After the deep intellectual waters of our last Kick-About together, we find ourselves submerged once more, joining Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez in his submersible. It’s a bit of squeeze in there, not least because I’m happy to welcome two new kick-abouters into the mix: Jackie Hagan and Brian Noble. All aboard!
“This image started with a really quick thumbnail sketch that still contains the looseness in its final form, which I like. Thinking about Von Ransonnet-Villez’s contraption, and marvelling at the man’s ingenuity and dedication to explore for sake of art and science, I began to think about the experience of the sea life that was seeing this bizarre contraption in their domain. I switched the view to something where I could set the scene from a fish’s perspective, allowing me to look up into the submersible, and in the process give a bit of drama to what must have been quite a long and claustrophobic experience. Bit of artistic license used on the design of the submersible. I’m sure Eugen wouldn’t have minded.”
“I was struck by the delicately populated reefs depicted in Ransonnet-Villez’s underwater paintings, which led me to wonder what he would have made of the shocking fact that, according to MEPA, 90% of the corals around Sri Lanka are now dead. What would he see if he had been able to submerge in his diving bell today? A sea full of plastic? Or maybe not, micro-plastics being the invisible killers that they are…
Falling into the rabbit-hole of research (yes, I should be working!) led me to discover scientists have set up an EU funded project called GoJelly, (https://gojelly.eu/about/) which is exploring scooping out blooms of jellyfish and using their slime to trap and remove micro-plastics from the oceans. But what would happen if the jellyfish fought back? Prehistoric creatures digesting the most modern of pollutants… And so I present, Scyphozoa plasticus.”
“I didn’t know about Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez artworks and I am glad of the introduction. Most of my work is about the sea in one way or another. I was born by it and miss not been near it, so I paint it instead. Here is a bit of fused glass I did of a jellyfish. Wonderful, translucent and clever things they are.” Fused Glass 30 x 28 cm.
“I didn’t know the artist Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez before I read the kick about prompt, but a couple of clicks later and I was fully immersed in his underwater world and liking it a lot. The images conjure the excitement of exploration, and stepping out of the comfort of the shallows into stranger worlds.
The underwater paintings brought back memories of summer swimming for me. When the weather warms up we spend many afternoons in the lakes in and around Berlin. At the very best spots you can swim through crystal clear turquoise water amongst the water lilies with dragon flies buzzing about your head. It’s really lovely. A while back, I made a couple of studies based on my impressions of those swims and they seemed to fit the bill this week.”
“Here are my thoughts on Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez and his underwater paintings. I love the murky otherworldliness. My only experience of looking under the water was a trip to Malta many years ago. Crystal clear water and no murkiness or pollution at that time. It was magical, and I don’t know why I’ve not taken up snorkling again. It seemed a natural progression from the last Kick-About, that I retrace the possible journey of my Sea-heart pod back to where it may have started in the Gulf of Mexico. There were such a lot of possibilities, from barren wastes left by oil spills, to underwater forests left from the ice-age, and then the most extraordinary plants that live on the coral reefs. This is one of the richest areas for unusual sea life anywhere in the world. So what a trip my pod had! Here are the first two images of the Gulf of Mexico, followed by imaginary images through the windows of a submarine, as a bit of an after thought / diversion / intrigue?” .
‘Getting going out of the swamps into choppy waters over the sunken forests.’
‘A slower rest in the shallows or the coral reef.’
‘A chance glimpse through the submarine port holes of my imagination.’
“Walking around the backstreets of Yokohama feels a lot like being underwater sometimes, so here it is imagined as a sunken, murky city with concrete coral reefs and caverns.”
“My original inspiration for tackling the latest Kick-About prompt was imagining what it must have been like for Ransonnet-Villez inside his submersible, looking through the thick greenish glass of his porthole and out onto the ocean floor. I guess I was more interested in thinking about the distortions produced by looking through the glass, and how they’d add a certain otherworldliness to the painter’s underwater subjects. There is a mundane secret at work behind the resulting photographs – a simple set-up reframing a collection of household objects and pushing them towards a sort of bubbly and aquatic abstraction. Producing these photographs proved immensely addictive – play by any other name.”
“I started fly fishing 35 years ago, although it wasn’t until I started sketching and painting fish that I began to observe both the above water landscape and the underwater landscape while spending time on the water fishing. I soon discovered that examining the natural landscape of creeks and rivers caused me to pause and reflect upon the environment I had found myself so immersed in. Studying rocks, trees, water and fish became equally important as fishing itself. I found myself considering how objects appear both above and below the water, and how reflected light is such an important factor in how these objects are presented. I have recently started using an underwater camera to capture some of these images to use as a resource for my sketches. Personally, I find fish to be an intriguing life form – how they hold still, swim, secure food and seek shelter. The natural curves of a fish bring a sense of calm and beauty that I appreciate and strive to recreate in sketches and watercolor paintings.”
“I had a fun time with this and decided to do an underwater collage.To start with I tried a bit of marbelling on Yupo paper and using acrylic inks. It turned out so beautifully, I couldn’t bear to cut it up! It reminds me of the shapes and shadows on the ocean floor. Next I tried making marks with water colours, using things such as bubble wrap and sponges, and scratching with a palette knife. This was also too special to chop up, even though it would be great as fish skin or scales. Lastly, I sketched a few fish and spent a very pleasant afternoon cutting and sticking my scene together. Can you spot the pepperoni pizza fish?”
