More images produced as part of my response to The Kick-About No.38, which took the cut-outs of Henri Matisse as its prompt, and more images resulting from an improbably happy marriage between Powerpoint and Photoshop. In contrast to the these previous images, I enlisted one of Powerpoints ‘ready-mades’ – an off-the-peg icon of some seaweed with some passing resemblance to some of Matisse’s own plant forms. Different visual chemistry this time around, with the layerings resulting in mosaical effects, putting me in mind of Gaudi.
Our last Kick-About together introduced me to an artist I didn’t know, Peter Mungkuri, whose monochromatic and illustrative paintings simplified plant forms in feathery marks and concentric circles. This week it’s Matisse, an artist with whom we’re likely more familiar, but whose cut-outs remind us of the joy of colour, form and working directly. But just before you settle down to enjoy this week’s showcase of new works made in a short time, a few words of congratulation to regular Kick-Abouter, Brisbane-based artist, James Randall, whose painting, Card Players, is a finalist in the 2021 Brisbane Portrait Prize. Boom! Congratulations, James.
“Matisse said collage was like ‘drawing with scissors’. Having been using collage to make images for quite a few years now, I know what he means. There’s something very direct and liberating about snipping away and playing with cut up paper. I find I can create such lively and dynamic juxtapositions that I’d never be able to make any other way. I think Matisse made his paper cut-outs when he was getting old and increasingly ill. The exuberance and joy in these simple responses to nature, made by a man who was nearing the end of his life, really touch me, and they act as a powerful tonic in these increasingly fractured and unsettling times.
I made this collage using paper I’d painted myself, along with cut up fragments from old magazines I’d bought in a second-hand bookshop. It was made after a magical encounter I’d had with a hare in the forest on the outskirts of Berlin last week. It was dusk, and I was having a break during a cycle ride through the woods. As I was sat on the edge of a sandy glade in the twilight, I noticed the hare, sat upright, about ten feet away from me. We looked at each other for a minute before he loped off into the trees. I’ve never seen a hare so close, they are such beautiful creatures, so when I arrived home that evening, I got out the scissors and paper and set about trying to capture the moment.”
“The idea here was to tap into the seaweed cyanotypes of Anna Atkins by cutting into one of my own, in this case of an iceberg, but sea-related nonetheless. Sadly, time ran out so it didn’t progress from there, but maybe I’ll develop the idea at some point, as it has potential…”
“I’m a big fan of drawing with scissors, as Matisse described it. But I didn’t pick up the scissors. For one thing, the bees kept swarming! Three more times. I mean, crikey! As soon I saw the prompt for the Kick-About, I thought of seaweed, (not bees) and in particular I thought of the seaweed I painted for When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna; the book I have just finished illustrating. There are several pages featuring the sea in this book, and in three of them, I took the opportunity to create underwater scenes full of colourful seaweed. So when I was working on ideas for the endpapers, one of them featured crabs and seaweed. I never finished this concept, because it didn’t seem as apt as some of the other ideas, but after spending a whole day painting tiny crabs, and working them into patterns, I did fall in love with this little guy hiding behind his seaweed…”
“Today, I revisited the unfinished endpapers and played around a little bit more.”
“A fun prompt with so much on-line inspiration available – thanks Evelyn and Chris! Rather than painting paper and cutting it out, I cut, curled and tore a couple of A4 sheets of blank paper then photographed them up close. Then I digitised them and Illustrator and Photoshop combined and coloured them. They evolved quite a bit over the two weeks.”
“Henri Matisse’s cut-outs got me thinking about the shapes that are left behind, not just the pieces cut out, but the effect of the space where the cut-out had been. I used first some old yarn, and them some strips torn from a magazine to glue, in a wrap, around balloons. After several coats of glue had dried and hardened, I burst the balloon and eased the remnants away from the inside of the shapes. Here are the resulting structures.”
