“Having swam my way through sciatica, it seemed appropriate to channel that commitment into a Whirligig self-portrait. It is not quite pivoting smoothly on turning into the wind – so more engineering fun ahead yet, it was massive fun to make. Apology for the amateur film making!”
“I found myself with a bit of time for a 50 second whirligig video, made of junk I had, but not having touched Premiere or After Effects for years – and playing in Garage Band too… It was fun. Thank you very much! “
“I had no illusions I could construct an actual whirligig. But I figured I could do something that moved, with birds. As usual, not much like my original vague idea. And I had a very hard time finding a place to hang it where there wouldn’t be too much stuff in the background for a photo. As a result, the photos aren’t great, but they do give an idea of how it looks in motion. And now that it’s fan weather, it’s in motion much of the time.“
“Rowland Emett was a cartoonist and sculptor of automata. He created things that are whimsical, English and eccentric and which serve the purpose to raise a smile and be enjoyed (Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway Festival of Britain 1951). To me, his work is like a cross between early steampunk and Festival of Britain surrealism. I also wanted a theme to work around, and an illustration of the cross section of the (art nouveau/steampunk) Nautilus in a 1950’s Disney children’s book provided the theme. The first idea was to imagine a whirligig (generally a wind driven automata) for Captain Nemo’s garden. Unfortunately, he never made land and I am no mechanical engineer, but I did put one together and rough-tested it with white card model. However, a lot of time was spent in the processing and considering its movement, and I felt the fantasy and whimsical Emmet elements were getting a little lost, so in the late and last hour, to refresh, I returned to doodling and to the train idea. Times up and I have a beginning and some initial responses. It’s been another great Kick-About and provided a lot of material to mine….. plenty more left in this Kick-About to chase.“
“Developing some ideas first inspired by a previous bird-based Kick-About, I set about thinking about how I might release a bird into the rooms of my home and photograph it. Actually, I set about constructing a cardboard, bird-shaped whirligig that I could suspend along a length of white elastic, which I then sent twanging around the low-ceilings of our tiny seaside home and photographing on longish-exposures. From humble ad-hoc origins (I spray-painted the cardboard bird-thing with cans of old car paint from the shed, using our landfill wheelie bin as an impromptu spray booth…), I was able to produce some surprisingly transformative photographs. Some of them even left me thinking, ‘It’s an actual bloody bird!’. I did four different shoots over four different days – an hour-a-piece – and tried a few different things each time, with the resulting photographs moving quickly towards more impressionistic effects.”
Sometimes, it has felt as if my brain is too old or too stupid or simply too preoccupied with other more important things to even think about undertaking another creative brief ‘for the sake of it’. If I’m thinking this, the guy who sets the Kick-About prompts each fortnight, I’m pretty sure some of the regular kick-abouters have thought it too. Lives get busy. Lives get glum. Interest and energy wanes. The mood passes. Art is fart.
And yet, all that being true, now I’ve gathered here together a year’s worth of new work in a single place, I am reminded of the intrinsic value of ‘making stuff’ and of the power of community. There is little doubt, were it not for the examples set by all the other artists in The Kick-About, I wouldn’t have followed through on these various creative enquiries of my own. It’s quite unlikely I would have started them, and I certainly wouldn’t have finished them, finding a bunch of reasonable excuses to get on with more pressing stuff, or stuff I didn’t need to think about quite as much, or the stuff of watching television and eating bars of cheap chocolate on the sofa. But as it happens, I’ve inflated latex gloves with water to produce wobbling horrors, made moonscapes out of bags of flour, photographed tin-toy chickens obsessively, made short films, written a story about a woman with nasturtium seed for a head, encased a bunch of stuff in ice, and the list goes on – and largely because I wasn’t alone in my endeavours. Somewhere in New York, Kerfe was suspending paper fish inside a litter bin, and somewhere out in Brisbane, James was populating a primordial forest with bare chested brutes; meanwhile, Charly was crocheting a hat of fantastical proportions, Tom was configuring Saul Bass-inspired spirals out of code in Yokohama, and Gary was fashioning a Christmas tree out of hand-foraged willow and meticulous strips of calligraphic paper!
What I particularly enjoy, it seems, is the license to shape-shift in terms of creative work; the Kick-About encourages me to diversify, to jump about a bit. That said, there are obvious preoccupations – a love of in-camera transformations, what we might call ‘analogue magic’, and a preoccupation with the darker side of the human imagination. I blame the Pan Book of Horror and all those brave, strange, mean films of the 1970s.
