this collection of old photos inspired by El Anatsui yet, by the end of mucking-about, this assemblage gave the impression of Rome’s Pantheon inner dome and gazing upward through the central opening to the sky. I wasn’t even thinking about it yet, I did just return last week from Rome. Might be nice to glue the whole lot to the spare bedroom ceiling.”

Marion Raper

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

Kerfe Roig

“I’ve reverted to a grid, echoing El Anatsui’s use of recycled materials.  I wanted to sew the squares together, so I needed something fairly thin.  I painted newspaper in 3 ways with watercolor–one primarily red, one blue, and one with neon spatters.  I then cut them into 2 x 4 inch pieces and folded them into squares.  I used embroidery floss to sew them together – the back with the threads also makes an interesting piece of art I think.  There are many other different variations I could do with this, both using different papers and different ways of sewing the squares together.  I’ll certainly keep it in mind for one of my monthly grids in the future.” /

Jan Blake

“I came across El Anatsui’s work many years ago at the October gallery in London. I loved their enormity and grandeur from such a humble material and maybe subconsciously some years later I found myself drawn to using cardboard, a material that I could recycle and obtain easily. Curiously, when I went to Mexico to make a sculptural piece for a contemporary dance company, I found that finding and selling-on cardboard for a poor Mexican was a way of making a living! So looking at these wonderful looping hangings I am attracted by the metallic and repeating rhythms interrupted by a fold. There is something Mediaeval about them as well like illuminated manuscripts. With these thoughts in mind I turned to a piece that I had started last year but was uncertain of its development. I have added a second row as it were that twists in an opposite direction like cable knitted jumpers. Ultimately these rows will grow but they are time consuming to complete right now. However I have been wanting to add colour to these structures for a while so here is my trial . Taking the idea of illuminated manuscripts and vaulting on Cathedral ceilings, I have painted them differently on the two sides. The result in some ways is more like an old fairground and the colour only appears as it twists round.”

Phil Gomm

“Whenever I pop over to visit my parents, I’m heartened by the small bowl of toffee eclairs on the table in the hall. On my way back out the door, I always pocket a couple to sustain me on my journey home. The toffees come wrapped in these blue and gold twists of metallicised cellophane, many of which have found their way into the washing machine. Once washed, these wrappers take on a very pleasing patina, exfoliated of much of their original gaudiness and turned instead into these rather more translucent, opalescent swatches. I wondered if I could assemble a few of the wrappers together to produce a very small scale homage to Anatsui’s extraordinary tapestries-come-sculptures. While not convinced I managed that exactly, I found myself instead thinking about geological strata and seams of gold, about crystalline caves and fantastical canyons. I’ve also been thinking… I really needed to eat more of those toffee eclairs!”

Vanessa Clegg

“This was perfect timing for me as I did a 2 day course in collograph (no beginner) over the last fortnight and the result seems to fit the prompt. What I was aiming for was a block of specimen samples, the little glass slides that fit into a microscope. Insects and organic-like textures were my subject matter, with a lot of experimenting and, of course, mistakes but for me that’s what makes it an interesting process as the semi-lack of control can lead to surprising and unlooked for effects… More exploration in the future!”

Francesca Maxwell

“I had many ideas inspired by the wonderful work of El Anatsui. I love the texture and the concept. It must be amazing to see them in person, unfortunately I never have. I watched a documentary about his work and how labour intensive it is and I also love how much creativity he allows his helpers and the curators exhibiting his work.  I am a scavenger myself, and over the many years working in theatre and stop motion animation, I collected all sort of rejected bits and pieces. I particularly love metal and I am fascinated by metal mesh, it looks like shimmering fabric. So I put together a mix of found and bought steel, copper and brass mesh photographed and assemble as a mosaic. I don’t have enough to do a large drape like El Anatsui.”

