The Kick-About #69 ‘The Christmas Tree’


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.


Tom Beg

“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.”


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Kerfe Roig

“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.”


big universe

1
big universe
vast and filled with wonder
endless and infinite
everything all at once

2
how is it we are here?–
looking up, far, into infinity–
we stand inside the glitter of dust
seeking to capture the stars

3
a seed was planted–
a long sleep surrounded by a dark womb–
an unformed dream
awakened into manifestation

4
we hold our children close
and then release them–
what will their spirits carry
when they open to the light?

5
will there ever be an ending?
a time when particles cease to wave?–
we can only hold hands with the spiral
and continue dancing


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Charly Skilling

“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!”



Vanessa Clegg

“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.”


vanessaclegg.co.uk


Phil Cooper

“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.”


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Phil Gomm

“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!'”


philgomm.com


Marion Raper

“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.”



Gary Thorne

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.”


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James Randall

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.



The Kick-About #65 ‘Cimetière du Père Lachaise’


From the noise and extravagance of our soundsuit-inspired Kick-About No.64, we’re striking a more melancholy mood this week, as we meander our way past the silent crypts, effigies and monuments of the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. With All Hallows Eve but a few short days away, what better time to ruminate on the gossamer veil between the living and the dead…


Tom Beg

Wherever you go in Japan you are never too far away from an encounter with the various spirits, ghosts, symbols, and gods that are guardians of the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines you can find in nearly every neighbourhood. Luckily for me they are all quite wonderfully visual and emotive, often sporting an unintentionally sinister and stony (pun intended!) smile, weathered by years of exposure to the natural elements. Layering on some murky fog and lighting effects made for some suitably eerie imagery!


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Phil Cooper

“I’ve never been to the Père Lachaise cemetery but I feel like I know it well from countless gothic horror films and TV shows I’ve watched over the years; it looks like it should have Vincent Price’s evil laughter piped through the mournful paths and mouldering mausoleums. So, my contribution this week is a death-themed image – well it is Halloween this week! I have a big box of old children’s building blocks in the basement I used for a project a few years ago. For my Kick-About contribution this week, I made a bridge construction crossing an imagined River Styx – from the light over to the dark of the Underworld… (cue Mr. Price again).”


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Graeme Daly

“Lately, I have been absorbing a lot of German expressionism in my own work, the monochromatic shapely designs of the set dressings are unparalleled and always leave me wanting more. With that in mind, I wanted to do some black and white angular paintings inspired by German expressionism.”


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Charly Skilling

“When I was in my early teens, a group of us from the church youth club used to go once a week to visit old folk living alone in local sheltered housing.  We would go in pairs and  would be assigned people to visit.  My friend Jan and I  used to visit Mrs Munday, the sweetest, apple-cheeked, white-haired little old lady you could ever wish for. She was in her late eighties, and of course, the inevitable happened.  One day, we had a message from the warden to say that Mrs Munday had died, was due to be buried the following Friday, and would Jan and I like to attend the funeral?  Though neither of us had been to a funeral before, we thought we should go   

We turned up at the local cemetery at the appointed hour, dressed in our soberest clothing.  It was early January, bitterly cold, and tipping down with rain.  The warden was there to meet us and led the way through the main part of the cemetery, up the hill where the graves were less closely packed and much less decorated, to a  distant corner up on the brow of the hill.  As we walked the warden explained that Mrs Munday had had no family and no savings.  It would therefore be a pauper’s funeral, paid for by the council, the burial rites to be carried out by an officer of the Salvation Army.  The burial itself would be carried out by the single undertaker and the cemetery groundsman.  She had asked Jan and I to attend as she knew of no one else Mrs Munday had any social contact with.

I tell you now, it felt Dickensian.  It was wet, it was cold, the wind blew the rain in our faces. The Salvation Army guy did his best, but I couldn’t blame him for rattling through the service at some speed. The undertaker and the groundsman lowered the coffin into the grave, then stretched a tarpaulin over the gaping hole, and with a nod to the other attendees and a hurried  goodbye, everyone scurried away to  get dry, warm and on with their lives.

Since that day I have attended many more funerals, of people I have known and loved a great deal better than I did Mrs Munday, but none of them has left me feeling quite as desolate as that first funeral did. I have often thought about that day and wondered why it matters so much that people should be mourned.  After all, the dead person is not going to lose any sleep over attendance figures. Does it matter if no one remembers us?  I think most people would say “Yes!”

So whenever I find myself in a graveyard – not an everyday occurrence, but a frequent side event of visiting churches,  historic sites etc. – I always spare a thought for the mounds with no headstones, no monumental masonry.  And sometimes, as I walk around the older pathways, where the grass grows a little longer, I come across a piece of broken masonry, a fallen headstone, a shard of sculpture – and I stop to look. Because I might not know which grave they belong to, or the name of the person buried there,  but someone, sometime, cared enough to want them remembered. And so I think of all the Mrs. Mundays, throughout the ages, who seemed to have no one to remember them, but lived a life amongst us and left as quietly as they came.”


