Month: May 2015

May 15, 2015

8.15 am. Off to work:


9.00 am. Further second year painting tutorials. In the studios, some window mounts have popped open due to the alarming changes in room temperature in the passage from day to night, and from overcast to sunny weather. A pocket full of Blue Tack will be in order tomorrow. In between tutorials, I looked over the whole and responded to the, now, few anomalies that needed attention. Today, Phil (the Porter) comes into his own: the annual polish and buff of the large studios’ floors:


2.00 pm. Much stuff to shift before the final sweep:


3.00 pm: Room rectifications:


3.30 pm. More putting away (hiding), sweeping, polishing, turfing-out, bagging-up, binning-out, transporting, dismantling, setting-up, carrying, sweating, and flagging.

4.00 pm. Respite, in the momentarily re-designated ‘staff common room’:


4.15 pm. Then, website updating and large knitted octopus dropping:


6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. I wrote up my critique of today’s second year painting tutorials, with Maria Chavez‘s abstract turntabalism playing in the background.

May 14, 2015

9.00 am. My first day of second year feedback tutorials; the final day of the exhibition installation:


Installations on this scale do not fade out politely as they come to the finale. Rather, the end is of the nature of a cacophonous and tense crescendo that stops abruptly. The creeping tiredness is catching up with us all. Undoubtedly, this is simultaneously the most physically and intellectually demanding periods of the year.

1.00 pm. At lunch, I caught up with emails and toured the studios briefly. An end is in sight, but there’s still much to complete and clear:


2.00 pm. The first of two MA pre-viva tutorials: a rehearsal for those who have not experienced external and internal vivas at the School before. In another respect, it represents their final tutorial for this module. In between, I set up a stereo sound system for the student in 216 seminar room. 5.00 pm. A conclusion is being reached (at the 11th hour):


6.20 pm. Practice session 1: an exploration of a flanger/phaser effector. 7.30 pm. On with writing up the feedback reports for today’s batch of second year painting tutorials.


May 13, 2015

T -minus 2 days and counting. 8.30 pm. I set up the room for the day’s MA Vocational Practice presentations:


9.00 am. Kick off! I’ve looked forward to this assessment. Regardless of whether the student was studying full-time or part-time, they manifested a maturation of confidence, a clarity of intent, and a professional awareness that would have been foreign to them at the end of the first semester. A pronounced individualisation is also evident. Each now defines themselves against the others. I’m also witnessing the evolution of some of the next generation of art school teachers. It’s very encouraging.


11.00 am. During the break times and lunchtime, I circulated the studios and galleries  — now, merely observing finalisations and confirming decisions. The distinctive ‘feel’ of this year’s show is now discernible. Tomorrow will be the final day for installation. At the end of which, the doors of the ark will be closed:


1.00 pm. A runaround to photograph typifying incidents of action and effect. I’m trying neither to give too much away by showing the work hung nor repeat motifs published earlier in the week. In both these respects, tomorrow’s harvest will be a challenge:


6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. An evening of ‘varieties of administrations’, as they’d say in the New Testament church — following up emails, issuing advice, finalising tasks that had been begun in spits and spats during the day, and taking initiative.

11.00 pm. ‘The Night Watch’. A time for diary catch up and putting things in order.

May 12, 2015

8.15 pm. I caught up on my research admin before facing down the wind and billowing grey clouds that have traversed the Irish sea. 9.30 am. Onto the studio floor. At this point in the final week, students and staff start to get the jitters when they see the still empty spaces where students have yet put set up their work. ‘All hands to the deck!’ Thus:

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Of course, it always turns out well in the end. But not without prompting, goading, nagging, persistence, and assistance. The problems that one should be most concerned about are those that have not yet introduced themselves.


The cast of light across the interior of the studios throughout the day is unusually present this year. It’s produced by a combination of the strong sunshine, cloudless sky, and brittle cold air. The community of the School of Art is at its most evident and committed at this time in year. The virtues of patience, deference,  imaginative practical support, and going the second mile are nurtured, exercised, and tested to the limit. For the third year fine artists, this is the final stage of maturation in the broadest sense of that term.


2.15 pm. Following lunch, I chivvied and chided, prompted and guided. One forgets how new the experience of exhibiting is for most of them. Within a few hours only, the studios have filled out substantially.


Another harrying email to stir the troops into action:

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6.20 pm. Practice session 1:


7.30 pm. I prepared for tomorrow’s Vocational Practice presentation assessments and for marking the Chapels in Wales submissions over the next few days. 8.00 pm. And so to mark. The first essay always takes the longest to complete. One has to acclimatise to the topic and to one’s critical strategy. 9.50 pm. Practice session 2.

