Month: December 2014

December 11, 2014

8.30 am.  I set up for the final Art/Sound lecture. 9.00 am. It feels as though we’ve come to the end of a long journey. The arc of the module is complete. There was an acceptable attendance, given that this is the penultimate day of term.  10.00 am. I held an initial consultation with a PhD inquirer. 10.45 am. My final walk for the semester to the Old College to attend to third year tutorials. The weather is conspicuous today:

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Martin’s studio space is filled with his absence:

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1.30 pm. Lunch in the Quad. Mr Ellis is now partially occluded by the onset of Christmas. I was reminded of Daphne transforming into a laurel tree:

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Some lessons and observations:

  • One must give a painting the opportunity to ‘speak’. Take time to cease from interrogating it. ‘Listen with your eyes’, as the song says.
  • Some of our intentions will require a lifetime to realise. Others can be achieved only in the middle distance of our careers. And yet others are attainable now or in the immediate future. It takes wisdom to discern which belongs to when.
  • It’s not the quantity of paintings produced that secures the reward but, rather, the intensity: the evidence of a consistent and energetic commitment to defining an intent and resolving problems with consummate craft and intelligence.
  • Progress is more logarithmic than linear: it does not proceed on a constant gradient but in leaps and bounds, and sometimes … not at all.
  • Just persevere.

Every student I encountered today has established a solid platform on which to build semester two work and, ultimately, their final show.  Granted, there’s much pruning, polishing, and producing to be undertaken over the vacation. But thus is it ever.

4.15 pm. The last homeward journey, for a while:

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4.30 pm. Administrations of various kinds. Although, as I was informed yesterday, there’s no such thing as administration anymore. Now, it’s called ‘leadership’. Well, I’ve got a pile of leadership to shift this evening. 6.30 pm.  ‘Leadership opportunities’ come with almost every email I receive. For the remainder of the evening I drilled to the bottom of my inbox and dealt with those dregs from which mortal flesh shies away — the correspondence that requires either a dull or difficult or an unusually diplomatic response.

10.30 pm. An early night in readiness for the morning.

 

 



December 10, 2014

6.00 am. Another earlier than anticipated rise. My waking dream was of an absolute whiteness in which I was incarcerated, wholly alone, and suffocating. (The nightmare of Modernist purism, perhaps). I used the time before breakfast to complete the Art/Sound PowerPoint and lecture text.

9.30 am. A Research Excellence Framework Monitoring meeting at the Visualization Centre: ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29.18):

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1.00 pm. A School of Art Management Committee meeting until 4.00 pm, focussing upon a cull and rationalization of our art history provision. I’ll be sad to relinquish several modules which I’ve taught for several decades. But in order to build afresh, the old edifices must be pulled down and the land cleared. 4.30 pm. A visit to A&E at the hospital to upgrade my bandages:

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6.30 pm. Shocking news: Martin Herbert passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last night. He was an MA Fine Art student at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University. And this, following so soon upon the heels of Steve’s departure: ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions’ (Hamlet):

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I’d barely got to know him before he was taken from us. Our first encounter was at The Noises of Art conference, held at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, in September 2013. It was there and then that he determined to apply for the MA Fine Art scheme at the School of Art. I was excited at the anticipation of his contribution to the scheme, and what it might, in turn, enable him to realize. We met for an interview in the December of that year. Soon after, he was signed up.

I was impressed by Martin’s conscientious commitment to the craft and conceptualization of his work. He brought to his studies a rare, practical intelligence and patience, one that demonstrated a fierce integrity of commitment. Martin allied his considerable technical dexterities to a well-defined, art-historical sensibility, a sense of the tradition of ideas, and a solid understanding of his relationship to contemporary art. Furthermore, he had the ability to interrelate manual and digital modes of imagining and imaging, which offered the prospect of intriguing fusions and intermedial experimentations. Like the very best ‘Renaissance men’, he lived in both the past and in the present, and anticipated the future — without tension, compromise, or timidity. Martin was clearly an artist who’d make a significant impression on his field.