Graeme Daly

“What you are looking at here is the tinfoil leftover from a steak pie, coloured with multicolored markers, photographed, warped and collaged together in photoshop to mimic El Anatsui’s illuminating repurposed sculptures. For scale and grandiosity, I then popped them into an artplacer app.” / @graemedalyart / / / /

James Randall

Of course the message is our environment’s degradation. I have been trying to put together a few key words that encapsulate my concerns but it’s complicated. Let me start by admitting my own guilt: plastic and petrol are still a part of my life. I should have added apathy to my list. Nobody seems to discuss over-population or education focusing on engineering and sciences that enable petrochemical industries (at the expense of arts and humanities, which question our actions…) let alone company (not government only) reparations for years of ignorant profiteering at the expense of the world community – so my few words became several ‘dot’ points. One of the materials that El Anatsui uses is flattened bottle caps – I started my piece by drawing one on computer, then repeated it in on overlapped pattern that reminded me of Islamic art, so I fiddled with the graphic of my list to pursue Islamic text and that set my piece’s style. I think of this work as an environmental incantation.

Charly Skilling

“El Anatsui takes the discarded detritus of modern life – bottle caps, wiring, scraps of aluminium – and transforms them into something that moves and breathes and drapes like the sheerest fabric. I don’t have access to much of that type of material, but one thing I have in abundance is yarn swatches.  I  am always making small swatches to try out a new yarn, a new stitch, a colour combination or just to get the tension right for a new project. Sometimes these swatches get incorporated into a piece of work, but mostly they just sit in a bag in one of my work boxes. I also have some knitting needles that I haven’t used in years, dozens of excess crochet hooks and hundreds of blocking pins. So, a couple of hours of folding, twirling, sticking and pinning later,  a pile of nothing very much has become something colourful and cheerful, which might, conceivably, have occurred naturally in a garden.”

… and courtesy of Charly Skilling, we have our next prompt: the narrative quilts of American folk artist, Harriet Powers. Have fun!

The Kick-About #49 ‘Saul Bass’

From the lovely free-wheeling associations of our last Kick-About together, to the pared-down, typographic compositions of graphic designer and film-maker, Saul Bass, welcome to another showcase of new works made in a short time.

Vanessa Clegg

“Lots of ideas came and went with this prompt, including the darkness of present day Ukraine but, finally, I settled on something that had, hopefully, a sense of vertigo, as well as a tinge of Hitchcock. I remembered a trip to New Zealand, during which there was a minor earthquake. I was standing outside having walked in a surprisingly calm manner out of the vibrating house (no damage) and watched frozen to the spot, the feeling of the earth beneath my feet no longer being solid, static and secure but moving in waves – a living thing – resulting in a true loss of balance.” Tracing paper, string, cracked mirror, graphite and watercolour on gesso.

Kerfe Roig

“When I looked at the work of Saul Bass (familiar, although I did not know his name) word collage seemed the obvious response.  I didn’t overthink it.”

haunted by an inferno of blood

shattered by grief–

why this needless danse macabre?

if you follow fate

far away to the return of time


that the passage

into prophecy and myth

is final

when the hidden clue

is fluctuating between

sinister truth

and the vestiges of myth /

Charly Skilling

“Although I did not know the name of Saul Bass before this prompt, much of his work was instantly recognizable.  Here are the film posters I grew up with, and I had a really fun time playing with the colours, the geometrics, and the directness of Bass’s images. I had to find some new techniques and some worked better than others, but overall, I am pleased with the finished object. So next time I want to curl up on the sofa to watch a classic movie, my “Movie Night” throw will be right there with me!”

Graeme Daly

“Some Saul Bass inspired illustrations from the gorgeous and brutal The Handmaid’s Tale. Its stunning red and teal colour palette was truly calling for it!”

@graemedalyart / / / /

Tom Beg

“The work of early motion designers like Saul Bass and John Whitney is something of an enigma, which I think comes from a certain looseness hard to replicate using modern digital animation techniques. Recently, I have begun to pick up a bit of coding to supplement my usual creative outlets and try to understand an entirely new way to generate art and animation that just a few months ago had basically been totally unknown to me. Despite what may sound like quite a rigid and unforgiving system of creativity, I have found there is a kind of looseness in programming graphics that is a lot of fun to play with. Add a few lines or numbers and expressions and just see what happens. Sometimes you can produce some unexpected and interesting results that harken back to the days of the early computer artists and graphics designers.