‘Jumping about a bit’ can be confusing, so I decided to get my ‘art-house’ in order a bit by re-organising my personal website. It might not make a scrap of sense thematically, but at least it’s nice and tidy, right?
Thanks again to all the Kick-Abouters: we’ve been living through some strange rootless times, and your company and creativity has done much to keep my feet on the ground and my imagination a good deal higher up! Onwards…
Welcome to this anniversary edition of The Kick-About, marking two years of creative activity undertaken by an international community of artists… which, when you put it like that sounds very impressive indeed! While those of us who participate in these fortnightly challenges might not regard ourselves as grandly as all that, this is my opportunity to thank everyone for their continuing creativity and companionship over this last year. I also want to reflect on the very real and demonstrable benefits of ‘kicking about’ together: yes, it’s another thing we have to think about, and yes, things don’t always run smoothly or go to plan, but ‘making work’ is always a magical act, and life-affirming too. Thanks again to everyone in the KA community for your boundless imagination and sticking power. Look at what we did!
“What I found the most gratifying about The Kick-About this year was that, for the first time in ages for me personally, it felt like I could take any small idea that I had and bring it to some form of a conclusion without feeling like there was a whole load of mental and skill barriers in the way.
One of the most satisfying projects out of all the ones I produced was the animated short film inspired by Marie Menken for The Kick-About #34. After a very long time of not really making any moving image it felt quite rewarding to just let go and make something with the same kind of ‘just do it and see what happens’ attitude that always felt so inspiring to me as a creative, but perhaps, over the years, got lost in the shuffle of life and other such boring things! These days, just producing work and art is anything but boring for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing what else might become a makeshift goalpost in the park with all the other fellow Kick-Abouters in the future.”
“I had not heard of Brian Rutenberg (Kick-About No. 32) and the first impression was ‘Wow! Very powerful!’ So I spent quite a bit of time ‘deconstructing’ his technique. The apparent abstract nature is, of course, in reality highly stylised landscapes. If you put aside the idiosyncratic drawing style they are quite simple compositions. The cleverness for me is the use of colour; he has substituted primary or secondary colours for tone on most of the pieces, enhancing the abstract qualities. The texture and randomness is the product of palette knife work – that said, given the size of the canvases, it was more likely a large trowel! A lot of my work is marine in subject, so for the first piece I took an image of reflections on water and upped the colour values and worked largely with a palette knife. I think you can still just about make out it is meant to be liquid. For the other piece, I chose a lake surrounded by trees and threw away the tonal values, replacing them with primary colour. I failed to match the stylisation of Rutenberg, but I think they are just about going in the right direction.”
“The prompt could hardly have been more suited to me and my natural inclinations. It’s inky and leafy and Australian. What strikes me most is the combination of the loosest of ink splatters with far more careful and detailed patterning. I was going to explore some inkiness yesterday (Yep! Last minute again!) to see where an observation of Mungkuri’s work (Kick-About No.37) might take me, especially with regard to the use of white ink patterning over the top of the looser ink layers. But before I could begin something happened… Our bees swarmed! Later, I had a bit of a go at my inky exploration of Peter Mungkuri’s plant drawings, but my mind was full of bees. And joy. So it became an illustration of Hugo and me, arms uplifted to the swarming bees.”
For the Kick-About No. 41 ‘La Ville’ ~ “I used one of my daughter’s photos of an event when Lady Gaga walked down the red carpet, which I firstly painted in watercolour and then recreated it in the style of ?? (You can see why I nearly failed my Art O’ level!) Anyway, I enjoyed creating art in this way and using such zingy colours!”
From The Kick-About No. 51“Print them out and colour in your very own folk art postcards. I used google to translate the English titles into Ukrainian, so apologies for any grammatical errors.”
“Of the prompts I participated in, I think my personal favourite was Kick-About Number 31, Lotte Reiniger. The traditional form of silhouettes and stop-frame animation was more hands-on than my other prompt responses. Less abstracted. And less rooted in technology, which was an invigorating change.
Cutting things out of paper for craft projects is something I’d been doing since I was little, much like Lotte did, so I ran with the nostalgia. Plus, the rudimentary camera setup resulted in an animation with some wonky charm that I quite like!”