“A few weeks ago, my Beloved and I spent an afternoon mucking about making a plaster cast of our clasped hands. To be honest, it wasn’t a roaring success – somebody had difficulty with the instruction to “Just Keep STILL”), but it didn’t feel right to just bin the finished object.  So it sat on a shelf for a while.  And then this Kick-About came along, so I dusted it off, painted it with rather fusty yoghurt and rubbed dirt all over it… “



Gary Thorne

“I have not forgotten the impression Père Lachaise cemetery made upon me in the early 80s, it being an extraordinary place. Late 90’s, straddling a motorbike and touring Normandy, our adventure included regional cemeteries, which are fascinating too. Upon return, this drawing at 58cm x 78cm was produced, which since has been face to the wall. Thanks to the KA prompt, I’m revisiting this puzzling representation.” 


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Claire-Beth Gibson

“I suddenly remembered my idea this morning – and the fact I had not actually made it – so I rustled this up whilst still in my dressing gown. Cemeteries gross me out and my experiences have been grotesque and disorientating. I’ve lost two loved ones to the cold empty box of the same French grave. The absurdity of putting bodies into boxes into little stone houses. A conveyor belt of bodies. Trapped in boxes. In stone houses. The voice says: Dans une boîte / Perimé / Tous ensemble / Détaché : In a box / Expired / All together / Detached.”


@claire_beth_claire / clairebethclaire.com / vimeo.com/clairebethclaire


Vanessa Clegg

“I was reading an article about the proliferation of certain butterflies this year, particularly in graveyards. They think this is due to the policy of leaving areas wild and untended, allowing a more sympathetic environment for wildlife… With this in mind, I decided to create a ghostly mutant using a butterfly and the tiny skull of a vole (I think?) taken from an owl pellet. That clear wobbly call of the tawny owl being echoed and answered through the woods is both spine chilling and comforting, depending where you are, i.e. in bed! I like the idea of strange, unnatural creatures haunting the tombs… an uncharted world that ends at the gates.” Cyanotype. Butterfly and skull.


vanessaclegg.co.uk


Phil Gomm

“Our kitchen has an angled glass roof running the length of our side-return. Internally, it’s constructed so there is a narrow ledge at the top of the wall, on which the glass panels rest, producing a series of impossible-to-clean compartments. These same compartments are where too many be-winged things go to die during the summer months, as they first fly into the kitchen and then up towards the glass roof in a fateful bid for freedom. We rescue as many as we can, but not every butterfly and bumble bee is as lucky. So it is we have something of an insect necropolis this short distance above our breakfast table, and while it’s true I pressed their exquisite remains into the chalky embrace of some filler for the occasion of this Kick-About, no living bee or butterfly was harmed in the process.”


philgomm.com


James Randall

Please indulge my mind bouncing from Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris – home to Jim Morrison –  to Riders on the Storm, to a long country road trip, to a series of photos I took while driving past a huge truck – long vehicle as it was labeled. I combined them with a few cemetery, landscape, texture and other photos I had taken and featured the colour red. I ended up placing the 15 truck photos over 5 images and encased each image in a frame composed of chopped up gothic letter forms. I’ll let you come up with a narrative for the images, but I don’t want a ride from that truck driver (do you remember the old movie Duel?).



Kerfe Roig

“There were so many interesting graves and memorials. I spent a long time looking at them and reading about the people buried there.  But I kept coming back to the Holocaust Children’s Memorial designed by sculptor, Casto Solano.  Children who were not lucky enough to have graves with gravestones. I did two watercolors and embroidered similar figures to Solano’s metal outlines over them.  Before I was finished embroidering, I took one of them and taped it to the window, photographing it with the light shining through the needle holes.  None of the photos of the entire painting showed the pinpricks of light very well, but two of the close ups got the effect I was looking for.”



star children

stardust embodied–
matter merely a vessel
for luminous spirit–
did you find what was lost?

the spiraling center
returned to elemental form–
in life but not of it–
stardust embodied

opening into dreamtime,
orbiting the moon,
spinning to the fartheset away–
matter merely a vessel

empty spaces crossing
infinite galaxies–
wings sailing oceans
of luminous spirit

a welcoming heart, a gentle touch,
warm arms to enclose you
in peaceful sleep–
did you find what was lost?


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


When I was a child, the first few days of November always associated with Vesuvius – not the actual eruption that laid waste to Pompeii, but the rather rubbishy conical firework that often laid waste to my giddy expectations of giant sparks and shooting colour… and so, for your consideration and inspiration over these coming days, Turner’s 1817 painting, Mount Vesuvius in Eruption. Boom!



