Welcome to this first anniversary edition of The Kick-About, a fortnightly blog-based creative challenge in which artists of all stripes come together to present work in response to a given prompt. I asked contributors to choose a favourite work of their own from the previous twenty-five editions so I could celebrate them all together here.
This weeks Kick about over on Reds Kingdom is a delight of colour and symbolism! Firstly, I was gobsmacked by the age of Aquarius song from the musical Hair. It left the hairs standing on my arms with the booming lead singer’s voice being absolutely phenomenal. If this show ever returns to live audiences I would love to see it! The “hippie” people of this era wanted to show their respect and love for the earth and focus on the world around them, while doing it as a group effort to show a sense of community and togetherness. Aquarius is an air sign, and as a fellow air sign myself, they are known to be creative, free spirited, and always seek clarity.
The symbol for Aquarius being the ‘water bearer’, who eternally gives life and spiritual food to the world, while also washing away the past and making room for a fresh start is usually depicted as a mighty figure pouring water from a vessel onto the earth. When seeing the image of the water bearer, I wanted to focus on a previous experience surrounding water that ignited the Pools film from the Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez prompt, which gave me more respect for the earth and the little wonders that happen sporadically, if you are open enough to find them.
These photos show a snapshot of a spectacle that was for my eyes only, where a trickling of snow was melting and forming a mirage of colours in a shallow lagoon of water. It was a joyous occasion to just sit and watch this natural occurrence, and with its dancing display, it allowed me to stop worrying about everything and what the future holds and just be here in this moment. I think experiences like that are important for grounding you and bringing you back to your present reality, where worry has no place, as the hippies in Hair embodied this physicality here and now by dancing and moving their bodies like water…”
With this week’s prompt over on Red’s Kingdom being “You were once wild here, don’t let them tame you” I instantly thought about being amongst the countryside of Ireland, and surrounded by flora and fauna. When I was younger, I was wild at heart; I climbed the highest trees, I made hideouts, I swam in rivers. The ground on top of hills surrounded by fairy trees was ground down by my cousins and myself, with our bikes fucked into the nearest ditch. We could be heard screaming with joy in this landscape playground that was all around us. We would cycle into town, put our money together and buy sweets and milkshakes, then cycle back – milkshake in hand and eat our feasts, supported by tree trunks and makeshift wooden slats. I feel like I grew up on the precipice of this wild and free way of life, before it started to die out with the younger generation concentrating more on the protective shield of screens. I still feel like I have that sense of adventure within me, and when it is my birthday this year I am buying myself a bike to find some places that remind me of that time, I might not make hideouts like I used too, but I will be taking photos of places that bring me back to that untamed nature.
Pictured here are photos from the forest taken this past Christmas, where we ran amok often. I wanted the photos to feel nostalgic, with a rustic warmness to them and an influx of colour, but also show that we adventured to places like this in all seasons and all weather, where we were free and wild with not a care in the world. We never let anyone tame us and that’s how it should be.
Another kick about has been unleashed over on Red’s kingdom! this time the prompt being the Museum Wormianum – by Ole Worm, a cabinet of curiosities of Worm’s Relics from far and wide. I was initially going to use many of the collectable bric a brac scattered around my dads house and superimpose those on makeshift shelves using roof timber slats that are littered with spiders, but I decided to go against that as I wanted to not mimic Ole Worm’s Museum Wormianum but to go on an adventure and create a story around the origins of all the collectibles and relics that Worm has in his possession.
I imagine Old Ole as an adventurer, wearing tan colours and a careworn hat bleached from sweat from adventuring to mysterious places where the sun scorches and the animals and plant life are of the carnivorous sort. Old Ole Has fought mutant monsters deep within the caverns of caves, sailed high seas and fought his way through torturous chambers, Old Ole has earned his stripes and his relics.
Since Old Ole’s book of treasure dates back to 1655 I wanted to use a medium that is also ancient but has stood the test of time so I turned to collage. I used many of the bric a brac that is dust ridden around my Dads house to kit bash and collage them together as well as pages from the Museum Wormianum to create the ocean as well as some hieroglyphics scattered about. I have become a bit obsessed with house plants so some of my plants are in there – a fatsia, Monstera and Schefflera.
I had many options with this kick about as Ireland’s heritage is teaming with Celtic knot and rope references in art jewellery and clothes. I decided to do a mash up of different perspectives, one inspired by the Aran weather, Aran given its name comes from the picturesque Aran islands off Galway Bay was a sweater knitted for the fishermen that relied on the livestock around the Atlantic Ocean. The Jumpers were made from the sheep that populated the fields in the islands and retain their natural oils meaning they are water repellent – Ideal for Irish weather! and because the sweater is water repellent it meant that the fishermen wouldn’t feel the chill from getting wet while out fishing.
The stitches in an Aran sweater are used to signify different important factors such as the diamond stitch representing the fields in the Aran Islands and wishes health and success while the cable stitch represents the Fishermans ropes and are a promise of safety and good luck while out fishing. The combination of different stitches are divided into different clans for each family name of kinship in Ireland. Around the borders of my designs is the diamond stitch which is central to the specific Daly clan Aran sweater, with the overall theme of these designs trying to reflect Ancient Celtic Artwork including the triple spiral or Triskele where the Irish believes everything happens in 3’s and can symbolise the mental physical and spiritual self or birth death and rebirth. You can read more about the history of the Irish Aran Jumper here as well as the symbolism of Knots in Irish Celtic Art here
I was spoiled for choice with this kick about with rural Ireland having a bountiful abundance of botany with textures, colours and shapes of all the flora and vegetation, feeling like an endless pick’n’mix. I always find myself thinking about the intricate patterns and shapes as I snap away, mint green reindeer moss looking like bleached coral under a microscopic macro lens and the swirling and meandering of ice a jigsaw of frozen motion, while twigs, branches and petals looking like spores after some careful manipulation. suffice to say I loved this kick about and loved editing, warping and colour correcting a surplus of photos from recent adventures around Ireland to get a photomontage and mimic Ernst Haeckel’s inspiring Illustrations. I have a real hankering to go on and on with creating more designs like this.