“I also tried the same technique with some beautiful autumn leaves, but this was not very successful, partly becasue the leaves needed to be dried for longer, and partly because I cannot tie a knot in a balloon to save my life. The balloon just gently deflated long before the leaves were hard enough to support their own weight. But I could see the potential for some beautiful shapes, so I’ll just have to keep trying.“
I’ve used Matisse and his cut outs so many times as a reference; I found a cut out I photographed at an exhibition at the Boston Museum of Art, one I had never seen before then, and realized the top image reminded me of a devil mask, so that’s what I decided to do, in the spirit of Halloween. I used Mexican masks as an additional reference.
And a poem also in the spirit of Matisse:
The mask is mute—it does not
tell what lies beneath–
layers falling backward, a
way from the present–
unglued, it rearranges,
becomes paper becomes
scissors cutting through the air–
thought stilled before form
“Matisse turned to scissors and coloured paper for expediency to produce his celebrate cut-outs, which surely derive their energy from that directness. In thinking about my approach to this prompt, I wanted to identify an equivalency for Matisse’s scissors – a ubiquitous tool – and the speediness of producing shapes, for then combining in different ways. So it was I began my image-making with Powerpoint – oh yes, the infamous ‘presentation-maker’, notorious as software for producing will-sapping slides to be shown in under-ventilated rooms. One of the application’s off-the-peg tools is ‘Insert Shapes’ – which allows you to draw simple shapes with a quick drag of your mouse, and then colour and outline them as you see fit. I used Power Point to produce collections of basic shapes – circles, rectangles and squares – and then brought those ‘cut-outs’ into Photoshop, where I set about layering them one on top of the other with as much immediacy as I could muster.”
“This felt very much like a meditative practice, in which I lost myself in the process of creating such squidgy shapes with an abundance of colour. I wanted to reflect Matisse’s practice and keep things fluid, as he did in his old age. I felt very much like a kid again, by keeping things as practical as possible and avoided any overly cerebral thoughts, so a lot of these designs took on a life of their own, and I thoroughly enjoyed letting them be.”
“Working with a palette knife is refreshing, as it encourages blocking-out of form avoiding details early on in the process. Obviously quite abstracted, this is based upon a partial still-life within the studio, yet the colours were not local to the objects. Once dry I couldn’t resist a bit more control using a brush. Matisse and colour are joyous things to live with.” Oil on canvas board 25 x 25cm.
“I enjoy Matisse’s cut-outs because it’s the type of work that just makes you want to get some colour paper and scissors and get all arty and creative without any inhibitions. Unfortunately, when you use a computer it’s easy to forget all of that, and often I get lost somewhere in the fog of the minutiae of digital art and CG. To be honest, for a while I approached this in completely the wrong way, but in the end I just went with what I can only describe as the CG equivalent of some pieces of colour paper and scissors.“
“I love cut-outs. Mine rarely stay in 2 dimensions. I resisted hanging them and lay them on the background. I still want to hang them and see them moving. Time caught up with my wishing to make a little film of them spinning in space. Later maybe…”
“This was great fun! The wonderful fluid shapes of Matisse are just timeless. They fit in with today’s world as easily as when he created them way back in the 40s. I thought I would use October’s vegetable harvest for my design and chopped a red pepper and cabbage in half and made a sketch of them. Then I looked for some interesting’ Matisse like’ shapes. That actually was the easy bit! The more difficult task for me was arranging my cut out shapes and finding a colour scheme. After many alterations I was happy with my layout of some trees .I then decided to do a second picture and hey presto my shapes had turned into a vase of flowers with the help of a recycled painting that I always knew would come in handy.“
Chris Rutter & Evelyn Bennett
“Here is ‘Moss Man'”.
… and for your next hit of fortnightly inspiration, something literary with a seasonal touch of spook about it…
Artist Tereza Stehlikova’s Tangible Territory is ‘a platform that offers a space for various voices to meet and discuss themes relating to the role of the body, the importance of place and embodied experience, in giving meaning to our every day experience of life and art. By extension, it also reflects on some of the transformations initiated by technology, globalisation and now also the pandemic and to it related questions of embodiment versus disembodiment, being simultaneously here and elsewhere, present and absent in our bodies and our surroundings.’ The Tangible Territory Journal is a ‘celebration of power of creative process and as such, is an ongoing project of collective learning and improving, of sharing, collaboration, curiosity and open mindedness.’