“For the second year anniversary post I’ve chosen a little film I made for Kick-About #28. The prompt that week was the garden created by Derek Jarman on the shingle spit of Dungeness. Derek started making the garden during a period of personal crisis, shortly after he had been diagnosed HIV+ in 1986. Back then there was no treatment available for HIV and it was fatal in almost all cases. The garden was a tremendous act of creativity and of defiance in the face of a terminal diagnosis, not least because he built it in one of the most unlikely places in the country, the arid, salty shingle of Dunegness, directly in front of a nuclear power station. And, despite his failing health, the garden provided the backdrop to one of the most dynamic and prolific periods in his life; he crammed in more living and working into those last few years before his death in 1994 than most do in a whole lifetime.
I used the words that close his book, At Your Own Risk, writing them in wax crayon, before brushing some black ink over them. The resist technique didn’t work very well and the words aren’t very legible, so here they are:
‘I am tired tonight. My eyes are out of focus, my body droops under the weight of the day, but as I leave you Queer lads let me leave you singing. I had to write of a sad time as a witness – not to cloud your smiles – please read the cares of the world that I have locked in these pages; and after, put this book aside and love. May you of a better future, love without a care and remember we loved too. As the shadows close in, the starts came out. I am in love.’
As he wrote those words in the early 1990s, he foresaw a better future for the world. Sadly, I’m not sure if this has come to pass, at least not yet. The crisis of AIDS in Derek Jarman’s time has been resolved across most of the world, but the climate crisis and war in Europe threaten chaos on an even greater scale. I wonder what he would make of the world today? I confess I’m pessimistic about what lies ahead for humanity, but Derek’s life provides a kind of blueprint to at least try and deal with the terrible state we’re in; speak out, respond, fight, create, work, and make a little garden to face down the dark forces.”
“I love abstract paintings (Kick-About No.32) particularly as I know what a challenge they can be for composition and colour, light and movement. In my work I also strive to keep the first creative impetus with its full emotional strength before it becomes too cerebral. So this is one of my abstract painting that deals with space, macrocosm and microcosm. Thank you Phil and all the extraordinary artists who make this creative experience so special.”
The Kick-About No. 30:“It was so hard to choose. But I decided to go with the Fundus Photography. The photos themselves are magical, and I feel the watercolors I did inspired by them are some of the best I did all year. They are still hanging in my office, almost the first things I put up when I moved, and every day I enjoy looking at them.”
“I’m choosing my short story, Nasturtiums, to include in this anniversary edition for two reasons: the first being that, at first glance, Sheila Legge’s Phantom of Surrealism (Kick-About No.36) left me scratching my head and worrying at the efficacy of my imagination. My second reason for sharing it is because, once I’d stopped worrying, this short story arrived with surprising ease, and for all its inherent strangeness, felt, in some way, inevitable.”
(I wanted to offer up a little birthday bonus with this edition of the Kick-About, so with the assistance of voice artist, Catherine Bradley, I’m happy to present a little audio-book adaptation of Nasturtiums. Enjoy!)
“My favourite kick about this year has got to be the Stezaker prompt (The Kick-About No. 47) I loved the challenge of creating two parallel stories and then putting them together as one piece. Having said that, the Louis Baldwin took me to new areas of finding and stitching and Splendor Solis gave a rare opportunity to become immersed into a drawing over a long period of time. I just enjoy them all!”
“May 2021 – KA #30 Fundus Photography – has to be the right choice at the right time, with May approaching and a garden offering seemingly endless delights of colour. A reawakening of the senses and added energy by way of summer approaching seems a timely reminder to exploit the daylight hours, be observant, and delight in making use of such inspiration.”
“I have enjoyed so many of our KA prompts this past year, it is difficult to choose a favourite. But I have opted for Kickabout #30 “Fundus Photography”, because I found my “Alien skies” and the poem “Forward, Hover, Focus, Click” flowed so readily and so smoothly that I revelled in the process and now, all these months later, I can still look on the work and be happy. It is very rare for equal pleasure to be found in conception, execution and retrospection (for me, anyway!) so I cherish this!”
“I have decided to choose a recent response for the two year anniversary, which is the prompt of contemporary textile artist – Louise Baldwin (The Kick-About No.48). The outpouring of photography was completely transfixing, utterly intoxicating, but also very unpredictable. It was one of those times where something awoke in me and the tunnel vision of this bizarre creative pursuit was exhilarating – especially because the uncertainty of dumping all those household ingredients into a jar and photographing the bubbling frothy results is a practice I certainly wouldn’t have even attempted if it wasn’t for The Kick-About. But it is one byproduct that the Kick-About can and does unlock, as I do think being an artist means experimenting, breaking the status quo and playing to see what can flourish. So thank you all for the art, the making, and the doing, and helping me to produce things I would never have dreamed of, and thank you Phil for always curating our pursuits into a post I always look forward to.”