He was also an affable and serious-minded gentleman (in the fullest sense of that term) who, while somewhat older than the majority of this year’s MA students, had a heart that matched their youth. Martin was such a good exemplar to set before them; a paragon of sober, passionate, and joy-filled professionalism. I had so much to say to him; so much to learn from him.

7.00 pm. The trivialities of life and work proceed, regardless.



December 9, 2014

A fitful but fruitful night. Several ideas regarding the construction of exhibition works presented themselves. As importantly, I now better understand what not to do and what cannot be done well within the constraints of the time-frame for completion that I’ve set for myself. I’m also, as a consequence, more aware that this forthcoming exhibition represents a conclusion. The proposition that I first considered in 1999 has now been more than adequately explored. The future inquiry into bible-text translation will be in the direction of sound, and that alone. Which leaves my visual practice looking for something else to do. As one electric guitarist sagely put it: ‘An end is a beginning’. One thing is clear, I want to execute images more quickly — to narrow the temporal gulf between conception and realisation. Another thing is far less clear, but beckons: the images must proceed from my engagement with sound.

9.00 am. I wrote an impromptu A4 description, requested at the eleventh hour by the university’s Director of Postgraduate Studies, outlining viva arrangements for our PhD degrees. 10.00 am. On with the first of today’s two verses: Matt. 19.24. In the middle distance, I began processing files of all the podcasts from Art/Sound with a view to compressing them, temporally, into a one-minute compendium representing the entire sound profile of the module up until the final lecture. This will be an appropriate finale, one that encapsulates a number of the salient sound processes described in the lectures. I anticipate that the compression process will take a whole day to finalise. The total file size is over 20 GB:

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The piece will be called Revision. This suggests the idea that the original material has been changed, as a result of the process of recomposition and re-presentation, in order to be studied again. By lunchtime, the second verse of the day was complete. Four more to undertake before I reach the end of the verso page.

1.30 pm. I reviewed materials prepared for tomorrow’s REF Monitoring meeting before opening the folder of a project that I’d begun a few years ago, to which I never conceived a resolution. The technique of vertically stretching words, deployed in The Floating Bible project, could be applied to the individual Greek letters that make up the text on which the former project is based: (Authorised Version: ‘Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand’ (Galatians 6.11)):

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Sometimes, one has to wait very patiently for an answer. Often it comes at precisely the right time. And that is now. All forty two characters required equalizing for contrast and tone.

3.30 pm. Attendance at our last parents/ teachers meeting at the local secondary school. 4.30 pm. Back to letter recalibration (phase 2) and sundry correspondence. 6.15 pm. Practice session 1.

7.30 pm. I returned to the final Art/Sound PowerPoint, in the hope of getting most of it finished by the end of the evening. Almost …



December 8, 2014

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6.00 am. I awoke one hour earlier than anticipated, having read my alarm clock incorrectly. The moon burned in the cold air behind storm clouds fractured by high winds. I’m working single-handedly (quite literally) these days, and for the next few weeks; the other, butchered, hand is as useless for typing as an oven glove for knitting:

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8.30 am. A climb to the top of the inbox pile before initiating requests and setting up my teaching for the week. I resigned myself to a morning of admin tasks that could dispatched one-handedly.  It’s always best to bite the bullet sooner rather than later.  I listened to Strauss’ Vier Leitzte Lieder. The ‘Beim Schlafengehen (Hesse)’ is, arguably, one of the most emotionally complete songs ever written. It is music for endings, in prospect and retrospect.

1.30 pm. Over lunch, I returned to Handboard 1 and its annex, which I’ll use to process the raw sound of the Graven Image II material.  (Lesson learned: velcro and cotton-wool bandaging don’t mix. Rather, they stick.):

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2.15pm. One of the most frustrating and dispiriting admin duties of the year: changing my university login password. This time I managed to create two versions ‘based on two words’ and another two ‘based on a Spanish dictionary word’. Poppycock! What a senseless waste of human life. 2.45 pm. Back to The Floating Bible scan fest — a task eminently suited to the solo manus. I managed two further verses. Nothing can be rushed. Emails flew by, in and out, like birds overhead.

