April 29, 2016

A Pret a Manger breakfast (again); porridge (again). I’d no fixed itinerary until I caught my train home in the early afternoon. Green Park was my first destination:

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It’s one of the smallest of the royal parks: secluded and intimate. One can see its periphery on all sides from anywhere within the boundary. I enjoy these still centres of the bustling city. It was a time for gathering and interrogating thoughts that should not be articulated. I saw a man standing motionless for some considerable time, as though his life had finally caught up with him:

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Then, on to Convent Garden. The mirrored façade at the rear of the market (which I assume/hope is temporary) cheapens the architecture. And, we don’t need any more incentives to either practise self-regard or take tiresomely obvious photographs, such as:

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Having circuited the area and picked up some delicacies at Paul’s patisserie, I descended the staircase at Leicester Square tube station, leaving behind the surface world of London, and headed for Euston station. The train made a prompt departure at 12.43 pm. My journey was dedicated to writing professorial and MA references, and popping some balloons of outstanding emails:

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Through the train window, a spectral hand drew my attention. When I was six years of age, I saw, one sunny early morning, the shadow of a disembodied hand moving, grasping, and splaying its fingers above the bedroom window’s pelmet. To this day, I cannot explain how a shadow of anything could have been projected onto that part of the room:

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There was the usual befuddlement at Birmingham International regarding which coaches of the Aberystwyth train would proceed there after they’d divided at Machynlleth. The announcement advised passengers to board the rear two; that is to say, not the rear two of the train as it enters but, rather, as it leaves the station. (The train goes forward in reverse, as it were.)

Home at around 5.25 pm. Dinner. Shower. Unpacking. Acclimatization. Work (with English choral anthems resounding in the background). Rest.

Returning from London to Aberystwyth is like journeying from Sodom and Gomorra to Eden:

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April 28, 2017

9.00 am. To breakfast at Pret a Manger, King’s Cross station. They do a good porridge:

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Then, on to the Tate Modern to see the Performing for the Camera exhibition:

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It was good to see one of my former tutors, the late Keith Arnatt, represented in an exhibition that was ambitious in its reach. A little more on leisure photography wouldn’t have gone amiss, though. I’ve always been uneasy with Yves Klein’s Anthropométries. The ‘use’ of naked woman (and only women) as human paint brushes, under his supervision, appears to instrumentalise them. And, then again, I’m uneasy because I enjoy the outcome of this process.

The Rothko Room, in the Tate Modern’s general collection, has been re-illuminated; its now conspicuously darker, but entirely in keeping with the core tone of the paintings. Now, this is spirit art:

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Back, north of the river, I visited St Martin within Ludgate, which Christopher Wren restored in 1684. There’s been a church on this site since 1147:

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At 12.30 pm, I attended the morning service of Eucharist at St Paul’s Cathedral. I did so … not to feel better, but because I’m wretched.

After lunch on the Cathedral steps, I returned to King’s Cross to undertake research in the British Library — my favourite library. Late afternoon, I journeyed to the centre of the known universe — my favourite street, and great passion:

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Denmark Street was once Britain’s Tin Pan Alley, where David Bowie caféd, the Rolling Stones recorded, and the Sex Pistols lived. Now, it has more top-draw guitar shops in close proximity than anywhere else in the world. Notionally, I spent thousands of pounds this afternoon. Moments of grace can occur anywhere. As I was leaving one of the shops, a well-to-do gentleman approached a beggar whom he’d encountered earlier, and apologised for his off-hand attitude to him.

After a brief respite in the gardens of Leicester Square, I took an early dinner at Lido, Gerrard Street. You can smell Chinatown long before you get there. Ah! Five-spice powder:

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Back at the hotel, I caught up on incoming mail and other modes of correspondence.

 

 



April 27, 2016

6.15 am. A strange light began an even stranger day:

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The 8.30 am train to Birmingham could travel only as far as Machynlleth, due to a failure somewhere on the line. I stuck out the hour before the next departure in the station’s Waiting Room. (Always a resonant concept.). En route, I pressed on with my evening’s talk, in the hope that my hotel would print out the finished script on my arrival:

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This eleventh hour completion wasn’t due to my tardiness. It was all part of the event convenor’s cunning stratagem. Intriguingly, those who had been chosen to participate hadn’t told about the nature of their contribution until a few days ago. I arrived, an hour late, at my budget hotel close to King’s Cross station:

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Baggage dumped, paper printed, I made a dash for the Serpentine Gallery, entering at the Lancaster Gate, and quick-stepping it through Kensington Gardens passed the Peter Pan memorial, which my parents had introduced me to when I was six years old. (Like Peter Pan himself, it had not aged.):

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The event contributors and audience cagily introduced themselves to one another as we waited for the guided tour of the Hilma af Klint exhibition (which has been hugely popular, I was told). None of the contributors knew one another, or why they’d been chosen, or what exactly was expected of them. (I recalled horror-story scenarios of disparate guests with no relation with one another who, having being invited to a party in a remote castle by a mysterious host, are knocked-off one by one.) I yielded to the proceedings with a mixture of anticipation and mild disquiet.

