A final set of Kick-About #45-inspired photographs, produced in response to the challenge of trying to kick-start a small celestial body in the confines of my narrow terraced house… In some of these images, you might think I was photographing a gilded shell or similar as my subject, when in fact you’re looking at the rotations of an illuminated glass vessel spinning on the spot.
A second batch of Kick-About-inspired orbs, spinning around in dark spaces.
Our latest Kick-About was inspired by an obscure (to me at least) alchemical text dated from 1582 entitled Splendor Solis or The Splendour of the Sun. So how to conjure an astronomical phenomena into being in a short space of time, when access to fusion reactors, rocket-ships or celestial wormholes is otherwise unavailable?
There’s a part of me that wants to keep the whole process behind these photographs as mysterious and unknowable as their subject; another part of me can’t wait to tell you I quite literally put a source of light into a glass vessel and then gave it a bloody good shake… light and time producing an alchemy all of its own.
From the effortless, airborne whirligigs of our last Kick-About together to another transmutation of matter into something elemental and illuminating! For this week’s creative challenge, we’ve been in the business of summoning the sunshine, and, at risk of seeming self-serving, I want to give special thanks to Gary Thorne for his contribution, which has something nice to say about all these continuing acts of creativity of ours, and the light they bring.
“I was thinking what could be the most ‘alchemical’ transformation imagined? What on Earth happens in those tiny parcels called the chrysalis? From the juicy tube of a caterpillar, wrapped tight and left to transform, an entirely new creature is made: the butterfly, drying and pumping its wings in the sun, a symbol of summer. The image is upside down, as I wanted the cases to look like ‘sort of’ vessels, with the butterfly levitating and held by one antenna; the dark and the light existing together.”
“I have tried to capture the colours and shapes of the Sun, as depicted through centuries of astrological and alchemical treatises and depictions. It was much aided by photographing in the bright clear sunshine of an unexpectedly lovely January day.”
“Of all the imagery in Splendor Solis, what amused me the most was the theatricality of three-headed dragons, peacocks and a menagerie of other bizarre things magically appearing in bottles by the presumed mixing of various materials and more than a bit of a hocus pocus. I decided to conjure up some of my own alchemic creations and create something a bit fantastical.”
“I was making a collage earlier this week, painting textured papers to make the raw material and then snipping and glueing into place for the final image. When I’m working with collage, the papers and leftover cuttings get strewn about the floor and quickly build up to form drifts of scraps around my feet. While I was making, from time to time, I’d muse on the beautiful Splendor Solis prompt, and what I might make for this week’s Kick-About.
I started to focus on the transmutation of alchemy, and so turned to the flotsam and jetsam surrounding my desk as I was messing about with collage. It’s a medium I enjoy working with for many reasons, mainly for the surprising juxtapositions that can emerge as I put one piece of paper next to another; effects that would never have happened if I’d tried to direct painting. When it works, it’s transformative, the separate elements of the collage become more than the sum of parts and something new is created.
So this piece is using up some of those paper scraps that have been generated by my work earlier in the week. Using the alchemy of collage, I’m reflecting on the rather everyday, mundane alchemy that we’re all doing all the time; how our thoughts, words and actions ripple out into the world, influencing and changing things, sometimes dramatically, sometimes subtly.”
“My pic was born a couple of days before the KA announcement but I thought it fitted in – colour if not theme. It’s about how we are just ‘other’ animals – not nearly as clever as we’d like to believe. It is also to do with male sexuality (cue an old book “Sex On the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women”). I added a couple of quick sketches fully in response to the KA.”
“It’s been a hard 2 weeks at the office! I have tried various methods to obtain my Eureka moment – one of which included getting up at 5.30am to capture the sun rise ( which when it happened I seemed to miss!). Eventually I decided to use a sacred geometry and alchemy symbol and copied the design using black threads on a painted background. However, being a ‘perfectionist Virgo’ I was not content with the result, so I then spent some time adding various bits of crochet , threads and material scraps from my ‘magpie stash.'”
“Thanks for the introduction to this wonderful book! I could have gone on and on time permitting, and will keep it in mind for future expLorations. Out of the 22 images of the Splendor Solis, I chose to work with Plate 2, The Alchemist: “Seek the Nature of the Four Elements”. First I did a collage based on the painting alone, then, after reading a bit about its symbolism, I made my own, looser interpretation. I was especially drawn to the Alchemist’s connection to the natural world, in particular flowers and birds, and his alternate identity as the Deity of Celestial Light.”