The Kick-About #64 ‘Soundsuits’


If our last Kick-About together was characterised by muted tones and pensive atmospheres, this latest showcase of new works made in a short time is a celebration of colour, movement, costume and dynamism – and how could it not be, inspired as we have been by the artist Nick Cave and his sumptuous soundsuits? In other news, a warm welcome to artist and animator, Claire-Beth Gibson, who joins us this week for her inaugural run-about.


Claire-Beth Gibson

“The sound suit with the spinning tops made me think of the clackety-clackety noise of the whirly spinner I had as a kid.  It smelled of old metal and played a strange song. Starting out with so much enthusiasm, it would spin gloriously for a short while and then gradually teeter more and more as it slowed down, before a final wobble into its death fall, spinning on its side and rolling away. Of course, I wanted it to spin the first high energy part longer than it did. Sometimes I would just keep it in my hands, continuously whirring it, keeping that bit alive for as long as I could. This little animation is some of that moment.”


@claire_beth_claire / clairebethclaire.com / vimeo.com/clairebethclaire


Graeme Daly

“I knew that I wanted to make a film, I wanted it to be loud, aggressive and primal and I wanted to use some sort of fabric or elements that could make up the intricate soundsuits of Nick Cave’s creations. I decided to chuck a bag of shiny sequins of various shapes into a large wok and film it! Bringing down the shutter speed of my camera and aperture while defocusing so that the tacky butterflies, hearts and stars become nothing but dancing spherical orbs lit ablaze with a tiny but powerful led light. It was one of those moments where everything fell into place so nicely. The edit was a dream and thoroughly enjoyable.”


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Gary Thorne

There is something really satisfying about Autumn after such a great summer, so much so I’ve been reluctant to cut back the fading twisting Crocosmia (Lucifer) and towering Buddleja – until now that is!! Flamboyant Soundsuits triggered celebrating the summer die-back so, headfirst into weaving I went with sock yarn, a cardboard frame, secateurs and the garden table in glorious sunshine, and two pleasurable days passed.”

       



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Jan Blake

“I watched a lot on Youtube of the videos made of Nick Cave’s work and was totally drawn into them. His whirling Dervishes of colourful movement reminded me of my view that is a constant in my life. Beyond my windows, I look out onto the city of Bristol masked by this sea of greenery. This last few days those trees and plants have been whisked into whirling dervishes by the wind. I became intrigued by the differences of each tree or plant.  They are all rooted to the spot yet the rhythms of their movement are changed by their shape and weight. Here are three small videos with their own unique surrounding music due to wind or traffic. More study needed to grasp another way of learning from them to use in my work.”


janblake.co.uk


Vanessa Clegg

“I intended this to be a “Barbie/Cindy-lolly” but the felt tip doesn’t show enough on the lolly bit so I’ve given her the chance to be the first girl to enter space single handed!.. Enjoyed playing with all the £1 shop had to offer and go wild with colour… what more could I ask?”


vanessaclegg.co.uk


Charly Skilling

“Costumes, dancing, drums – what’s not to love about  Nick Cave’s sound suits? The freedom of self-expression that comes with anonymity is powerful and liberating. and I had great fun with this Kick-About. As you may have  guessed, the costume is mostly crochet and mostly formed by recycling elements of earlier KAs. I hope these images will bring a smile to your lips, even as you shake your head in bewilderment!”




Kerfe Roig

“I hope we will dream together”
Nick Cave

“In 2014, at the very beginning of blogging, I did a post with a dancer in my interpretation of one of Nick Cave’s soundsuits.  I always wanted to do more of them, so I was glad to see this prompt.  The original one is the star dancer.  I hoped to do three new ones, but only managed two.  The flower dancer was the first one I did: it’s small, about the same size as the star dancer.  Then I decided to work on a large one – a cosmic dancer.  It was a challenge to get the look I wanted. I tried a lot of different papers for the circles, but finally found origami paper came closest to what I was imagining.  The background of stars was always a given.  Perhaps I’ll get to one of those toy dancers in the future…”


who am I?
who can I become?
patterned out
side and in–
shapeshifting transformation–
full, entire, complete


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Marion Raper

“I am not sure when I am likely to use or wear a soundsuit so I decided to make something which is more on the decorative side.   Nick Cave uses recycled objects to make his suits – well, my stylised flowers are made from a bag of old ties given to me by a friend, some twisty wire and an old glass bottle.  The flowers tend to sway gently when there is a slight breeze and I was intending to add some old buttons strung together to make a jangling noise.  However, they were just too heavy and didn’t look right, so I decided to go for plan B, and used some old dangly earrings instead.”