“So good to be a part of the KA and see all your fabulous work over the last year – lots to be inspired by and challenged to undertake! Personally I got an enormous amount out of the Sheila Legge challenge (KA 36 – Phantom Of Surrealism). I felt a bit aimless at the start but once my mind began wondering about, while trying to recreate Sheila’s surrealist mask, I zeroed in on the parallel stresses between her era and ours – big scary times. That’s when my image took an environmental posture and I cobbled together imagery to represent power and disaster. I also added ground charcoal textures and hand writing to my photographic images and broke up the framing of the image with staggered photo stripes in the background. It was one of those surprising outcomes that seem to happen so effortlessly its almost as if someone else was giving me a hand. I was also happy that the flower head felt a bit Covidish. Looking forward to the next KA.”
“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(Kick-About No. 27).”
“This piece started life as a digital painting, in the style of Rutenberg’s paintings (Kick-About No.32). The more I’ve gotten into his work over the last few years, and as I’ve listened to him speak about his work and process, I’ve absorbed a lot of his wisdom and theory. Painting in Photoshop, from some recent photos I took on holiday in Somerset, I realised that without all the elements of thick oil paint, walnut oil, textured canvas and the monumental scale, this just wasn’t going to cut it. The sense of depth and light depicted in Brian’s work always astounds me, so I took the idea of his interplay of horizontals and verticals into ZBrush. I used the original digital painting to create the colour on the 3D. I made a rough approximation of the artist himself, just as a homage to a bit of a hero of mine, then created a tangle of intersecting forms. I encased this in a glass box to contain this in a 3D space, something the artist conveys so well on his canvases. A departure from my comfort zone on this one, another lesson learned from Rutenberg himself.”
“After a bit of pondering I have chosen the Matisse Kick About (No.38) for the anniversary of this last year’s offerings. I really liked Phil Cooper’s introduction about Matisse and his joy of playing with scissors as an exuberant response to nature. The fact he made these cut outs in later life reminded me of where I am in my own life and the joy I found doing these cut outs and playing with colour, shape and movement. I think I will be going back to them as they have been left out on the desk asking for more from me…”
“I love the shapes Gabo created – the magic of straight lines working together to create curves, and curves working together to create depth and movement. I started playing around with some yarn and metal shapes, and found myself thinking about the shadows these artifacts could create, with the right backdrop and well placed lights. I’m really pleased with the results.”
“In my other creative endeavours I recently came across the peculiar visual effects that can occur when you layer up uneven lines in a 2D or 3D space. In some cases this effect could be seen as undesirable but I very much enjoy the various patterns it generates at different levels of magnification and how it creates multiple levels of texture and visual interest.”
“The prompt brought to mind some small shibori fabric samples I had that I meant to embroider on. I had planned to do several, but time shrinking as it seems to do so well lately, I only got one done. I did, however, manage 5 Japanese style poems to go with the 5 photos attached.”
threads and circles
1 to be a thread held on the wings of birds soaring through vast light-filled air
2 layers merge separate become something else
3 stillness waits to expand beyond what is here
4 particles of light that remain uncaught—a song you can almost hear
5 tethered to itself or maybe nothing at all– just an idea
“I have loved Gabo since I was 15 when I started experimenting with sculpture. I was already interested in light, movement and transparencies and I found traditional sculpture taught at my art school wonderful but not quite my cup of tea, until I discovered Gabo. His work has all those ingredients and an amazing dynamic strength. I was never much for the rounded shapes but I resonate with the way he uses them because they are so powerful and not soft or indecisive. So here is my attempt to create growth in delicacy through my fused glass sculpture.”
“Many of my friends know that I do a lot of arts and crafts and they often give me bits and pieces and say “Can you make some use of this?” Well this is one of those times when the answer is “Yes!” In fact I’m not quite sure what this material actually is. It seems like a stiff and thick type of felt but the difference is I discovered that unlike ordinary felt, if you cut and twist this it will hold its shape beautifully. So I cut and twisted some long strips and twisted them around a central thread and hung my construction in a sunlit window. Next I played around with some recycled ring pulls that I had been saving. Naum Gabo was a trail blazer – I wonder what ideas he would have come up with if he had the resources of today?”