Tereza Stehlikova works as ‘an artist, filmmaker and a senior lecturer. She holds a PhD from the Royal College of Art, where she researched the tactile language of moving image. She is currently engaged in a cross-disciplinary research, investigating how moving image can be used to communicate embodied experience. Stehlikova is a senior lecturer in still and moving image theory and practice, at the University of Westminster and also supervises PhD students at the Royal College of Art. She is a founder of Sensory Sites, an international collective based in London, generating collaborative exhibitions, installations and research projects that explore multi-sensory perception and bodily experience. She also co-founded Artesian, a journal for committed creativity, featuring the writings of John Berger, Don DeLillo amongst many others. Stehlikova has presented her research at a number of international conferences and her films and performances have been shown at a variety of film and music festivals around the world. More about her projects here: cinestheticfeasts.com‘.
Responding to Tereza’s call for submissions for the third edition of her Tangible Territory Journal, I shared Fundus, the short film made in response to The Kick-About No.30, and likewise wrote a short accompanying piece about lock-down, The Kick-About and of ‘making directly’ and ‘doing quickly:
“A few weeks back, the prompt for the Kick-About was ‘Fundus Photography’, with fundus pertaining to categories of retinal photography. Challenged to respond to imagery that was both ‘of the human body’, but also suggestive of more galaxial realms, I set about inflating a latex glove with water and floating it in a goldfish bowl filled with water coloured with some old black ink cartridges I found at the back of a drawer. As I was assembling these ad-hoc components (only let’s call it ‘playing’, for that is what it was), I had no idea I would soon be making a short experimental film in collaboration with another artist, Deanna Crisbacher. As I was holding the latex glove under the tap, I had no guarantee (or indeed much hope), that my idea would come to anything at all. Importantly, I suppose, I didn’t care. I didn’t know then, as I turned the water black with squirrelled ink, that I was in the early stages of making a strange little film offering up expansive, cosmic impressions born from a combination of domestic objects. I didn’t know then I might be writing about this project, even going as far as drawing out from it some final conclusion about the transformative and transportive power of creativity, of making directly, of doing quickly, and the value of community.”
Fundus was a collaboration between myself and Deanna Crisbacher, a short abstract film comprising images I’d produced for The Kick-About No. 30. Fundus has been selected for Motus Imago, a new film festival going by the subtitle, a ‘Showcase of Shapes, Puppets & Moving Things’ – which I’m very happy about. Fundus is indeed a ‘moving thing’, but what sort of a moving thing I’m not sure! This is from the festival organisers: “Motus Imago – Showcase of Shapes, Puppets and Things in Motion, operates in the scope of programming artistic projects that operate in a vast interdisciplinary field, in the scope of multiformat manipulation, from puppet theatre to moving image. Through works that move between current and traditional techniques, dramaturgies and animated forms and animation cinema. It values the experimental nature of artistic works for adults and children and is presented with a set of educational actions that will take place from October 2021 in Aveiro.” Sounds like fun! Thanks again to Dee for the wizardry, and to The Kick-About community for giving me the get-up and go to keep doing stuff and sharing it.
‘Monochromatic plant forms’ was the start for me, in response to Peter Mungkuri’s 2019 painting. Punu Ngura, the latest prompt for The Kick-About No.37. I was curious to see how ‘slightly’ I could depict my subject matter, how stripped down, and then use some of the techniques from this previous Kick-About response to produce particular effects. I was also thinking about the direct image-making of producing cyanotypes and how you only get one shot, and how the immediacy of the process produces happy accidents and unpredictability. The resulting images combine drawing onto painted glass (or is it etching?) with long-exposure photography, and I was happy with the resulting mood of them; plant skeletons under moonlight, or plant skeletons crisped with hoar frost.