Phil Gomm

“Needs must and all that, so I fabricated my own much down-sized ‘soundsuit’ from a single yellow glove, wooden buttons, glass eye pieces and strands of colourful wool. I was drawn to some of the goofier, ‘Jim Henson-esque’ elements of some of Cave’s soundsuits – hence the Muppet-y character of my resulting hand-puppet. Turns out, however, even the goofiest glove puppet can throw some shapes on the dancefloor!”



philgomm.com


James Randall

“You have to love Nick Cave’s vibrant animated costumes that make you want to join in. Dance, along with singing and art tends to be a lost activity as you get older. I remember wonderful all-nighters at Sydney Mardi Gras parties vividly. This is my attempt to put down some of the movement. I should have made an animation or danced around – avoiding the computer and put down marks by hand, but the attached, with variation, came out from the computer.”



With a small nod to the current season, a mildly spooksome prompt for our next creative run-about: the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which, with more than 3.5 million visitors annually, is the most visited necropolis in the world… 



The Kick-About #63 ‘Vilhelm Hammershøi’


Our last Kick-About together was inspired by continual movement and the accompanying changes of scale and perspective. This week’s showcase of new works made in a short time is, by contrast, a mediation on silence and stillness, as we explore together the hushed, pensive environs that feature in the paintings of Vilhelm Hammershøi.


Graeme Daly

“Hammershøi’s paintings feel so breathy and poetic, like you are peeking into the lives of the mysterious figures. I can’t help but think of a Victorian doll house with all its little furniture placed exactly as the collector envisions. I was initially inspired by the gorgeous light throughout Hammershøi’s paintings and awoke at the crack of dawn to capture the sun as it pooled in through the shutters and windows where the light licked the walls, doors and wooden furniture. I decided at the last minute to perch myself in areas that could resemble the people in Hammershøi’s paintings and dressed myself in a darker colour palette to match. I edited out all the ugly stuff that could resemble a modern rented house in London, including cracks and fire exit signs. Our house is very old and shows a lot of wear and tear so removing those elements was exciting to get a glimpse of probably how it once was” 


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James Randall

Hammershøi’s images can be empty and silent, but to me they overflow with emotion. Recently I lost someone very dear and, during their final days, I took a few short pieces of iPhone video of stuff around me while time passed by. In response to the prompt I added some animation and sound. The final image was taken at a nearby river – there were no cockatoos around me but the sound of flocks of them carried from far down the river to me, speaking of the greatness of nature and the precious planet we seem to be incapable of leaving to its perfect and self sustaining self.



Kerfe Roig

As so often happens, this started out as something else, but I think in the end it works well for this prompt. I wanted to do a house.  I started with a box, collaging the inside to be a dreamlike claustrophobic maze of doors and windows.  This came out very much like I imagined it.  The exterior I’m still not sure about.  Is it four alternate universes, four nightmares?  I think I need to add some text to clarify (or perhaps, confuse).  So, a work in progress.


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Marion Raper

“I love the serene  and subdued art of Vilhelm Hammershøi.  Unfortunately, this is way out of my comfort zone and I have some difficulty with the quieter colour shades and tones. However, I decided to attempt an outside view with dappled sunlight scattered across a wooden panelled house of the sort you might find in Scandinavia.  With recent sad and solemn events I found creating this watercolour had a strange calming effect  – I only wish I could have done it justice.” 



Phil Cooper

“The silvery North-European light I’m so familiar with is captured beautifully in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s paintings. I’ve been living in Berlin for the the past three years, not very far from where he created many of his delicate, luminous canvases. I love his explorations in capturing muted light, and the pared-down domesticity of his quiet interiors. They are a little too quiet for me; my home looks nothing like this; we’ve painted our walls in dark, rich colours, every surface covered in a combination of knick-knacks, plants and the mundane detritus of modern-day living. Hammershøi often used his wife as a model in his pictures, but the reflective reserve of the woman appearing in his orderly rooms is a million miles from my husband lounging around in his underpants, eating crisps and leaving crumbs all over the sofa. So my contribution this week is a sort of anti-Hammershøi. I took some photos of my husband, Jan, one morning during a heatwave this summer. We’d closed the curtains in the living room to try and keep out the heat and the space turned into a sort of exotic underwater cave, made even more mysterious by the clouds of vape-smoke Jan was breathing into the thin shafts of molten light seeping in through chinks in the curtains. I loved our living room during that period, but now, with autumn approaching, the light is turning thinner and more brittle, rather more like a Hammershoi painting – although the clutter and the under-dressed husband are still very present.”