“I love Naum Gabo and I know how much my work has been influenced by him and also that period in time when so many exciting new ideas were being put forward, both in the arts and philosophy. The transparency of the material and desire to stretch the boundaries of them is fascinating. In these times, I am working with cardboard and have been for the past twelve years, turning it backwards into and an organic form of light and transparency in opposition to its mechanical machined square frame. For this kick about my inspiration came initially from the spiral and then I returned to my collection of pods!“
“I fell into looking at the brother, Antoine Pevsner, as his drawings and paintings triggered a desire to deconstruct older still-life paintings with an interest in achieving more spatially ambiguous subject matter and a hope to add more to dynamic composition. A mix of palette knife and brushwork helped counter habits being formed whilst a painting evolves. An enjoyable KA.”
“The following photographs were produced by stringing nylon wire between the legs of a console table pushed up against one long wall in our kitchen, and then using the torch on my knackered old iPhone to produce some high-points of reflection on some wires, and to cast some shadows too. Something expansive and landscape-like got started in these images, and I’m adding these experiments to my list entitled ‘One day, I’ll do this all again on a MUCH bigger scale.’
“Naum Gabo_Linear Construction Number 2 – such a hopeful outlook to art. I used to love string art as a kid, all those rigid lines. On a recent walk I took photos of the rather drab grey and fairly ugly Story Bridge here in Brisbane and drew it in illustrator in a formal fashion in orange. I thought of adding buildings behind or portions of cars but the bridge turned out so complicated I just added a bit of white cloud – a portion of low quality iPhone photo, but I think it worked and it broke up the rigid picture framing a little. It was nice to spend time concentrating on all those bright orange shapes and not on the world as it is.“
And for our next creative run-around together, our prompt is the celebrated Ukrainian folk-artist, Maria Prymachenko.
Our last Kick-About, inspired by the writings of Gaston Bachelard, encouraged us to examine our domestic spaces and think about the physical and emotional parameters of home. Now, with John Stezaker’s uneasy marriage between photographic fragments as our starting pointing, we’re exploring issues of identity, affinity and discord.
“Life can be scary – survival of the fittest – relationships can bring together different strengths, and if nothing more, give you the courage to bungle on. My image is simple – a river pushing dangerous detritus along – life. I was wanting to have an overlay of two figures swirling about and holding hands but it was too naive looking, and too complicated with the background, so I struggled to find an alternative representation. The lines represent two different shades of people (a couple – sorry such a vanilla representation of marriage) and their individual positive qualities merging to form a barrier protecting the couple from the detritus. The ring blur demonstrates how marriage can soften the edges of thorny life. The colour is joyous (I hope) as marriage is to me (if a lot quieter.)”
“When I started looking at John Stezaker’s ‘Marriage’, the thing that struck me most was that ever-present straight line running through each image, often more than once Was this the joint where two personalities dovetailed? Or a boundary line, safeguarding personal territory? Are people diminished by marriage? Or magnified? So I started thinking about some of the models of marriage I’ve come across. and came up with some ‘Marital Maths’.”
“I’m always doing that surrealist kind of thing with human bodies and collage so I decided to try something different. I liked the idea of using one or two inserted elements, as my work is usually much more complex. Instead of using classic film stars I decided to use the work of classic painters. I took Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, cut it up, and inserted it into works by Monet, Gauguin, Matisse and Homer. They work together quite well I think.”
“I luckily came across some old toys belonging to my grandsons which were waiting to be recycled and I thought they would look great if I combined a few of them and turned them into some very strange looking creatures. This then inspired me to do some collage using some old photos and magazine cuttings to create some more fantastical beings, which looked like they had sprung from the pages of a Marvel comic.”
“By putting two different images together Stezaker seems to create a third dimension, so, ‘sort of’ following this train of thought I’ve dovetailed two extreme scenarios on an old alarm clock set to silent. (Another thought.. weren’t the lurid green numbers painted with something containing uranium to make it shine in the dark?).
Scenario 1: Apocalypse – midnight on the doomsday clock. A young girl runs for her life, her clothes shredded, the sky dark, as a mushroom cloud reaches the stars.
Scenario 2: The clock strikes twelve. Cinderella flees from the ball as her coach, horses, footmen and dress disappear in a puff of pink smoke…the fairy Godmother waves her wand… Abracadabra!”
“A strange and unsettling prompt this time. John Stezaker’s work stirs up a variety of different feelings when I look at them, feelings that are quite difficult to articulate. There is something about the violence of cutting up a picture of a human face that makes such images as ‘Marriage’ quite a visceral experience for me. I can almost feel the slice of the scalpel, and I wince at the thought of accidents and slips with the knife; as an artist who uses collage a lot in my work, I’m well used to my hands sporting at least a couple of plasters covering cuts and scrapes.