As a bit of a gardener myself, I am endlessly enthralled by the sheer variety of plants and their various habits and habitats: our previous Kick-About featured a uniquely rare blossom, and this week, it is artist Peter Mungkuri’s celebration of the treasured trees of the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands of north western South Australia inspiring us to produce new work in a short time.
“My mind instantly wanted to create some cyanotypes, with their mesmerizing deep Prussian blue and infrared white, a process that is always a joy and I never tire of.”
I take Mr Mungkuri’s works to be about a sense of place, memory and stewardship of his country. I tried to evoke a similar sense of capturing memories and the way they integrate but change and blur.
“This image was an attempt at getting a kind of scratchy illustrative quality using the tools that I would typically use to make more polished CG work. I liked the somewhat otherworldly quality of the prompt, so this image, through trial and error, evolved into this big and mysterious organic-looking structure.”
“This work is stunning, so a huge thank you for bringing Peter Mungkuri into my world. To Australian Aboriginals, the land, and all who dwell in it, is sacred, interspersed by marks of great significance. Finding one of the nearest parallels here, I looked back at Medieval Catholicism, where people lived their belief system (sadly that didn’t stretch to the natural world) and pilgrimage was a part of that, so… the circlet of Rowan berries (symbol of the Tree of Life/ protection in Celtic lore) is a kind of ‘votive card’, a prompt on the journey; to remind us we are part of a greater whole (this is where we depart from established religion) where the Sacred truly lies. The woodland floor is ‘now’ – not a Pre-Raphaelite romance, but the reality of finding pharmaceuticals scattered among the beech maasts…”
Rowan circlet. Graphite and watercolour on paper. 6” X 6”
“Pills and Beech Maasts” Graphite on Gesso. 2’ X 4’ ( Diptych)
“I love Aboriginal Art and especially Peter Mungkuri. He paints such wonderful patterns, shapes and colours, which are indicative of his memories of his country. I also learnt he is passionate about teaching the younger generation about taking care of their homeland. Good on him! Whilst doing my research I came across a game the Aboriginies played using stones painted with symbols, with which they used to tell stories. I thought I would try doing a similar thing. Unfortunately, there seems to be a shortage of smooth round pebbles in my area and I spent more time looking for suitable stones than painting them! I tried to think of symbols young children would easily recognise and could turn into a story.”
“‘Monochromatic plant forms’ was the start for me in response to Mungkuri’s painting. I was curious to see how ‘slightly’ I could depict my subject matter, how stripped down, and then use some of the techniques from this previous Kick-About response to produce particular effects. I was also thinking about the direct image-making of producing cyanotypes and how you only get one shot, and how the immediacy of the process produces happy accidents and unpredictability. The resulting images combine drawing onto painted glass (or is it etching?) with long-exposure photography, and I was happy with the resulting mood of them; plant skeletons under moonlight?”
“This painter was a great inspiration, and I am sad not to have spent more time on it. Where I live I am gratefully surrounded by trees in the centre of a busy city. I feel their presence all the time, as I work at home. However, when I am out, the sensation of trees affected by light is what inspires me and gives me their stories. I was intrigued by the black and white of the images. Unusual for me to see Aborigine paintings in monochrome. So I have included 2 drawings in Black and White However I couldn’t resist including the tree outside my window that supplies me daily with stories in full colour, especially at this time of year.
Chris Rutter & Evelyn Bennett
“Here is our ‘Tree of Life’.”
“The layering of the different elements got me thinking about an idea from Claudia McGill that I had copied and saved which I recently found when sorting out files. She took a magazine and tore pages partially out to create a new layered collage-like image. I did not have any magazines with trees, but I have lots of surfing magazines I bought on eBay because they are full of images of sea and sky to use in collage. So I layered the ocean. My poem is a shadorma quadrille for dVerse, using the word provided by Linda, linger.”
waves that cross over
in curved lines,
waves that land
inside the pause of the edge,
waves that linger cusped–
a small piece
of time, and yet it
fills me up–
holding on to tides synapsed
between spells and signs
“I have been looking at some aboriginal art for some time and thinking about how to incorporate the shapes and tones into crochet, so this prompt was just what I needed to give it a go. This first attempt is very simplistic, but I enjoyed creating it, and will definitely return to this prompt in the future.”