4.30 pm. The tour, navigated by the exhibition’s curator, began:

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I don’t hold, as some do, that Klint ‘invented’ abstraction years before Kandinsky and Mondrian. (Abstraction has its origins in many places and at other times prior to her practice). Nor to I think her works are abstract, strictly speaking; they’re too diagrammatic, decorous (in the ‘high’ sense of that term), and emblematic for that.

After the tour, I walked from the gallery to the College of Psychic Studies in conversation with its library’s Archivist. The institution has a fascinating history. Harry Price (1881-1948), once Britain’s foremost ghost hunter, had his laboratory on the top floor. Seances, led my some of the world’s leading mediums, were held in the building’s capacious rooms during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And, we’d be meeting to talk about, rather than with, spirits in one of them:

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Among the contributors were art-historical luminaries such as Roger Cardinal, the artists Susan Hiller and Gavin Turk, and psychologists, neuroscientists, and mediums.  Our presentations were delivered in the format of a salon. This was not something that I’d experienced before. It felt a little like an academic seance, but without a levitating table between us. (Only thoughts rose above our heads.) Each of us, in turn, and from where we were seated, pitched our respective perspectives on Klint and the intellectual and ideological frameworks that had informed her work. I suspected that the event convenor had acted like some alchemical magus, and brought together different elements (us) into the crucible to see whether something magical would transpire.

The proceeding closed at 9.45 pm. I was famished (having not eaten since lunchtime). Rain fell. Thunder rumbled overhead. (Apposite, given the topic of our conversations.) Umbrellaless, I pushed back to the hotel via the South Kensington tube station:

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April 26, 2016

6.45 am. Arose. Following breakfast … a busying. I’d a great deal to compress into the day: commitments to honour, teaching to do, errands to run, emails to send, belongings to gather together, plans to put in motion, and preparations to be made. 8.35 am. Off to School:

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A day of tutorial and advisory sessions, beginning with a pair of MA fine art tutorials. After which, I quick-stepped to town to retrieve a prescription and purchase my rail ticket, in readiness for tomorrow’s adventure:

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Immediately, on return, I caught up on a postponed second year tutorial and made preparations for the final Vocational Practice class, where we discussed the protocols for the students’ end of module assessment.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements and reflections:

  • Those who put most into a tutorial get most out of it. (That goes for teachers as well as tutees.)
  • The mind. The mind thinks. The heart. The heart feels. The soul. The soul speaks.
  • Aim to exceed the best that others expect of you.
  • We are none of us what we appear to be. Either for better or for worse.
  • Wean yourself off a dependence on approval and reassurance.
  • There’s a world of difference between self-confidence and self-delusion.

Midday. Home. Packing furiously. An afternoon of re-routed third year fine art tutorials. This is their penultimate session with me. The final discussion will take place, the week after next, in the context of their exhibition. I feel the melancholy of losing them grow, even now. I’ve heard several pieces of good news today; it has gladdened the heart. Students, who’re on their way in life.

After dinner, I joined one of our third year ISP students (Liz ‘the paper girl’, as she’s affectionately known) at the School to record the sound of her paper sculpting activity. We adopted a dual-recording mode: one digital recorder was placed at a distance from the event, to capture the ambience of the sounds in the studio; the other device was handheld, so that I could manoeuvre close to the source. I used this second audio recorder like a steadicam, orbiting around her; closing in on the details, such as the ripping and kneading of the paper; dropping to the floor to capture the rasp of her feet pushing against the paper, making a sound that recalled the incoming tide; and drawing near to her fingers to capture her gentle tares that, likewise, summoned the sea’s withdrawal along the shale. At times, I felt we were participating in a strange and unchoreographed pas de deux. Liz’s focus was fixed throughout. Impressive. The performance was surprisingly moving to observe and participate in.

The bi-product:

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Back at home, I continued to pack in readiness for tomorrow’s jaunt.

 



April 23, 2017

Such a day draws one out for its own sake. But I set off to buy this month’s issue of my ‘scholarly journal’ and bedtime read — Guitarist:

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A moment of cognitive dissonance:

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Back at the bench, I continued to plug away at the CD booklet notes and photographed the ‘map’ of Image and Inscription to serve as an illustration therein:

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It reminds me of John Cage’s collages and one of my more complex pedalboard schematics. There may be an image and stylistic characteristics here that can inform the album design. The visual culture of one’s operations and preparations is not incidental to the focal artefact produced thereby; they inform each other. Style of thought; style of action.