Stezaker’s portraits also make me think of Francis Bacon paintings, of how he attacked the faces of his sitters in paint, carving them open with the brush to create images that look like something from a butcher’s shop window. I’ve gone down a similar route with my Kick-About response this week, cutting up photos of glamorous people from glossy magazines, smearing their faces with oil pastel, and mangling them further in Procreate to make fractured images of half-remembered nightmares.”
“Because Stezaker drew inspiration from dadaism and surrealism by kitbashing and appropriating images into bizarre collages, I decided to splice together some absurdities in a fun, no fucks given kind of way – all images nicked from the public domain, of course.”
“All of this began simply enough: try and construct a new face from fragments in a Stezaker-style, and in so doing, seek to produce something as unsettling as some of the photographer’s sepia chimeras.
Reaching for the remainders of some nylon tights and toy-stuffing left-over from the very first Kick-About, I set about sewing together a new face around the shell of a white balaclava. I wanted to produce a fine-art object, as opposed to anything too illusionist, something a bit deconstructed, with its seams showing and the fact of its construction left conspicuous. In this, I looked to Stezaker’s own collages, which likewise make no secret of their provenance of different parts.“
“The head-thing fabricated, I then left it about the house, like a thing left behind or dropped, and photographed it in situ. At times creepy, and at other times just rather sad-seeming, this quickly-produced face-of-bits kept accruing personality and the uncanny ability to seem life-like, even in spite of its obvious anatomical imprecisions and sticky-out bits of thread. That’s the thing about faces, I suppose – even the ones fashioned badly out of tights and Kapok; we can’t help relating to them.”
“The other bit of the prompt I was interested in was the title of Stezaker’s collages, ‘Marriage’: I happen to be married to someone who is willing to share his home with a disembodied head, and the guy who made it. These last photographs are for my husband, Paul, by way of reassurance: however weird things get, I’m still right here and laughing my arse off.”
With many thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, Marion Raper, we have our new prompt, the work of contemporary textile artist, Louise Baldwin. Have fun.
“I’m calling this ‘ROOM FOR SALE’ making homage to Philip Guston’s titled work ‘Room’, and Kandinsky’s colouration of sound. I considered the vacated domestic space and its dynamism. Although Dulux helps erase hand-me-down occupant existence, a persistent association with the past can linger, creating at times a lively sensation, a bit like a stage set just after the performance. I wonder if we’d be more fluid and poetically connected without redecorating? (This KA reminds me of Charly’s KA#7 prompt ‘Ennui’ by Sickert).” Oil paint on primed paper 75cm x 55cm
“When I was exploring this prompt, I came across another quote from Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, which got stuck in my head and wouldn’t be shifted. It was this: ‘Words … are little houses, each with its cellar and garret. Common sense lives on the ground floor, always ready to engage in ‘foreign commerce’ on the same level as the others, as the passers-by, who are never dreamers. To go upstairs in the word house is to withdraw step by step; while to go down to the cellar is to dream.’ The following poem needs more work, certainly some polishing, but such as it is, I share it with you.”
“The prompt this week coincided with my first visit in a long time back to the U.K. to visit mum. She still lives in the Victorian town house where I grew up and, despite having left when I was 18, which is now nearly 30 years ago, it still feels like the family home, the place where we gather together when we can. Dad passed away a few years ago, but the house is full of memories of him. Looking around the old home, there are traces of all of us; gifts we gave each other, things brought back from holidays, family heirlooms, antiques, and things bought for pennies in junk shops. Each object has its own associations, memories of people and places and of particular moments in our shared histories. I’ve photographed a small fraction of them, taking them out of their usual environment of the windowsill or mantelpiece where they have become so familiar. I’ve enjoyed handling them, feeling the vibrations of their stories resonate again down through the years to the present moment. They still feel very alive and the memories they stir up so vivid and poignant.”
“So lovely to see the continuation of everyones amazing creative work over the past few Kick-Abouts… I have spent a lot of time inside these four walls lately, and I have brought the trees with me. The outside is so close to me here in both directions, even though I live in the centre of a city. It’s as if the walls no longer exist, except perhaps in winter, when the shutters are closed early and the fire is lit. Yet the wood of the shutters are my trees in winter and the wind is my music. It is already lit throughout now with sunshine as I write this, and I feel its true self. The outside is also the inside and I am the bird perched high on the hill, ready to fly off. Curiously the work I have been doing feels appropriate. I am inside the tree.”