“The prompt could hardly have been more suited to me and my natural inclinations. It’s inky and leafy and Australian. What strikes me most is the combination of the loosest of ink splatters with far more careful and detailed patterning. I was going to explore some inkiness yesterday (Yep! Last minute again!) to see where an observation of Mungkuri’s work might take me, especially with regard to the use of white ink patterning over the top of the looser ink layers. But before I could begin something happened… Our bees swarmed! Later, I had a bit of a go at my inky exploration of Peter Mungkuri’s plant drawings, but my mind was full of bees. And joy. So it became an illustration of Hugo and me, arms uplifted to the swarming bees.”
With thanks to Evelyn Bennett and Chris Rutter, we have our all-new prompt – the cut-outs of Henri Matisse. Have fun!
Something from the not-so distant past this week: a moody-looking scrap from the work I produced in response to one of our earliest Kick-Abouts, taking Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as its muse. These images resulted from first producing a series of architectural pencil drawings, then photographing those drawings as curved or folded surfaces, before finally collaging the resulting photographs digitally in Photoshop.
Taking Sheila Legge’s image and Kafka’s Gregor Samsa as equal parts inspiration, I arrived at this short story as my response to The Kick-About No.36. There’s a bit of horticultural knowledge in there too, a thing about nasturtiums thriving in the poorest conditions, and likewise, the situation unfolding in Afghanistan for women and girls. Despite the story’s seemingly outlandish premise – a woman waking one morning to find her own head transformed into a vegetal ‘lump’ – it wove itself together with surprising ease, proving once again, to me at least, how genre is placed perfectly to tell the truth.
You’ll find a PDF version here.
With its sepia tint, post-card proportions, and London landmark, this week’s prompt, Sheila Legge’s Phantom of Surrealism, might just as easily have surfaced as part of our previous Kick-About, inspired by the word souvenir – though, as holiday snaps go, this one could take some explaining. This week, Legge’s abstruse tableau has prompted paintings, collage, computer-generated landscapes, creative writing and some rather extraordinary headgear… Happy browsing!
“This prompt made me think of world conditions acting on Surrealists – where do movements come from – so my response is a meld of the flower head with environmental issues, and how I think the level of denial everyone has, to so many issues, comes into play.”
“Using the kind of desert backdrop that sets the stage of many surrealist paintings, I set out to create some of my own phantoms in the desert, and had a go at generating some suitably dreamy visions inspired by the motifs in the photograph.”
“When reading about Sheila Legge’s inspiration behind her walking real surrealist exhibition, and how she was so inspired by the paintings of Dalí, I decided to create some Dalí-esque dream-like landscapes, while paying homage to Legge’s faceful of flowers.”
“Taking Sheila Legge’s image and Kafka’s Gregor Samsa as equal parts inspiration, I arrived at this short story. There’s a bit of horticultural knowledge in there too, a thing about nasturtiums thriving in the poorest conditions, and likewise, the situation unfolding in Afghanistan for women and girls.”
You can find an online PDF version here
“I’m not sure if this is surrealism or the stuff of nightmares! I think, subconsciously, I was reflecting on the plight of women under the Taliban regime ,and on other women who are trying to break free from cruelty etc. Don’t ask me what the blue doughnuts symbolise – maybe hunger? Enjoyed doing this and definitely made me think and be thankful.”
“I was surprised to find this photo was taken as early as 1936. When I first saw it, it reminded me strongly of a 1950-60’s fashion shot. I have no references for this, it was just what came to mind. However, it got me thinking about fashion, face-coverings, Gertrude Shilling and Afghanistan’s women, and I started working on hyperbolic crocheted decoration for an old straw hat. However, while hyperbolic crochet makes amazing, wonderful shapes, the process itself can be tedious, and as I worked on it, my brain ran on to thinking about what had prompted Sheila Legge to create that image in the first place. What was she trying to convey? What was I trying to convey? The old straw hat was discarded, a new hat structure created, and as my hands worked on the hat, my brain worked on the process, resulting in the short poem below. The poem came after the hat, so it may make sense to read it after viewing the images. Or not at all. Up to you.”