After lunch, a little domestic admin and research archiving, a putting away of equipment, a clearing of table tops, and a readying for the next stage of this project, and the beginnings of others waiting in the wings. On, then, with learning to use the Marantz PMD661 MkII recorder. This will be the workhorse — an audio camera — for the revitalised Aural Diary project:

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April 22, 2016

Back to the album: checking, again, the length of individual tracks in the wake of final remixes made at the beginning of the week; confirming the dates and venues of the live recordings; and setting in motion the process of finalisation for publication. In respect to the latter, cover notes need to be written and translated into Welsh, and the cover design, conceived. Otherwise, I revisited the track entitled Eschaton Ekstasis. Too much was taking place at the centre of the stereo field. The overdriven guitar drones needed to be pushed to the left and to the right in order for the voice accompaniment (extracted from a shortwave Christian Fundamentalist broadcast in the USA) to have a space in the middle to breath:

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Analogically, the composition was re-conceived as a landscape, rather than as a square, format. I’ve become increasingly aware that my approach to sound composition is from the perspective of painting. There’s much more to be understood and said in this respect. ‘Do you miss painting when you’re not?’, I’m asked. Certainly not when I’m making sound artefacts. The mentality is the same; only the medium is different.

Thereafter, the ‘map’ of Image and Inscription (which has served as the storyboard for the composition) was updated with a few additional notes, and readied for archiving:

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Before lunch, I received (out-of-the-blue) an invitation to join at discussion panel, organised by the Serpentine Galleries and College of Psychic Science, London, next week. The topic is psychic art. The event has been convened to coincide with the Hilma af Klint show at the Serpentine Gallery, and the forthcoming Giorgiana Houghton exhibition, which will be held at the Courtauld Institute. Some mid-week reorganisation of teaching will be required. My head is not presently in a ‘psychic’ mode. So, I’ll have to read my publications on the topic once again, in order to prep. It’s curious how public enthusiasm for this field of study has ebbed and flowed over the past decade. It’s one of those perverse facts of academic life: as soon as you stop writing about something, the rest world wakes up to it. By the close of the afternoon, the ‘map’ was up-to-date — complete. 

Searching through my cassette collection after dinner, I came upon the missing ‘CAS AD 012’ volume of the Aural Diary:

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The year is 1989. The events recorded include: a telephone conversation with Dad on my 30th birthday; a pro-democracy march in Aberystwyth on behalf of students in China (this was the year of the Tiananmen Square protests); writing the first draft of my PhD thesis’ conclusion (where I appear to be dictating the composition to the typist as the thoughts came into my head); a conversation with, the now late, Mrs E Thomas about her recollections of the Aberfan disaster in 1966; and the sound of a violin-playing busker coupled with a screeching escalator on the London Underground. I migrated the recordings, digitally, and entered the tracks into the catalogue. In the foreground, I started making notes towards the CD booklet.

 

 



April 21, 2016

Thursday. Another day of teacherly intensity. Arrival. I was out of sorts from the outset … out of sync … apprehensive. A disciplined emotional life is a huge boon in this job:

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There are times in teaching when, as though, some third consciousness is present. (Perhaps, this is what’s known as inspiration.) On these occasions (which are not so rare as one might imagine), tutor and tutee may experience revelation, vision, and a joy in beholding what may yet come to pass. And, there are other times when teaching is like trying to pass electricity through a non-conductive material. Neither participant may be at fault. Paradoxically, some of these ‘dry times’ can prove to be, in the longterm, just as productive as those engagements that were singularly ‘blessed’.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements and reflections:

  • Never despise your failed works. They’ll teach you as much, if not more than, your successes.
  • Indiscipline, tardiness, laziness, irresolution, and immaturity, and not the absence of significant talent, are more often the cause of our undoing. While we’ve no say regarding the amount of native talent that’s been given to us, we can work on our other deficiencies.
  • Don’t resent chastisement. It’s given to reform, rather than to punish, you.
  • In the artwork, seek to visualise not the subject of your interest but that which lies behind the subject — its ‘soul’.
  • Art is not so important. The older you get, the more you come to realise this. Friends, family, health of body and mind, and a happy longevity rank above it.

Julian Ruddock (alumnus, PhD Fine Art student, artist, and foundation studies course director at Coleg Ceredigion) was the guest lecturer on the British Landscape module:

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It was good to have him close the module, and several of his own students among us too. He would have been among the first students to take this module, if my memory serves me right.

An afternoon of Art in Wales and the remaining second year painting tutorials. My new toy arrived: EeRrRrRrRrRrRrRrRrR!! So begins my address to the ‘vision‘:

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The afternoon closed with a mixture of module admin and an MA Fine Art tutorial with other than one of my regular tutees. Confronting new work and having a new conversation with someone else is refreshing … for both participants.