Below my feet the path waits
for the earth to open me–
the layers of brown and green
remember the moon, its circles
through both dark and light.
The chill of morning warms
to birdsong. The seasons
endure. In spring the autumn
seems far away, but life is
always preparing to die
and start all over again.
What is the secret of transformation?–
ancestors embedded in every root,
in every branch rich with leaves
that will blaze in a sudden last glory–
nourishing what follows
with what has come before.
We know so little, after all,
of the workings of nature,
of its consciousness. Does it
even have yesterdays or tomorrows?
Does it acknowledge return, or is all
but a single endless moment in time?
We mirror our own inner maps
as stars–the dust of elements
contained in our bones–
merely vessels, seeking
the essence of who we are
inside the question itself.
“So, how to conjure an astronomical phenomena into being in a short space of time, when access to fusion reactors, rocket-ships or celestial wormholes is otherwise unavailable? There’s a part of me that wants to keep the whole process behind these photographs as mysterious and unknowable as their subject; another part of me can’t wait to tell you I quite literally put a source of light into a glass vessel and then gave it a bloody good shake… light and time producing an alchemy all of its own.”
“When in the period of the Post-Covid, people’s minds were waking from the long sleep of darkness, Phil Gomm, one of the well known Adepts of Inspiration, went forth (with his followers) in further search of that secret knowledge, the possession of which leads to Alchemical Adeptship for the Truely Motivated. Let those, lost in times of darkness, reflect on the reputed works of the KA Adepts, to ignite their own transformation.”
And for our next foray, ladies and gentlemen, a few expansive words on the theme of home and habitations from the likes of Gaston Bachelard…
A second set of Calder-inspired photographs, produced in response to the Kick-About No.44, and achieved through the simple means of photographing a garland of cellophane wrappers, unfurled from a great many Quality Street chocolates…
With one of Alexander Calder’s wonderful sculptures-comes-mobiles as the prompt for the latest Kick-About, I initially set about producing these digital compositions in Photoshop. I then 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 analogue activities.
I love Alexander Calder’s work, so in response to the prompt for the Kick-About #44, I 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. I settled on the idea of producing imagery using virtual components only, so first building some Calder-inspired shapes in Photoshop and then combining them to produce these ‘snapshots’ of their imaginary interactions.
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!”
You can find a PDF version here
“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!”
With many thanks to Japan-based Kick-Abouter, Tom Beg, we have a new prompt to carry us into January, the alchemical Splendor Solis…
On Christmas Eve in our house, there was always a tradition of telling ghost stories just before bed, often with a flickering candle for a bit of Dickensian ambience.
Sometimes the stories were read from a book, but often they were created by the family itself, each of us taking it in turns to make up a new bit of the story, before letting the next person continue it, cliff-hanger by cliff-hanger. Mostly, these descended into fits of giggles, as my brother and I failed to resist the temptation to slip rude words into our respective sections, and by ‘rude’, I mean words like ‘bum’, and ‘knickers’.
Christmas Eve has always had this touch of spook about it, and I think my sensitivity for this peculiar atmosphere predates any knowledge of Scrooge and his ghosts. It was just a night with an imminence like no other. The prompt for The Kick-About No. 43, Arthur Rackham’s 1931 illustration for The Night Before Christmas, depicting three little boys heading up to bed, captures this feeling very precisely. It’s there in the contrast between their cherubic faces and what is not so angelic about the rendering of their shadows on the wall behind them. I thought this a perfect opportunity to revisit that childhood tradition of a Christmas ghost story, while also exploring a few other ideas too.
You can find a PDF version here
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.”
“The night sky needs no man in a red suit, sleigh, or reindeer to inspire wonder.”