6.30 pm.  One-handed practice session 1; (right-hand, double-picking, cross-picking, and tremolo exercises). Where there’s a will … . When forced of necessity or by circumstance to concentrate one’s attention on a single aspect of the discipline, that aspect becomes everything. As such, my relationship to plectrum control had a very different focus, both critically and experientially. Less was made to do/to be more than perhaps it would otherwise. There’s a pedagogical lesson in that.

7.30 pm.  I continued building the final Art/Sound Powerpoint. An additional hand would expedite matters more swiftly.  But … where there’s a will …  :

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9.50 pm.  One-handed practice session 2.

 

 

 

 



December 2, 2014

8.30 am. Set up for Art/Sound. My penultimate lecture. Yesterday and today I’ve been attempting to fit a quart into a pint pot — endeavouring to map Wednesday and Thursday’s teaching responsibilities on top of what I’d ordinarily deliver during this part of the week. 10.00 am. I bounced into the Vocational Practice session to thoroughly enjoy an hour of student readings. The commitment of the students in both consistent and equal.

11.00 am. A legitimately delayed arrival of a PhD Art History student for a tutorial gave me time to climb to the top of my inbox. 11.45 am. A protracted and intense tutorial — as is often the case when the student is on the last lap before submission. (Personally, I was glad to have had an earlier night. Concentration was required from beginning to end.)

2.00 pm. I returned to the second phase of file processing for the Sindebt project:

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Mid afternoon, I began sourcing archival quality papers and glue and consulting with a new carpenter about the construction of bespoke picture frames.

5.00 pm. Back to the School of Art to help Dafydd familiarise himself with the lecture theatre sound and vision system in readiness for his contribution to Art/Sound on Thursday (when I shall be truly zoned out). I love his gadgets.

6.15 pm. Practice session 1. (One of the last until my wounds heal.) 7.30 pm. I dispatched emails, packed a rucksack, and made ready for the morrow.

10.00 pm. Practice session 2.



December 1, 2014

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8.45 am. I stood momentarily on the promenade, looking out to sea, and was reminded. 9.00 am.  Old College. I’d re-routed Thursday’s second year painting classes to today. There are reasons to feel encouraged. The students are beginning to discern and answer the questions underlying their work for themselves. There are few things more satisfying, professionally, than discovering your own solutions. Courage is in the air: a will to risk, fall flat on one’s face, pick oneself up, and break free from the shackles of self-imposed conventionality. Such an attitude cannot be imposed externally; it must arise from within.

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Some principles and observations:

  • Freedom presupposes authority over one’s means. In this respect, freedom is the fruit of discipline.
  • Failure is the necessary precursor of success. Reckon on it.
  • On occasion, we produce work that surprises or unnerves us. It’s as though someone else had made it. Often, at first, we can’t even judge whether it’s good or bad.
  • You know when you’ve become a painter (and being a painter is always a process of becoming) when you’re more interested in the paint and the act of painting than in what is being painted.
  • Simply enlarging the scale of the surface on which one paints can significantly improve fluency, dexterity, and ease of painting.
  • Buy the best brushes, paints, palette, and supports you can afford. Together, these small investments can lever a huge improvement in the work.

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11.45 am. Pre-op consultation at the local hospital. Very thorough. The vein in my arm permitted only a small quantity of blood to be extracted at first. Unusual. This body can be very uncooperative at times.

2.00 pm. An afternoon of further tutorials. A number of students are developing quite sophisticated passages of painting and mature problems to boot. 5.10 pm. Lights out in the main studio. Then … a mysterious semblance appeared in Georgina’s work space. Who would credit it?:

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6.15 pm. Practice session 1. 7.00 pm. Rereading draft chapters of an art history PhD thesis in readiness for tomorrow’s tutorial. 9.45 pm. Practice session 2. I need to get to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight.



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