Evening. The final British Landscape essays needed to be marked (with three days to spare before the deadline), and a response to the Tell Us Now module survey, dispatched. Not that any action can be taken in response to comments. This is the last time that the module will run. It’ll be scuttled after the exam.

This was a tough Thursday. Two successive days of end-to-end tutorials and lectures have proved a drain on my resources. (I’m not as young as I was, but I work harder and longer now than when I began teaching.)

 

 



April 20, 2016

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A substantial part of the day was given over to teaching at the Old College. My objective was to develop a perspective on those third year painting students whom I don’t ordinarily teach. I’ll be assessing them in May. For my part, today’s encounter puts down a marker against which I can measure their endeavours over the next three weeks, as they prepare for the final show. The day began and ended with a PhD Fine Art tutorial.

10.30 am. A treat at the Cabin:

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Some principles and observations from today’s encounters and reflections:

  • The titles of work should have the same character as the work. Thus, to an allusive or evocative artwork should be appended a title that is similarly evasive.
  • The origin of an artwork may not be reflected in, or readable from, its outcome. Intent and content are not inimitable. An artwork may accrue meanings and direction in the course of its manufacture, in relation to the medium, the context of its production, and the evolution of the artist’s awareness of the work and themselves.
  • Thus, an artwork may embody more than we intend, and exceed our expectations.
  • Do not aim to realise other people’s expectations regarding your work. Once you do, the game is up.
  • Beauty is insufficient. Add to it integrity … at least.

An evening on British Landscape essays. It’s encouraging to see the fortitude of a number of students who, having battled with writing deficiencies in the past, have overcome and begun to excel. What seemed impossible now seems likely. Their application and diligence have made all the difference.



April 19, 2016

Morning: grey cast, overcast, over head, heads up, up there:

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There are days when the landscape of one’s immediate responsibilities changes with every email that drips into the inbox. We study and teach within the nexus of the fulness of our lives. And life sometimes throws a grenade from behind the door when we expect and can deal with it least. Our health may collapse, suddenly; the needs of loved ones, prevail over our own; our past catches up with us; and what we either expected or hoped for, fails to come to pass. Frustration, distraction, and disappointment beat down with the force of a forger’s hammer — knocking us into a shape that isn’t of our choosing. And yet … It’s sometimes the road that we’d prefer not to travel down that leads somewhere better than we’d otherwise have ended up had we taken easier route.

At 11.00 am, we held the annual Monaghan Seminar with the MA Vocational Practice group. Earning one’s living from the sale of artwork (as Pete does) is a worthy ambition, but one that comes at an enormous cost. Liberty in one dimension of our life imposes constraints upon the others. That’s an axiom. What are we willing to give up in order to be successful? Success will not bring you happiness, nor will happiness bring you success, necessarily. Better to be happy and unsuccessful than successful and unhappy. Perhaps.

In the afternoon, I continued to plug away at my British Landscape essays.

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This is the last time that the module will run. And, these are the last of the several hundred essays that I’ve marked for this module over the years. Every module has its season. In the background (I need a background for essay marking), I played Image and Inscription. This is the first time that I’ve heard it … as though someone else had composed it. It signals that I’ve relinquished the process, and the work is finished. One can/should be both the maker and audience of one’s own work.

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The evening’s labours ended with a reference written for one of our alumni.

 

 

 

 

 

 



April 18, 2016

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As on every Monday morning, I parcelled out the week’s hours to modules and tutees, endeavouring to efficiently cram as many as possible into a period delimited for this activity. One must constrain teaching (and admin, for that matter), otherwise it will leak into every other dimension of one’s existence.

On with the revision of final mixes for the second of The Bible in Translation CDs. Several imperatives confronted me: (a) removing the brittleness of the sound; (b) regularising the tonal and volume level from the beginning to the end of each track; (c) checking the stereo balance and breadth of field; (d) scrutinizing for, and deleting, aberrant artefacts; and (e) equalizing the loudness (which is not the same as volume) of each track. To do this, I needed to hear the recordings on other than my usual mixing equipment. (The ear get’s accustomed to the same configuration of software and hardware.) The Focusrite Virtual Reference Monitoring system provided a more than reasonable simulation of a variety of studio set ups:

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Every once and while, I stopped to give my ears some relative silence, and my mind something other than decibels to fix upon. For the remainder of the morning I executed what I’d hoped would be a final mix of all the tracks.

In the afternoon, and in tandem with the morning’s activities, I calculated the individual and cumulative track lengths. Presently, Image and Inscription comes in at 43 minutes, while the other tracks sum up to 53 minutes.

During the evening, I widened the stereo field on the Image and Inscription tracks and reviewed this morning’s and afternoon’s mastering. Small changes effect significant outcomes. But someone really needs to take this composition off my hands, now.

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I relinquished my grip, knowing that I’ve done my best.



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