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Gary Thorne

“Stage designers jumped on the bandwagon promoting V.H.’s interiors, with some going quite big and beyond the need of the play. My inspiration credits film director Thomas Stuber, in particular his film IN THE AISLES, a most moving moody work. Making use of ‘crop’ and ‘effects’ I’ve tried complimenting the scene (25 minutes in from the start) where actor Franz Rogowski is very much alone, sat very still at his simple bed-sit desk, deep in thought. It’s a moment of great insight to a complex character. Rogowski has only to slightly shift his body knowing its plenty-enough to tell an in-depth narrative. “


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Phil Gomm

“Recently, I’ve been spending a bit of time in an old seaside department store, home to The Margate School, an art school and studio space for artists and makers. I’ve had some official duties to enact there, but found some time to roam about the building with my camera. In common with Hammershøi’s paintings there is a rich and wonderful stillness about some of the less-inhabited rooms and spaces in this big, old building, which boasts some big, old wonderful windows too.”


philgomm.com


Charly Skilling

“All I can say is these paintings made me think of moving house.” 



Vanessa Clegg

“What I’ve always admired about Hammershøi is his control both in the colour palette and subject matter. That cool northern light casting sharp cut out shapes on a wooden floor… a soft curtain lifting in  a cool breeze… sometimes just the empty room, sometimes the back of his wife… all echoing Vermeer in its quiet focus on the domestic…the silence is palpable.”


vanessaclegg.co.uk


And from the soundlessness and muted colour palette of Vilhelm Hammershøi, let’s hear it for artist Nick Cave and his flamboyant soundsuits – our next Kick-About prompt.



Palimpsest @ The Margate Festival Of Design 2022


At the outset of 2022, I began teaching a small cohort of postgraduate students at The Margate School on the Visual Communication: Design, Society, Nature one year, part-time programme. I had the pleasure of working alongside a lovely group of individuals and, in celebration of their achievements, and likewise yesterday’s launch of Margate’s inaugural Festival of Design, I was invited to work with them again to produce a short film.

Entitled Palimpsest, the film originates from the students’ initial sketches, doodles, writings and iterations, layered together, and expressed as the restless flicker of the creative mind.

As of yesterday evening, the film is now installed in The Margate School as a projection-mapped work, animating the large wall above the independent art school’s ground floor staircase. The Margate School operates out of a former department store on Margate high street – with all the quirk and atmosphere you might expect.

Many thanks to Claire-Beth Gibson, Claudine Derksen, Emma Self, Ian Jones, Grace King, Georgia Dack, Susanne Hakuba and Zoe Artingstall for helping me put this together, and for your creative company over this last year. Congratulations on your recent graduation (at the Turner Contemporary no less!) and best of luck for the future. May your brains continue to flicker!




The Kick-About #62 ‘Powers Of Ten’


From the internal and endlessly expansive spaces of our memories, as inspired by our previous Kick-About together, we’re this week exploring the mind-boggling extremities of different scales, courtesy of Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 short film, Powers Of Ten. Enjoy this latest showcase of ‘new works made in a short time’, the big and the small and everything in-between.


James Randall

“As a youngster I recall the concept of infinity as an exciting concept that had huge at one end and tiny at the other. Then it got a bit messy and I threw in the concept of mother nature as a religion to cover the extremities. I approached this KA as a mechanical exercise where a square is 1×1 of a certain colour, 10×10 are lines across and down in the next colour wheel colour (and I varied the thickness of the lines and added some variation within the colour stop and the opacity to make it a bit more interesting), added another hatching of lines for 100×100 and another for1000x1000. I didn’t go further as this visual started to grey off. I then repeated the exercise with sets of adjacent squares and lines with an increase in colour wheel increments as I went along. Finally I went back to each layer and slightly messed up each layer either by moving or resizing them. Not unpleasant but meaningless.”



Vanessa Clegg

“Initially this flummoxed me despite loving the film… how do I react visually? Then, eureka,I realised the drawing I’ve been ,on and off, working on since lockdown would ‘sort of’ slot into the micro/macro thing. The idea behind it was based on my calendar where I diagonally cross off each day (otherwise I’d be walking in circles) alternating direction as I go. The gessoed board was divided into a tight grid so the lines filled each square gradually building a pattern which subconsciously reflected the curtains of my childhood home (weird. Anyway leaving areas clear or less worked and stepping back it becomes the. sky..no planes..no birds…silence…as I remember the atmosphere of 2020. Micro/macro.”


Pencil on gessoed board stained with blue oil paint. 4’ X 3’ (right hand section still being given final layer)

vanessaclegg.co.uk


Gary Thorne

“The camera distance to the mirror surface is .0003 of a kilometre, the distance from mirror surface to the actual object is 150.56 million kilometres, hence it being a blurry object, and the time of day is 14:16 with a current temperature of 25 degrees celsius.”    


linkedin.com/in/gary-thorne


Charly Skilling

“Whilst thinking around the film ‘Power of Ten, I came across some images of the cellular structure of a sunflower’s stem and of sunflower pollen under the microscope. These images reminded me of  some  odd yarns  in my collection and all of a sudden I found myself building the various layers of a sunflower from  the centre out.   Like Topsy, it just grew and  grew, and by the time I had reached the countryside surrounding the sunflower fields, I had to call a halt. It was the opposite of disappearing down a rabbit-hole – I was in danger of disappearing into outer space! Great fun, though, as always!”