This kick-about prompt by Fernand Leger felt very homely; an abundance of food reminds me of home, so I painted a kitchen illustration of a section of our kitchen, mimicking the colour and skewed perspective of Leger’s piece.
The music of this weeks Kick About prompt over on Reds Kingdom felt very christmasy and warm indeed. To me nothing feels more christmasy than going for a walk in the countryside of Ireland where the invigorating air hits you with pure refreshment and the frost glistens the shrubbery and flora. I spent a lot of my time when I was a young lad outside building rickety hideouts and treehouses with my friends and cousins. Going for a walk near my family home always feels like I am dipping into my memory fault where walking past a particular tree will spark a memory of us building and climbing away, walking through the grasses of the fields reminds me of being cut by barbed wire and being so dumbfounded by having fun that I didn’t realise I was bleeding with barbed wire marks in my palms.
I remember the beehive that was camouflaged into the ground of a particular field in perpendicular view from the balcony of our home, when all us had awoken the beast I can only imagine the sight of seeing us all running and screaming our heads off from the balcony as we ran for our lives away from the angry hive. Memories like that are scattered around the countryside of Ireland, they will echo as I stroll past them and now that I am older I can really appreciate them. Although all the hideouts and treehouses are dismantled, the trails that were grinded down are now full of vegetation again, It’s the clean air and the bright stars that haven’t changed.
Although isolation has for now stopped me from revisiting those actual areas of my past I remember them as I walk through the bogland surrounding my Mams house where I know I would have been in my element too when I was younger. I am still drawn to those picturesque areas and the crisp clean air, and I really appreciate the little bird houses built into the trees to shelter the birds in the bitter winter. I still sometimes walk past a particular tree and think – that would have been a good one.
This weeks kick About over at Reds Kingdom – The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep by Robert Frost can be viewed here. With my offering for this weeks prompt below.
“My family owns a few chunks of land in rural Ireland, one of which is the forestry and pictured here on a typical misty, wintry morning in the back arse of nowhere. The forestry is populated with pine trees and used to house some of our horses – Dawn, Jessy and the majestic Esmerelda along with the cows. The animals are no longer, unfortunately we sold them off for whatever reason. The stables still remain with sprinklings of hay still scattered around its edges and when the weather calls for it – downy flake. I remember the forestry and the surrounding areas with utmost joy as it houses a lot of fond memories of my rambunctious, pubescent teenage years.
Me and my cousin and a family friend used to creep around our houses in the dead of night, tip toeing about the place to steal whatever booze and cigarettes we could find until ultimately my parents noticed the dwindling of the expensive, ancient wine in our wine cellar; and subsequently bought a padlock (that I got a hold of and got a key copied). Sometimes I would steal a cigar or two from our unbeknownst slumbering parents and when the weather was bitter and frosting over the pavements – as most harsh, Irish winters are, we used to meet up and collate all of our stash together, we were once lucky enough that a friend who would join us sometimes managed to score some poitín – an Irish illegal moonshine that is so strong it can apparently make you blind… it certainly didn’t have that of a dramatic affect on us but fuck, it burned our chests as it went down and our vision was definitely impaired after drinking enough of the liquid lava.
We drank and smoked into the early hours of the morning sliding and jumping on the frosty, black plastic wrapped bales of hay, thee odd time we played music that we recorded off the tv on our Nokia phones, we sat in the cold that we no longer felt and looked to the stars and chatted about probable nonsense with the night in Ireland being as black as the void, the stars would glisten and litter the sky in a spectacle, dancing even in our inebriated states; Esmerelda, Dawn and Jessy and of course the cows would gather around us watching with perplexing bemusement. little tuffs of smoke would be plumbing out of the surrounding houses chimneys in the distance as they started to burn out. I’m not sure why we mainly did this in the flesh tingling cold of winter or why I remember it the most, I think we just wanted something to do, something that made it feel like summer again.”
Some of the trees in the forestry have since been cut down and sold off, a pavement runs through its centre which thankfully is starting to return to nature with grass and wildflowers starting to grow over it. The pine trees are being used for Christmas trees with them being chopped down and installed as the yearly Christmas tree in the shithole that is the town I grew up in, probably somewhat of a beacon for the paralytic drunks that live inside the copious amounts of pubs perpetrating the Christmas tree. I don’t feel sorry for them this year. They can fuck off and find some other vice to get through the Christmas; or they can just drink themselves to oblivion in their own homes. I shall revisit the forestry when I return home this Christmas where I think echoes and visions of my memories will resurface.”
This weeks Kick About over at Reds Kingdom is the gorgeous illustrations by Eric Ravilious entitled High Street (1938). I drew one of my favourite places to have a drink or ten with my friends during the Christmas back in my home turf in shop street Galway city – a place that is always bustling with the right amount of life. It will certainly be different this year but Ravilious illustrations made me think back to those bitter winter nights where our bellies would be warm with booze and the sound of buskers filled the cobbled streets.