May 11, 2015

The first day of the examination period. 8.30 am. I cleared the path of emails that had fallen since Saturday morning, composed responses to matters arising, and filled in my timetable with further consultation tutorials for the week ahead. (Spaces are now at a premium.) The next fortnight is going to be a slogfest. 9.30 am. Back to report writing. Music, maestro, please! (Lamont Young.) The early morning sky-full glower has lifted; blue is the new grey:


In the background, a little supportive banter with one of our PhD family who’s suffering outrageously at the moment. Some Django Reinhardt.  He had the use of only two fingers on his fretboard hand. (It had been severely burned in a caravan fire.) For most people, that would have been a sufficient and justifiable pretext for throwing in the towel. Instead, he strove to not only overcome the handicap but also, in so doing, become one of the most intelligent, innovative, fastest, and progressive of jazz guitarists. If a door closes on you, try to kick it down before knocking on another.

1.30 pm. A tour of duty in the upper studios. Artworks are going to the wall, in a manner of speaking:




Some principles and observations:

  • Your first instinct will be to hang much; whereas, you need only hang enough.
  • Your care in the small things is far more evident to others that you’d ever imagine.
  • This is not the time to major in minors.
  • You must reconcile the last two statements.
  • Everyone else’s ‘hang’ is far more straightforward than your own.
  • Artistic judgement is most liable to error when you’re under stress. Therefore, seek advice.

In between tours, I pressed on with PhD reports and deflected incoming emails.

6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. I press on further. Tonight is my deadline for finishing them. More music, please! (Nels Kline: one of my contemporaries and an admirable inventor of electric guitar-based sounds.)

10.30 pm. ‘The Night Watch’. A little more to do be done on the reports.

May 9, 2015

9.15 am. As I wrote to one of my painting students, yesterday ‘Do first what you cannot face!’ And, so I return to an irksome, albeit finite but nonetheless lengthy, commitment to write assessment reports. (This comes with the promissory that if Johnny works hard this morning, he can play in the studio after lunch.) 11.00 am. Ah! Tea:


By 1.00 pm, I’d completed enough reportage for conscience to permit me to honour the pact that I’d made with myself. 1.45 pm. After lunch, I put my Moog Control Processor through its paces while filtering a slowed-down recording of one of the engravings:


It’s not as though I’m searching for a particular sound. I’ve no idea what I’m looking (listening) for, really. But I’ll know when I find it. One thing is certain: the colour of the piece will (should) be somber, dreadful, and clamorous, in keeping with the spirit of the source text. By the close of the afternoon, the sonorities were darkening and getting more edgy. The mental processes and aesthetic decisions involved are the same as those that I deploy in painting. And, the sound field generated by the studio monitors is the audio equivalent of the canvas’ surface.

5.15 pm. Switch off (in many senses)! 6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. An evening with the family.

May 8, 2015

3.00 am. No more, please! The outcome is as I’d anticipated, but not as I’d wished:

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In my opinion, those parties that didn’t deserve to win didn’t and did. 9.30 am. An excusably late start. I’m resigned to the being moderately distracted by the noise of the fallout and political analysis today. To begin, a little resourcing for the Talking Bible project. A very reasonably priced B-stock, DJ turntable had come to my attention.

Back to the book proposal. Auto-suggestions:

  • Determine what are the core questions.
  • Stand far back from the subject.
  • Then, turn around. What is behind you?
  • If the overriding or encapsulating idea cannot yet be determined, then wait. Either you or it are not ready to embrace at present.
  • Write in a different room, font, tense, medium … but keep writing. If you push something hard enough for long enough, it’ll budge.
  • Write in complete sentences. Notes are provisional, unstructured, and often discontinuous or without relational coherence. In short, they’re too easy to formulate, and insufficient in and of themselves. A sentence is a committed thought.

1.35 pm. Following lunch and my advice, and, on discovering a relationship between religious sounds and visions, my thoughts gained some traction. Things began to move.

2.30 pm. Periodically, throughout the afternoon, I contributed photographs, loosely associated with the passage between inside and outside through a window, to Miranda Whall‘s FaceBook project. She has set it up to support one of our PhD students, who’s presently travelling through a very dark valley:

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6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. I wrote my internal examiner’s report for he PhD Art History thesis I’d been reviewing. My early morning electioneering is now taking its toll. A cup of hot milk and a bowl of cereal for you, my lad! Then off to bed:




May 7, 2015

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8.00 am. An administrative tidy-up before venturing outward — bound for the Old College — to conduct my last session of 2nd year painting tutorials for the academic year:


When is not a painting, a painting?:




Some principles and observations:

  • Do only that which is either sufficient or necessary. All else is elaboration and surplus.
  • Reckon on it: one day, your best and worst works will likewise turn to dust.
  • Reckon on it: one day, you and your work will likewise be forgotten.
  • We aren’t bound to continue along the path that we set out upon. After all, where we wanted to go may not be where we should be heading.
  • The most fearful words that you will ever hear at an assessment are inaudible; they are spoken by that inner voice, which conjectures: ‘I have let myself down!’