Phil Cooper

“I really enjoyed watching the film by Charles and Ray Eames, it took me straight back to my ‘70s childhood and adolescence, pre-internet, when occasionally I’d stumble across films like this on the TV and it would blow my mind.

Powers of Ten got me thinking about scale – albeit in a much more modest way than in the film – and I used some sketches I’d made of a clump of sea kale I’d photographed on Dungeness to make an image about a wood in late summer. I layered a couple of sketches and the plants started to look more like trees, laden with fruit. As the sea kale was growing right next to a nuclear power station, a radiation leak could turn them mutant, just like in the films, and they would grow into giants, so that the pea-sized seeds on the original plant become as big as apples.”



instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com


Graeme Daly

“This film made me think of how minute our little planet is, and wonder about the possibilities of life many light years away. I wonder what those other planets could look like and the beings who inhabit them? I decided to create some nebulas using the textures from a previous exhilarating Kick-About and stamped them onto simple 3D spheres, superimposing them atop those same textures, while painting galactic elements to create milky ways that possibly maybe could be…”


@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly / gentlegiant.blog


Marion Raper

“This amazing film by Charles and Ray Eames reminded me about the relatively recent invention of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) which is able to see further back in time than any other telescope has been able to.  It was originally designed to study some of the universe’s oldest galaxies and has a mirror that detects molecules such as water, CO2 and ammonia in the atmosphere of distant exoplanets, and the ice and dust that form stars, planets and comets. Scientists say studying these molecules and learning more about the chemical reaction that happens in these places will help us to understand how planetary systems form. This information could also tell us if the conditions for life are unique to our solar system. My collage artwork this time is an attempt to capture a view from JWST of a far off galaxy thousands of light years away.”



Kerfe Roig

“I enjoyed the video, but I really have no coherent explanation for the thought process that led me from there to here. I do know I think in circles, not boxes, when considering time and space. And it was such a bombardment, I felt I needed to be minimal. I used a variegated grey thread to try to create some shimmer. For my pantoum, I took part of an old poem about zero and combined it with words and ideas I wrote down from the narration.”



zero, or: without limits

the direction is lost–
distances traveled
waver and shift–
perspective changes

distances traveled
approach and return–
perspective changes,
light years converge

with approach and return,
darkness increases–
light years converge,
explode

darkness increases,
becomes empty,
explodes
into energy

becomes empty–
a transformation
into energy
at the center of nowhere

a transformation–
invisible, uncoiling
at the center of nowhere
inside time’s pocket

invisible, uncoiling,
wavering–shifting
inside time’s pocket–
the direction is lost


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Tom Beg

“This Kick-About submission ended up with a lot false starts and the remains of ideas scattered amongst the bits and bytes of a computer hard drive. A downfall of my own making perhaps. The deceptive simplicity of the depiction of scale and movement in Powers of Ten combined with the retro graphic design-ness of the imagery has always appealed to me, so in the end I just tried to tap into that and make something that appeared to be at once microscopic, abstract and graphical.”


twitter.com/earthlystranger / vimeo.com/tombeg / tombeg.com


Colin Bean

After a bit of research into the works and inventions of the Eames, I put together something from the prompt film (space/movement) and married that to one of the company’s products – in this case, a deck of building cards. This deck consists of 45 cards, in nine sets of five sequential images. Each set starts with an image, then, from the same distance point, zooms in the five times until it ‘disappears’. As for the initial images, they are simply a record of what is in ‘spaces’ in the house, in cupboards or drawers…

For the backs, rather than a single icon, it’s more like the heavens of the original film, at least that’s where the idea came from. The photographs were not edited, so each sequence of five represents a single event. Each image was stuck onto ready-made blank playing cards, then laminated with transparent plastic and each one trimmed. The same for the backs. I don’t own a laminator but did invest in a cunning little hand-trimmer that rounded the corners. As for the cuts in the cards, they are not particularly beautiful and done with the help of two bits of wood marked with a 1cm line, two ‘G’ clamps and a junior hacksaw.

This Kick-About prompt was one which gave me lots of practical problems to solve in order to visualise what I had set out to do, and like so many ideas, this was one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration! For all that it was very satisfying and fun to be able to use them for building structures as originally intended.”