What To My Wondering Eyes
the night lengthens
into hours that refuse to pass
the stars grow larger,
suddenly a bridge,
a ladder made of light
silence becomes a dance,
its ancient steps retraced
the circle keeps its promise–
a child will lead the way
“I have taken some artistic license with this Kick-About, and you must imagine that it is early on Christmas Eve when the light is just starting to change before darkness falls. The weather is cold and there has been snow a few days earlier, which is now slushy . This young boy’s mother has said, ‘Hey Jack. Can you just run up to the woods and bring us back a little tree to decorate tonight? Your father’s so busy at the farm he’ll be exhausted by the time he get’s home and your brothers and sisters are so excited and can’t wait to start decorating it. I’ll never get them bathed and into bed asleep before Santa comes tonight!’ Christmas Eve is such a magical time and there is so much to do that it always flies by before you know it.
“And wishing all the Kick-About gang a relaxed, leisurely Christmas and a healthy new Year – artwork courtesy of Toby, my youngest grandson, who proudly carried this picture out from school this week.”
“The shadows in Arthur Rackham’s drawing are rather ominous, but I find there’s a spookiness lurking in so many of his images. His work is, on the surface, often enchanting and whimsical, but there’s a darkness and strangeness to them hiding just out of frame.
I’m submitting a painting that plays with similar themes for this Kick-About; shadows and light, mysterious things unseen, and a prickle of unease. I don’t know what’s going on behind the topiary here, perhaps somebody burning rubbish on a bonfire, or a streetlamp, or maybe something else…”
“Not much from me today, as I did these quick sketches on the journey to Stansted airport on my way back to Ireland! I couldn’t get over the eerie nature of Rackham’s scratchy shadows! I found his illustration horrifying – in the best way! For me, Rackham’s art always veers towards that polarising view of what is ‘charming’, where it is uncanny and not quite right. There’s something about the blackness of the line work, particularly with the scratchy shadows, and the way the sickly stained walls progressively get more bruised towards the top; making me think old Saint Nick isn’t as jolly as it’s told, and could be hiding in those shadows, ready to unhinge his bearded jaw and gobble up those kids as they run right up to him… ‘He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake…'”
“I grew up in a very tall, very dark, very cold Victorian house, and although Arthur Rackham‘s drawing was done a quarter century earlier, the image instantly brought all my childhood fears back to me. There were shadows everywhere and permanently icy draughts that stroked the back of your neck, and then savagely slammed any door you were unwise enough not to shut securely behind you. It was great in daylight: high-ceilinged rooms and long corridors, changing floor levels, and plenty of hiding places. But when the night drew in…”
You you can find a PDF version here.
“I was thinking of the brilliant film, Nosferatu, with the shadow of the vampire climbing the stairs then put that into the traditional snack left out for Santa! Enjoy Christmas everybody, however you choose to spend the time. Have fun and keep cosy.”
“On Christmas Eve in our house, there was always a tradition of telling ghost stories just before bed, often with a flickering candle for a bit of Dickensian ambience. Sometimes the stories were read from a book, but often they were created by the family itself, each of us taking it in turns to make up a new bit of the story, before letting the next person continue it, cliff-hanger by cliff-hanger. Mostly, these descended into fits of giggles, as my brother and I failed to resist the temptation to slip rude words into our respective sections, and by ‘rude’, I mean words like ‘bum’, and ‘knickers’. *Snicker*.
Christmas Eve has always had this touch of spook about it, and I think my sensitivity for this peculiar atmosphere predates any knowledge of Scrooge and his ghosts. It was just a night with an imminence like no other. Rackham’s illustration of these three boys heading up to bed captures this feeling very precisely; it’s there in the contrast between their cherubic faces and what is not so angelic about the rendering of their shadows on the wall behind them. I thought this a perfect opportunity to revisit that childhood tradition of a Christmas ghost story.”
You can find a PDF version here
“Thanks Gary Thorne for your good advice to take a sub-tropical approach. And so I landed on the hot nights when the heat spins about you as you search for the numbness of sleep. I could have used a darker palette for night. I had the Christmas excuse to use the gold paint that I was too conservative to use previously – wish I could share the metallic on screen. So as the year darts to a close thanks to all of you wonderful KAers and your inspirational works. They amaze me every week and make me want to try harder to capture some of your spark. May you all have a wonderful Christmas and a healthy happy 2022!”
Courtesy of Kick-Abouter (and artful Christmas Tree wrangler) Gary Thorne, we have a new prompt to carry you through those moments when, despite all the food and other festivities, you’re twiddling your thumbs and wish there was a classic example of mid-Century kinetic art to inspire you…