It starts as a glimmer, little more than a glow,
A smouldering fuse that might spark or no.
But then it starts burning a hole through your brain,
And scuppers your routines, sleep derailed like a train.
Once it colours your vision and pounds in your ear,
Ties you up in the passion, the self-doubt, the fear,
And even your loved ones decide to steer clear –
Then you’re in the grip of a Brilliant Idea!
“Robert Benayoun suggested that while Surrealism exalted ‘la femme’, the Surrealists did not equally revere ‘les femmes’. The histories of female Surrealists have often remained buried under those of male Surrealists, who have gained wider public recognition. Well, Sheila Legge with her head covered, sums this up nicely, as does the Magritte painting surrounded by the above. Referencing their artwork and naming all the mainly, “forgotten” women, I felt went somewhere towards redressing the balance!”
René Magritte, I Do Not See the [Woman] Hidden in the Forest, 1929
Vanessa Clegg, Ink and watercolour over print, (2021)
Chris Rutter & Evelyn Bennett
“Here’s a drawing called ‘Leigh Bowery Look 8’.”
“I had a lot of ideas for this, but only had time for one. Perhaps I’ll get to the others for some future collage. The statuesque quality was what stood out for me, and of course, I can never resist birds…”
into borrowed wings eclipsed
by casting out light
“So there’s a coincidence! Just when I was reading the short stories of Leonora Carrington, who met Max Ernst and became involved with the surrealists in 1937 at the age of 20, the Kick-About veered into the very same territory with Sheila Legge. All I have to offer the Kick-About today is the beginnings of a… something… featuring some bird-headed, flower-headed women. They will possibly eat one another. I may add colour if there’s anything left of them by tomorrow…”
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, James Randall, our new prompt for our thirty-seventh run-around: Peter Mungkuri’s Punu Ngura (2019). Have fun and see you back here soon for another celebration of creativity, process and lateral-thinking. As ever, looking forward to it.
I’ve got a number of scars on my forty-six year old body; the ubiquitous BCG crater on my arm, a hernia scar from when I was a tiny baby, a ‘hole’ between my eyebrows where I picked a chicken pox spot, and more recently acquired, a scattering of other facial scars following a particularly nasty attack of shingles back in the late winter of 2013. You might call these dents and puckerings my ‘souvenirs’ of the wear-and-tear of being alive.
One of my favourite scenes in Jaws (1975), is the sweet, funny moment when grizzled shark-hunter Quint compares war wounds with the more academic oceanographer and shark expert, Matt Hooper. The two men trade stories about the various different ways various different things have taken lumps out of their respective flesh, leaving them with anecdotes written into the surfaces of their bodies. Meanwhile, Chief Brody looks on, deciding against sharing his own battle scar, because, we suspect, his ‘souvenir ‘ is unlikely to impress. I know how Brody feels. With this in mind, I’ve imagined myself as being as colorful a character as Quint, and with just as many stories to tell about terrifying encounters and near-death experiences, and all of them leaving their mark on my body. These imaginary encounters derive from the spectacular dangers of my adolescent life, or rather from my formative confrontations with a host of larger-than-life fictional perils found in paperbacks and on VHS cassette tapes.
If you’re wondering if my commitment to producing original work for The Kick-About is so great, I was happy to maim myself in the name of art, prepare to be a bit disappointed. These scars are faked obviously, but not produced digitally, but in a much more old-school way: the application of latex adhesive to my skin with a washing-up sponge. That done, you can then fold and pinch your latex-stippled skin together to produce some realistic looking areas of damage. My knowledge of this technique is born from a love of old-school horror films and hours spent in front of a mirror, as a child, using whatever I could get my hands on to emulate various monsters of the silver screen.