Phil Gomm

“So this one takes a bit of explaining! Short version is I wanted to produce something that got into the visual rhyming between the cosmic and the microscopic you see in Powers Of Ten, and likewise the graphical quality of its art direction. For The Kick-About #46, I subjected everyone to macro-photographs of the human litter dusting various surfaces in my home. I decided to use these same photographs as the starting point for my response, and started by spherizing them digitally (over and over again), so as to produce ‘planets’ from them (or molecules?). In part, I was prompted by another Kick-About, and this time was able to produce these little animated loops by running each of the photographs together to make footage, in which the effect of spherizing the original photographs multiple times has been too soften their respective surfaces into these seemingly ‘hand-drawn’ sequences. To emulate some of the ‘maths’ in the Powers of Ten, I then composited some concentric circles over the top of these animated loops. I don’t really have a final outcome, so what I’ve gathered here are a collection of results. They might be particles or elements of some periodic table, or eggs, or maps, or other sorts of diagrams, but it was a lot of fun engineering them from a largely automatistic approach to ‘seeing what happens’.”




philgomm.com


And so, from the infinite bounds of the cosmos and abstractions of innerspace to the pensive domestic subjects that feature in the paintings of Danish artist, Vilhelm Hammershøi. Have fun and see you on the other side.



The Kick-About #59 ‘Augustus Osbourne Lamplough’


Our last Kick-About together was fired off by the super-saturated decor of Henri Matisse’s 1908 painting, Harmony in Red, also known as The Dessert. As Vanessa Clegg observes, there is but a small difference between the word ‘dessert’ and ‘desert’, but a whole world of difference between Matisse’s spatial effects and use of colour and those distinguishing the paintings of Augustus Osbourne Lamplough. With Lamplough’s evocations of exotic landscapes as our muse this week, enjoy this latest collection of new works made in a short time.


Jordan Buckner

“The magic of Lamplough’s work is all in the soft, low contrast haze. He managed to capture those dusty, golden hour landscapes with a gentleness and calmness – a painting that feels barely there. My own contribution isn’t quite as calm – perhaps a little more sickly, but an exploration at least of the similar, low contrast magic landscape.”



“One process I often use to get a composition off the ground, is to take my old paintings and remix them. I collage and collide them together to create new forms, compositions and colour harmonies. It all feels a little mad and chaotic but it is the only way in which I can find some spontaneity in the digital medium.”



www.jordanbuckner.co.uk


Tom Beg

“I love the mirage-like quality of the African desert paintings and was instantly reminded of fata morganas and mirages in endless landscapes. With that in mind, I just had a bit of quick fun with some minimalistic desert imagery and a simple impression of mirages. Are they distant columns of lights? An epic oasis city in the desert? Or merely just a trick of the camera lens?”



twitter.com/earthlystranger / vimeo.com/tombeg / tombeg.com


Colin Bean

“I met this Kick-About with a beautifully decorated box, which, some years ago, was given to my father on a removal job. He said it belonged to a nun, but it’s unknown to me if it was she who presented it to dad as a thanks, or if it was just something the owner no longer needed. My dad was never one to refuse anything. 

Inside the lid is a sticker marked ‘Relics’ and four smaller boxes are revealed. Each box, decorated all over with detailed floral sprays, contains fragments and objects collected on travels. Sadly, no body parts. In one are two pieces of building stone from the Great Pyramid… and so my rather obvious connection with the prompt.  It’s a  marvellous object and a bit like a transportable ‘cabinet of curiosities’. Apart from the pyramid fragments, there are some shells from the Sea of Galilee, a chunk of Fountains Abbey, and a bit of brick from the spyhole through which Wellington spied the French at Waterloo – and numerous other bits and pieces.

So the drawing (collage, coloured pencil and ink) that came out of this, is of that inner box: its contents and dedication. The obelisk (foam board, pins, beads and Pritt Stick materialised as a way of using the pattern of the red granite – useful if you happen to be staging ‘Aida’ or ‘The Magic Flute’ and you need a desk ornament.”



Vanessa Clegg

“Having missed the last two prompts I thought I’d try, with limited technology, to combine all three… So, drawing (Peake), dessert (Matisse) and desert (Lamplough). ‘Dessert in the desert’ (helped by an old yellow lens filter for the heat!).”


vanessaclegg.co.uk


Phil Cooper

“It just so happened that the week this prompt appeared I was asked to paint a picture of the desert by a friend from Dubai. I thought it was a fairly straightforward task, even though outside my usual oeuvre, but when I started trying to paint the sand dunes in the evening light I soon discovered it was tricker than I thought. The tones and colours were elusive and everything I did ended up too warm, too cool, just not right, and so the prompt was perfectly timed for me; I didn’t know the work of Augustus Osborne Lamplough, but as I looked at images of his watercolours, it was immediately clear this man really knew how to paint sand! The delicacy of the tints he used and the skill of his watercolour painting is breathtaking; so here was the master I could learn from to try and make my Dubai painting more convincing. I found it difficult enough with oil paint, where you can correct your mistakes, so I’m in awe of Lamplough’s skill painting desert-like landscapes in watercolour, where there’s nowhere to hide if something goes wrong.” 


instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com


Kerfe Roig

“I decided to do watercolors, which perhaps lean more towards Turner than Lamplough, but the sunset feeling is still there I think.”