“I found Gaston Bachelard’s words very inspiring – along with a recent chat with Phil G. I too wanted to capture that feeling of space feeling occupied, by showing the wondrous shedding of life of which lived-in spaces have an abundance – especially in the depths of where you don’t look. I live in an old Victorian house, and me being a hairy bastard I have so much copious scatterings of hair matted into carpets you could make a toupée. Pictured here are clumps of my hair, with the usual sprinklings of dust, dead skin cells and other oddities that life and space deposit”
“I started thinking about all the little bits and bobs we leave around and began taking snaps of stuff my dear husband covers all surfaces in, but I was getting maudlin and decided not to go there – so I went to the wider outdoors as an inhabited space. Of course this has to go to colonial occupation and my lovely country being a form of home invasion. I’m currently listening to an audio book – ‘Salt’ by Bruce Pascoe, who talks about all the environmental changes that his ancestors made to the land but explorers thought were the natural environmental state of the land. I saw this KA as an opportunity for a white male to give support to the indigenous custodians of this land. I thought it needed to be positive – it’s just simple. Emphasis on ‘our’ treaty.”
“If you looked around my house you would see that I heartily agree with Monsieur Bachelard’s sentiments. I have a very ecclectic assortment of objects, which give my place the ‘lived in’ look. I decided to wander around and sketch some of my favourite either useful or beautiful items. Firstly my sewing machine – very essential to me, together with my daylight angle poise lamp. Then, although books are not so necessary these days, I am still intrigued to peruse through a bookshelf and see what people are passionate about. It’s the same with cushions. They not only brighten a dull corner but you can tell a lot about someone’s style with a cushion – mine have a tendency to be patchwork! There are also three very ancient teddy bears. One is the same age as me and is wearing my first knitted jumper and hand-sewn trousers. Next a couple of mirrors. One is fancy and belonged to my parents, and the other an art deco copy, which I found in an antique shop and luckily just managed to squeeze enough money to buy. Strangely, I love my set of saucepans which when hung from the ceiling give the ‘country kitchen’ look and finally there is the old grandfather clock. It was made between 1740 -91 and the family rumour is that my great great grandpa lost all his possessions on a bet and the only thing he had left was the clock. He brought it to London and started a business as a Law Stationer. So although my house does not have a trendy minimalist look, I cannot imagine living without the things that have stood the test of time and have so many memories.”
And for our next excursion into thinking and making, the work of photographer, John Stezaker… have fun!
After the pudding-weight of festive expectations associated with our previous Kick-About, Alexander Calder’s light-weight dance of shape and colour sends us turning gently into the new year, with another showcase of new works made in a short time by a loose group of artists with homes all over the world. A happy and transformative 2022 to all of you!
“I loved the prompt this week. I’m a big fan of Alexander Calder’s sculptures. By happy coincidence there’s a big exhibition of his work here in Berlin right now at the just-refurbished Neue Nationalgalerie. Quite how I came to write such a story in response to the beautiful, elegant mobile in the prompt is a bit of a mystery. I think too many mince pies and liqueur chocolates over Christmas sent me a bit funny!”
“I love Calder’s work and 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. At first, I settled on the idea of producing this impression using virtual components only, building some Calder-inspired shapes in Photoshop and then using them to produce a snapshot of their imaginary interactions. I’ve included two of those attempts here…”
“… but then, I happened on a much more lo-fi opportunity, resulting from my husband’s impressive consumption of Quality Street chocolates over the Christmas period; Quality Street come wrapped in these lovely squares of coloured cellophane, which my husband turned into an ad-hoc garland hanging down from the mirror – in glorification of his gluttony! Suspending the streamer of sweet wrappers from the ceiling, I set out about photographing it from below – lying on my back on the floor and framing the shots to avoid the presence of the cobwebs and the smoke detector! I enjoyed very much the water-colouresque results in all their floatiness, and I’m tempted to draw some conclusion here about the routes towards inspiration being found more-often-than-not in the realm of more analogue activities.”
“Have you ever spent a long time thinking something was going to be rather difficult to achieve? However, when you actually begin, you find it is a lot easier than you thought? At first, I deliberated making material into dangling swirls, then I tried something using beads and twisting them, and finally just went for it with good old card and scissors. Result! Fingers crossed 2022 will go just as easily for everyone! Happy New Year!”