“Not having come across Eugen Ransonnet-Villez before I was captivated by his underwater drawings and paintings, particularly since the diving bell was a new and quite dangerous piece of tech in the 1860s. He manages to capture the submarine luminescent qualities of light in his colours and textures in very convincing studies. The only quality I share with him is the desire to capture images of the sea, in my case above it, rather than under it. My association and motivation to paint the sea became the jumping off point for the Kick-about 22.
I grew up 60 miles from the sea in Yorkshire, and must have been close to 10 before I saw and splashed in it. My first interests were in the craft that sailed on it rather than the sea itself. I soon realised a drawing or painting of a boat looked less than convincing without being placed in a realistic sea, and from there my interest grew. A fascination developed with the fact the sea could change completely in the blink of an eye, colour, light and shape being constantly in motion. I was overwhelmed by the technical challenge, but as the years went by a number of “How to paint the sea” books arrived on the bookshelf. However, the process looked complicated, so the books remained on the shelf.
One day, whilst killing time between jobs, I pulled down a book that fell open at the beginning of an exercise. Almost without thinking I repeated the exercise – it worked, not a great piece of art, but it looked like the sea! I was hooked and devoured all the other exercises. It would be wrong to give the impression that technique is all you need, but it gives confidence, and if done in conjunction with careful study of the real thing, turns mere technique into art. Once bitten you never stop learning.
My images for the “Kick-About”are from a recent exercise I set with an art club I am a member of, to demonstrate technique and capture the swell of the open sea. It is certainly not the only way to paint the ocean, but I do get fairly consistent results and I have pdfs of the original exercises should anyone be interested.”
“I had high hopes for a bubbled person image but felt time and concept were getting away from me, so I switched direction to bits and pieces washed up on a beach – the original photo I had in the back of my mind from 2010 had always appealed. Thanks again for a bit of kick-about fun.”
“This got me thinking about the state of the sea in 2021 and how poor old Eugen would be turning in his grave at the changes since he sat in his box, scooting along the sand surrounded by as yet, untouched beauty. If he were to repeat this now with the addition of temperature rise (bleached coral), pollution from plastic and chemical dumping, agricultural run off and change in salinity from ice melt, he would be sadly disappointed.
I’ve approached this simply, addressing plastic and coral die off. Tempting, however, to tie Eugen in with The Flintstones, as his submersible reminded me of Barney Rubble using his feet through the car floor to ‘motor’ himself along!”
22” X 22” Charcoal on Fabriano paper. “Empty Shell with Ear Buds.”
20” X 15” “Dead Sea”. Photo collage with bleached coral.
“I’ve been futzing around with this all week, inspired by Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, and the earthweal challenge natural forces. The painting above, my first attempt, probably has 20 painted layers. Watercolor looks very different wet, and each time it dried I was dissatisfied with the result. Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez was an Austrian artist who designed a diving bell so he could paint the landscape that existed under the sea. This was in the 1860s – both crazy and fantastic. His paintings have an eerie green magic, which was what I was trying to capture, because what is the sea but the most elemental of magic? Like Ransonnet-Villez, I wished to immerse myself inside of it. Being at the moment concrete-bound, I could only try to conjure it with words and paint.”
tides entombed in unchanging light,
reflecting the absent sky,
shimmering with intangibles–
an ancient web woven with stories–
the stilled sea contemplates its origins–
heavy with the cadences of gravity
boundaried by the afterlife–
tides entombed in unchanging light–
surrounded and asunder, astonishment
becomes tinged with enigmatic clarity–
holding particles of stars as if enshrined,
reflecting the absent sky–
the fulcrum rests inside the echo
of what endures, arising
from an aqueous womb
shimmering with intangibles–
the circle continues, horizonless,
quivering in confluence–
who can refuse the voices of the sea?–
an ancient web woven with stories–
“When I returned to the forest this past winter, I happened to come upon a small trench-like lagoon deep within the caverns of the forest, where the snow above was melting and gently plopping into the lagoon. The lagoon was shallow, meaning I could see the dirt, grasses and flowers filtering about in the water with the slightest movement. The glare of the crispy winter sun, projecting shadows of the spruces and firs, lit certain areas of the undergrowth in vibrant red. The trees and shrubbery reflected upon the water caused a mandala of colours to be refracted and ripple, as snow drops fell from above. Watching this was one of most pleasurable tranquil experiences I have ever had. I sat and watched this private show for a long time, and felt as though time had frozen – along with my hands. I pressed record on my camera, although I didn’t have a tripod, which meant some shakiness. It was an absolute pleasure to edit this film, and with it I have attempted to capture that feeling of complete tranquility. The song by Kris Keogh, entitled “We Were Gone Further Than Forever”, transported me back to that tranquil meditative state again, with sections feeling like time moving, flowing and reversing.”
Of our brand new Kick-About prompt, it could be argued we’ve been producing work suitable for the shelves of the ‘Museum Wormianum’ week-after-week. Nonetheless, I cannot wait to see what curiosities we might produce with the Ole Worm’s collection of oddities as today’s jumping-off point.