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Gary Thorne

“Using a tight colour palette with aim for a unified tonal landscape, and making use of the palette knife to harmonise structure and composition, this endeavour at 30cm square, tries to integrate tree structure as much with the air as with the ground. Spatial depth is somewhat sacrificed when a push for atmospheric effect prevails. Lamplough’s blue-saturated ‘Cairo Mosque from the Nile’ (on the Lyon&Turnbull auction website) provided the inspiration.” 


linkedin.com/in/gary-thorne


Jan Blake

“I have a book of sepia photographs I bought in a junk shop many years ago. It is full of these curious landscapes from far away places of a Grand Tour taken in the early days of photography. I was going on some short travels of my own to Cornwall by train and I was prompted to think about my previous ideas of travelling I have been musing upon for quite some time. I love these soft muted colours Lamplough uses and have tried to apply them to a short series of my journey into Cornwall. I have taken the contrast of moving so rapidly from the verdant  lush quality that suddenly changes to moorland in a moment as you approach the landscape of the deserted tin mines around Redruth. As I was moving in the train it was like a stage set with moving sections. These sections move at different speeds so the furthest remains for the longest time with new images to the foreground that flash past. The perspective changes as well and I would like to continue this journey so that your eye dips into a valley… but I ran out of time!”


janblake.co.uk


Phil Gomm

“I wasn’t familiar at all with Lamplough’s work (much obliged, Jordan), but find his paintings completely magical, and can hardly believe they’re paintings at all, in so much as all that soft golden light and gauze is produced from paint and brushes onto paper. In Lamplough’s landscapes, I find the impressionism and light-play I always want from my own photographs, and it was a happy coincidence that Jordan’s choice of prompt should arrive in the same week I was experimenting with physical gauzes to produce more diffuse lighting effects of my own. Suitably inspired, I returned to a local bit of unadopted scrub set just back from the sea front (last seen on here under very different circumstances) and indulged once more my love of grasses, in all their billowing contours. First putting my camera into an organza bag, I proceeded to photograph the scrub as the wind pushed it this way and that, and the sun illuminated every quill and strand of it. Meanwhile, the gauze served to flatten everything out and flood the subject with light, producing some Lamplough-like atmospheres from a largely over-looked landscape.”


philgomm.com


Marion Raper

I am trying to convey the idea of heat by using very hot and luminous colours.  Augustus Lamplough however, managed to portray this by a marvellous technique of softness and reflection of light and shadow.  His paintings are simple but very effective and it must have been so wonderful a time at the turn of the 19th century, to wander around Egypt with your watercolours, and just explore and paint.



Graeme Daly

“When I recently came back to London after experiencing the greens of Ireland I was taken aback with how brown and muddy the earth felt, the grass crispy under my feet, the leaves and flowers with burnt liver spots. The world was well and truly scorching alive with a wave of heat that follows your every move. Sweating, I set out with my camera in the sweltering heat to explore the torrid areas and capture similar landscapes to Lamplough’s work, the park near my house where I run every day being the main jumping off point, coupled with the coloured slats, trucks and caravans in the midst of setting-up shop for a funfair. I wanted to explore taking the photos that step further – upping the exaggeration by adding a plethora of different shapes hinting at some civilisation in the distance. But is it nothing more than a mirage?”


@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly / gentlegiant.blog


With many thanks to Berlin-based artist and regular Kick-Abouter, Phil Cooper, we have our latest jumping-off point, but before you take a look, you might want to pop the kettle on…



The Kick-About #57 ‘Mervyn Peake’


From the percussive, delineated sound-shapes of a Sandy Nelson drum solo, our muse for our previous Kick-About, we are this week riffing on the appreciably softer tones of the drawings by Mervyn Peake, and likewise the richness of his imaginary worlds and all their eccentric inhabitants.


Jordan Buckner

“It’s hard to resist that textural ink approach Peake was famous for. I recognised some of Peake’s work but didn’t have a great knowledge on who he was, or what his work amounted to. It’s wonderful to see that even in his more observational work, that gothic storytelling still feels present.”


www.jordanbuckner.co.uk


Judy Watson

“There’s much to explore in response to Peake’s work, and I don’t think I can do it on one hit, so let us see where it takes me. But to begin with, it has taken me back to two mediums I loved in earlier years but have neglected more recently.

Pen and ink. Obviously this is all about the line. But it’s also about embracing a medium that can’t or won’t be fully controlled. I worked pretty small with these and just enjoyed making lots of small doodles. Perhaps some more finished work will come later.”