As for me, it’s very early days, as far as my skills go, but I have been able to produce a few little interesting bits. One of the exciting things about using code is that nearly everything can be randomised or given a level of user interactivity. No two images or animations will appear the completely same. Feel free to generate your own unique versions of these images using the links below.”

Saul Bass Inspired Spirals:

Lissajous Curves:

Painterly Swirls: / /

Phil Gomm

“Back when I was teaching an undergraduate course, one of my yearly highlights was a screening for students of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho on the big screen. There are many showier reasons for enjoying this film, but I always loved the Saul Bass-designed opening titles – those simple horizontal lines sliding in across the frame with such urgency, while Bernard Herrmann’s score propelled them along. Working with a few simple elements – dots and dashes, lines and ellipses – I set about producing an affectionate fantasia on some Bass-inspired themes.”

Marion Raper

“We have a ‘clattering’ of jackdaws which visit us at least twice a day to gather up the food that has been spilled from our bird feeders by the other smaller birds. One day we noticed one jackdaw was moving around rather strangely and being shooed away by the others.  As it hopped about we could then see it had a badly damaged wing, and when the others flew off it quickly ran/jumped away and scuttled into our hedge.  Over the last 5 or 6 weeks ‘Hoppy’ has managed to survive by scrounging food from us and various other neighbours in turn.  Now he is not intimidated by the other birds and manages to hold his own even against some huge black crows and rooks which sometimes arrive.  In fact, he is tolerated quite well by the other birds, and I have even seen a couple of his jackdaw mates fly up and knock food down from the feeders especially for him as he waits below. You can’t help but admire Hoppy, and for this reason I have made him the star of my Saul Bass-style poster.”

James Randall

“Sorry – bit of a rant but better out than in. The face is made of of little figures – meant to be asexual, they look more like men with extra big hips. I just can’t imagine how awful life must be for the Ukrainians because of that psychopath. Nukes, China? I think at a human level it is well past time to step in.”

Gary Thorne

“I struggled to find a form of language/text to add to a painting that further portrayed the emotion within the situation I was visualising. I realised that in this most horrific of situations there was ‘voice’ yet their distress calls simply evaporated into the cloud formations above, leaving no hope for those adrift in the English Channel. A bleak painting for bleak times.”

Phil Cooper

I remember watching movies as a kid and loving the Saul Bass credit sequences more than the actual film; they seemed more exciting and mysterious by far. Whilst doing a bit of research for this prompt, I came across on old Sci-fi short film Saul and Elaine Bass directed called Quest. It looks dated and clunky now, but I liked it all the same, with some nice visuals and design. The ending resonated with the current times for me, and it led me to thinking about how precious every day of our lives are. This piece of work might be a poster for the movie. I’d been looking at Saul Bass when I made it. “ / /

Inspired perhaps by the whirling spirograph of Saul Bass’s Vertigo poster, but prompted too by the importance of parsing distinctions between ideologies and individuals, Naum Gabo’s Linear Construction No.2 is our jumping-off point for the next two weeks.

“Returning to Russia after the Revolution, Gabo saw political forces redirect Russian art from exploration to propaganda. In 1920 [Gabo] issued the “Realistic Manifesto” of Constructivism, which [he] posted and distributed in the streets of Moscow. In it [Gabo] asserted that art had a value and function independent of the state.”

After Baldwin #1 (2022)

What a joyful Kick-About prompt this was (and a welcome palate cleanser after the severed heads of more recent days). Textile artist Louise Baldwin’s work gave me permission to draw quickly and instinctively, and embrace colour and abstraction, to produce a whole series of exuberant large-scale compositions. I just sat down and drew a few impressions of some of our many houseplants – in this instance, a Pilea peperomioides – and then used them to produce some big bold abstracts.

In truth, I could have gone on and on with this, wishing I had the resources to produce them as massive prints for the soft white walls of some airy penthouse atelier. There is such pleasure to be found in colour, and the rush and whirl of a few bold lines.