Our last Kick-About celebrated an art form and creative practice form more readily associated with home and hearth, and while not everyone may identify as being as creative as quilt-maker, Harriet Powers, it’s also true that Christmas is a time when many people assume the role of installation artist and transform their living spaces into something more extraordinary. Consider the Christmas tree, a simple enough idea of evergreen hope and light-in-the-darkness, but complex too in terms of issues of matters of tradition, culture and taste. With the season of goodwill fast approaching, enjoy this latest selection of new works made in a short time, and with the Christmas tree – in all its creative incarnations – as this week’s inspiration.
“I have more lasting memories of my mum’s attempts at putting together artisanal and minimalistic Christmas trees (a few twigs with some baubles hanging on) than I do of a proud-looking pine or spruce in the corner of the living room. Thinking back those twigs were actually impressively avant-garde and experimental in the all the ways I wish I could be, so here’s my ode to one of mum’s many avant-garde trees.”
“I wanted to make a cosmic tree–and I made three that were supposed to stand up, but they were very hard to photograph that way. So for most of the photos I took them apart and laid them flat. I used various grounds you may recognise from past projects. I was also thinking of the EE Cummings poem Little Tree and did my own cosmic version.”
vast and filled with wonder
endless and infinite
everything all at once
how is it we are here?–
looking up, far, into infinity–
we stand inside the glitter of dust
seeking to capture the stars
a seed was planted–
a long sleep surrounded by a dark womb–
an unformed dream
awakened into manifestation
we hold our children close
and then release them–
what will their spirits carry
when they open to the light?
will there ever be an ending?
a time when particles cease to wave?–
we can only hold hands with the spiral
and continue dancing
“When I was growing up, everything about Christmas decorations was either handmade or used year after year after year. The Christmas tree (all 2 ft 6 of it) spent 50 weeks of the year resting quietly in the soil of our back garden. Then, a week before Christmas, Dad would go out, dg it up, re-plant it in a tall wooden planter kept specially for that purpose. The tree then took pride of place in the bay window in the front room so it could be seen from the street.
Dad and the older boys would wrangle the tree lights into working order, whilst we younger children made yards and yards and yards of paper chains, plus a small mountain of paper lanterns. The paper chains would be strung around the middle room (the family room, less likely to be viewed by discerning visitors, I realised when I was older!), and the best of the paper lanterns would hang on the tree amongst the home-made angels, card and glitter stars, and the twelve precious glass baubles that only the most responsible and well-behaved of us were allowed to handle. (No, I don’t think I ever made the grade!). Crepe paper streamers curled amongst the branches and a sprinkling of ‘Angel Hair’ and our tree was complete!
I really miss making those paper chains and paper lanterns, while all around the buzz and hustle of Christmas preparations rose to a steady crescendo… to the moment the lights lit up the finished tree and the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ of a wondrous content settled the room into quiet… Shortly followed by a collective groan as the tree lights flickered once more – and went out!”
“As I missed the Harriet Powers prompt I wanted to do a small overlap with this one, so have done more stitching. This is really a fantasy of my ideal ‘get away’ Christmas… in a forest somewhere North, sitting out in the snow in the soft, muffled silence that pre-empts the opening of the curtains and seeing all that’s familiar negated in white. The sense of being at one with the elements, smelling the conifers and burning wood, the chilled skin and numbing fingers, a deer in the distance… but eventually returning to the warmth of the cabin, a small silver tree, wine and a sleeping cat. Happy Christmas fellow kick abouts – may it be one of peace and warmth.”
“When I was a kid I remember there were particular things I used to dread about Christmas; endless meals with extended family, carol singing, being stuck in the house being made to play with cousins I didn’t get on with. But there were marvellous things too; brightly coloured decorations, fairy lights, beautiful cards and wrapping paper, the foil wrappers of sweets and toffees, and a fabulous, six foot tinsel tree that came out every year. At any other time, such a preposterous, garish and tacky-looking thing wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the carefully controlled space of the living room, but, for some reason, Christmas meant you could cover everything in technicolour glitter – I loved it!
For my response this week I took a few wooden tree ornaments that sit on the windowsill and photographed them with coloured lighting, editing the photos to try and evoke a bit of that lost childhood Christmas wonder, seen through the eyes of my jaded 57-year-old adult self.”
“One of the places in the house you might expect to encounter the simple delights of a Christmas tree is positioned just so beside a warming fire… unfortunately, my house of late has been in a state of disarray, plastic dust sheets covering the furniture, the stove disconnected, and everywhere looking a touch forlorn and far from festive.
Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but notice the way all those plastic drapes brought a Narnian frost to this empty space in the middle of the house and was suitably inspired one exceptionally drab afternoon to create a winter wonderland, complete with frosted cones of pine trees (or rather plastic sheets suspended from the ceiling using black sewing thread and some drawing pins).
With the addition of some tiny coloured lights sat atop the trees like stars (and the magical powers of long exposure photography), I was able to produce a few festive scenes, however unpromising the starting point…
“… and making full use of this strange, empty room of ours, I set about recreating another semblance of the Christmas tree for our room-without-one. A few of those same little lights tied to a long drop of black thread later, and I set about manifesting this Fritz Lang-meets-James Whale-style tree, and enjoyed all the old-school sci-fi spook of it. In some of them, there’s even the ghost of some mid-20th century Americana in-the-mix, in large part due to those masking-tape atom-age snowflakes I stuck to the wall on a whim…”
“… and finally, like the little match girl herself, I popped outside into the bitter cold and dark, and snapped a few images of our ‘Christmas tree’ as it might appear to curious kids and dog-walkers, as the green glow of it flashed in the long night.
To all the Kick-Abouters, wishing you a wonderful, restful and creative Christmas. I rather cherish your company and the balm of your imaginations and when my husband spies me on a chair, whirling coloured lights about the room, and says ‘What now?’ I reply, gladly, ‘The Kick-About made me do it!'”
“As usual these last few weeks before Christmas become more and more frantic. We seem to spiral into a whirlwind of parties, present buying and food planning. However, there is still the calmness of the Christmas tree. A symbol of new life and dating back to pagan times to brighten the darkness of the winter. So Merry Christmas to all who contribute to the Kick About. May your Christmas Tree shine brightly and light the way to a happy and creative New Year.”
“Last year’s KA ‘The night before Christmas…’ rang loud in the ear so, it seemed appropriate incorporating this into the pendulum bauble. Perhaps a wrecking ball to some? Perhaps chaos which settles through gravity? Perhaps a fragile sphere risking self-destruction? Or more simply an upbeat swing containing seasonal cheer? Happy holidays KA-ers.”
“After the quilt KA I was still on a photograph-pattern high so I thought I’d have a go at animating them. When I jumped into the software I found the kaleidoscope setting, which I applied to some of my Brisbane photos. All happened quite quickly and then it came to making a tree out of the patterns – quite quick also. Then in adding a Christmas message and creating a soundtrack it all got a bit quagmire-ish but I kind of finished it and discovered another effect along the way. Hope your Christmases and New Years are full of good cheer. Looking forward to seeing your big beautiful ideas in’23 and thanks for being so inspiring in ’22.“
And as we contemplate the opaque horizons of a brand new year, why not let the mystic visions of abstract art pioneer, Hilma Af Klint, light the way towards inner contentment and existential equilbrium! Until then, wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas. Be seeing you again in 2023.