“Once again, I had an inconclusive result, but now I know how to get closer to my original idea, had I time – and a spare wastebasket! One thing I really like about these challenges is the ephemeral nature of them; this will exist only in photos, but it may lead to other more permanent installations, who knows? It’s always fun to try new things. The metal in the Calder mobile reminded me I had a fish mobile/wind chime made of recycled spoons that my brother had given me years ago, which I never could figure out how to hang correctly. So I took it apart, traced the fish, painted watercolor paper in primary colors, and made more fish. I used a hole punch to make eyes, and simple cotton thread to hang them. I had an idea to use an embroidery hoop and circle the fish around it at different heights, but I didn’t think of the wastebasket to hang it in until after I had attached the fish. I think if I hung the hoop over the wastebasket first, and then attached one fish at a time, I could get a better, more balanced result. Another problem was no sun for the entire week; I tried three different lightings to photo it, but natural light, I’m sure, would have been much more satisfying. But they did move and the metal occasionally chimed, so a definite improvement over the original set up, and I like the interaction with the mesh of the wastebasket too.”
“Thank you Gary, this was a terrific challenge! One of the many things I love about Kick About is that it winches me out of my usual way of working and into the arena of experimentation. Many failures, but what the hell. It’s fun and can sometimes lead to an opening up in my work. Happy New Year everyone! Some wire drawings… celebrating 2022, (we can only wish).”
“Three deep breaths and I jumped into the festive season with some Calder focus padding. Minimal thinking involved when I read about the gongs in the piece sounding only rarely, and that this unexpected element was what one audience member regarded as the key. I had just made my Gerry a gif festive greeting for his correspondence, so I made a few more for KA, but they are too short for the final frame to feel rare, but hopefully they are cheery. Hope you all had a lovely couple of weeks.”
When looking at Calder’s “Double Gong”, I couldn’t help wondering what shapes and patterns it might make with a loaded paint brush attached to the end of each arm, then set against a huge sheet of paper, and set spinning. And that got me thinking about my stick.
To help me get around, I use a metre-long white stick with a ball on the end. This I roll back and forth across the path in front of me, (a bit like a minesweeper!) to alert me to bumps, potholes, changes of texture, kerbs and so on. I considered using a huge piece of paper and a pot of paint, and rolling the paint across the surface with my stick, but soon dismissed this as unlikely to result in anything which conveyed much to anyone (or even me).
So then I started thinking about what the stick conveys to me and how it conveys it. So much information travels up from the ball through the stick to my arm and brain.the ball vibrates differently on different surfaces; it can flow smoothly over some surfaces or jump and jerk over others. It will sometimes catch on a raised paving slab or unsuspected step and stop with a suddenness that sends a shock wave to my shoulder. And sometimes the ball slides away from me down an incline or steep camber. The friction between ball and surface also makes noise that forms a constant background to my walks.
So I fixed my camera/phone to my cane (with a bit of help) and went walkabout. The resulting raw video provided some interesting sounds and images and, with another bit of help, I can present ‘Stick and Ball’.”
“When I saw the colours and shapes of Calder’s mobile, I was reminded of the seventies, and I have always been in love with mid-century architecture, so itching to do some environment art, I drew a house surrounded by Calder’s colours and shapes.”
“Happy New Year to all. Tried creating a still-life mobile, hoping to better view ‘variations on a theme’ in support of being freer with composition when painting. Well that failed! Rethinking demanded reusing again these miniature cut-outs in a 3-D manner. How I wish magic powers could float objects where ever they are placed in space!”
Our last Andy Goldsworthy-themed Kick-About together inspired some winter wonderlands (and some much less wintry offerings too, courtesy of Brisbane-based artist, James Randall). For this, our last creative runaround of 2021, we’re keeping things seasonal, with an illustration by Arthur Rackham for a festive classic. Enjoy this showcase of new works made in a short time, and wherever you are, and whoever you are, I wish you and yours all the very best. “Merry Christmas, one and all.”
“I jumped into this sweet text with no clear ideas, so dug out my favourite Pelican fountain pen and began a repetitive process of re-writing the narrative onto lightweight card cut to 140cm lengths. On completion, to counter the banality of what I’d done I re-wrote it, word-for-word, in free-form graffitti style; less mind-numbing, yet still clueless as to the intention. Days later, in woodland, I happened upon a magnificent, towering, perfectly-formed evergreen. With willow twigs in-hand, and the echo of Goldsworthy, I then attempted this balancing act. It may not be towering at 150cm, unless perhaps you’re that mouse not stirring on Christmas Eve. May all Kick-Abouters enjoy a healthy and happy holiday.”
“It’s the season of giving gifts, but these days it’s more like the season of GIFs for me. I’ve been making a lot of quick fire animations in my spare time, and producing some looping Christmas tree things seemed quite natural. I think this one is suitably high-tech but festively cheesy at the same time.”