A morning of prepping students for their ‘feedback tutorial’. I’m uncomfortable with the term. It fosters an attitude of receptive listening only, rather than active participation also. In short, ‘feedback’ = being fed, in the student’s mind. I’d rather they be taught to feed themselves too. Ideally, students should be fully engaged in the process of assessment: able to auto-critique, and competent to critique the critique that tutors address to the work.

1.30 pm. Back at the ranch, I had a hurried lunch, checked on the corporate preparations of the exhibition, and prepared for, what turned out to be, a very productive PhD Fine Art tutorial at 2.00 pm. 3.15 pm. An MA Fine Art consultation. 4.00 pm. A further tour of the studios. (Ahhh! The overpowering aroma of fresh emulsion paint.) 4.15 pm. A sound file processing tutorial with one of the BA fine artists:


6.20 pm. Following dinner, I put in two hours of assessment related admin and report writing before shutting shop to watch the election night TV broadcasts … for a very long time. Fetch hither the Cadbury’s chocolate, ice-cold milk, Pom-Bear, and occasional slices of toast:


May 6, 2015

8.15 am. My assessment related emails met with an economic response. Thereafter, I attended to research related correspondence: a response to the British Library and a further attempt to secure membership of a music royalty agency. 9.45 am. Much hammering, screwdriving, scraping, and muffled-thuddery in the studio above my office. All good signs:


10.30 am. A second year painting tutorial, followed by a PhD Fine Art tutorial half an hour later, in which we examined sound file processing.

Following lunch, I pressed against the wind and rain towards the Old Classroom to conduct an afternoon of pre-feedback tutorials. A melancholy pervades the studios; this is a time of endings and farewells:



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Some principles and observations:

  • One of an art teacher’s duties is to be a soul counsellor.
  • Remember the past, live in the present, and think about the future.
  • Develop, at least a provisional, sense of your own trajectory. Consider what your work might look like this time next year.
  • An enthusiasm for your work must be founded on reasoned observation and good judgement, rather than feelings alone.
  • You will be inconsistent in art, just as you are in every other department of life. This is the human condition.

4.15 pm. Homeward. The party candidates’ signs — weatherbeaten on the penultimate day of canvassing:


The etymology of the verb ‘canvass’ derives from the 16th century French ‘canabasser’: ‘to examine carefully,’ ‘to sift through canvas’, and ‘to solicit votes’. The noun ‘canvas’, for its part, originates in the Latin ‘cannabis’ (itself derived from the Greek ‘Kannabis’: ‘hemp’).

6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. The irksome, annual research student monitoring round (and attached forms). The management of which comes to me, as Dr Cruise places the mantle of Postgraduate Co-ordinator on my shoulders this year. One begins by setting up an administrative framework. The objective is to complete the task efficiently, speedily, and well, while circumventing any silliness and redundancy inherent in the process. 9.45 am. Practice session 2.

May 5, 2015

8.20 am.  What?! It has now moved from St David’s Road to Llanbadarn Road:


Rain and strong wind pushed down Trinity Road. 8.40 am. I set up for the final ‘Chapels in Wales’ lecture. 9.00 am. No show!; 100% absenteeism. (Woe unto thee if ye hold a class in revision week.) So, the module goes out with a whimper:


9.15 am. I’d forgotten to bring my laptop from home, so I returned to retrieve it. 9.30 am. The degree show construction is well underway:


10.00 am. MA tutorial no. 1. Wherein lies the work?: in the product, the process, its residue, and the means of production, in this case:


11.00 am. MA tutorial no. 2. The research question will discover us. We just have to be prepared and available to greet it. 12.00 pm. A ‘Chapels in Wales’ essay/project tutorial with a student who’ll be leaving us for her homeland this time next week.

1.50 pm. After lunch and a spot of domestic lightbulb changing, I arranged an MA teaching observation roster, and then dug in for BA Research, Process & Practice submission marking, with Frippertronics bleeping and humming in the background. (I’m concerned for the well-being of one of our number. My mind is in two places, presently.) The submissions never fail to reveal something about either the work or the worker about which I was completely oblivious during tutorials. Perhaps insights of this nature can (should) only come at the conclusion of a course of action. They are often unspeakable (although not unwritable), and certainly not for discussion in a teaching context. (Non-negotiable.)

6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. On with Research, Process & Practice submissions to the sonic backdrop of Jean-Baptise Lully (1632-87). While one should not be beguiled by the work’s presentation (content must be primary), the integrity or otherwise of the ‘packaging’ speaks of an attitude in relation to the work. No aspect of anything we make is either qualitatively or significantly neutral. Our responsibility is comprehensive and absolute. I’m finding the Visual Diary element of the submission fascinating to read. It provides an insight into, among other things, the student’s post-tutorial ruminations. It’s a very personal genre of writing. One female student, some years back, included an explanatory chart of her menstrual cycle:


Having completed the initial assessment of each submission, I return to the first script and compared it to the last. Sound judgement must be evident both intrinsically and relationally. I had a little time at the close of the evening to search out parapsychology Twitter sites.