March 30, 2017

9.00 am: ‘Tea-up!’ To the office, to fortify myself for start of the the morning:

9.30 am: A day of second- and third-year painting tutorials. I began with the second year students:

The shadow reflects, in part, the colour of the object that casts it. The reality of the source subject and the reality of the painted subject aren’t the same. Don’t confused them. Take your tune from the source, but play it in whatever way makes sense to you. What is it about the subject that intrigues you? Paint only that. Focus/unfocus. Hierarchies of importance (for you). Feeling the forms and forming the feeling. The paradox of making a static image of a mobile object. In painting, don’t change two adjacent values simultaneously. One at a time, please! Research can be prospective (after the fact); your completed painting may open your eyes to see correspondences in other artists’ work, which were not visible either before or when you were making it (BA Fine Art tutorials, from ‘The Black Notebook’ (March 30, 2017) 243).

11.00 am: I proceeded to the third year students, while the second year enjoyed their workshop criticism with Dr Forster:

It should fit like a glove with too many fingers. ‘What can you take from one painting to the next?’ ‘And, as importantly, what should you leave behind?’ It’s not about the number of paintings (noun), but, rather, about intensity of painting (verb). The greatest praise is due to the learner rather than their teacher. Visual poetry. Like a story that mutates as it’s passed from one generation to another. You can’t plan a painting beyond a point. Painting is a reaction to painting is a reaction to paint. Do as much as you can with as little as you can. ‘What are you leaving outside the studio door? Do you miss it? Invite it back in?’ Art is about fulfilling a psychological necessity, as well as the other things (BA Fine Art tutorials, from ‘The Black Notebook’ (March 30, 2017) 243–44).

The third year painters are picking up a pace. They’ve just one more week of tutorials before the rather late Easter recess. Thereafter, there’s only one more week of teaching before the studios are dismantled and the exhibition rises from the ashes, once again.

2.00 pm: I returned to the second year — moving from one mind set, aesthetic sensibility, and ambition to a next, like an astronaut journeying between the planets. Planet Alan:


3.00 pm: Down tools! A moment’s respite:

4.30 pm: My final tutorial shifted from visuality to sonority. I’ll not giving anything away. This is Jakob ‘tickling’ the ivories, electronically:

5.20 pm: Empty!

6.30 pm: The end of teaching-week round up +:

  • register updates
  • tutorial appointments (regulars and new one-offs)
  • reference correspondence
  • exhibition statement reviews
  • admissions
  • commiserations
  • revision of material in readiness for tomorrow’s departmental Quinquennial Review.


March 29, 2017

8.00 am: I pushed on with my Lent talk until 9.00 am. Having jiggled my teaching arrangements for the day, I found the additional half morning for research that I was looking for on Monday (after the digital recording debacle). On the practical front, I began a discussion with Mr Owen, my trusted electronics expert, about the fusion and economising of two, mono buffer effector units into one, smaller stereo version:

Having reduced the bit rate on the digital recording to 48,00o (which is of a sufficient quality for my purposes), the digital recoding of the record proceeded smoothly. The Gospels of Mark and Luke were completed by lunchtime:

12.30 pm: An early lunch. 1.10 pm: The annual exhibition preparation meeting. From today, his genius will rule the proceedings:

2.00 pm: The remainder of the afternoon was set aside for two PhD Fine Art tutorials. As we come to the end of term, I sense my energies are flagging:

7.30 pm: I committed myself to completing my Lent talk. 12.45 am: Done!


March 28, 2017

8.15 am: A pox upon morning admin.  8.50 am: MA day. I approached the Unitarian Chapel, situated close to the Old College. It had been redecorated. ‘I don’t like it!’ At the most fundamental level, the façade should be a different colour to that of the main structure of the building. Moreover, the classical motifs on the façade needed to be distinguished one from another by different colours. As is stands, this chapel had been painted as one would spray a car. I was reminded of a tube of antiseptic ointment:

9.00 am: The first of the day’s MA Fine Art tutorials.

The problems of painting are often only in our head — not imaginary, but theoretical. However, when we engage with the materials, support, and tools of the practice, many of those difficulties dissipate. Painting in search of a subject rather than in response to one. As in life, so in art: ‘so much to learn’. ‘You can’t do it, or you haven’t done it?’ These two conditions are worlds apart. Consider the moods of the sea: from quietness and racousness. Likewise, consider the dynamics of your painting. To have a choice, you must be able to do more than one thing. Aim for nuance and subtlety in the work. Sitting in a gallery, on a comfy chair, discussing a student’s work, surrounded by art. This is a good way to earn a living (MA Fine Art tutorials, from ‘The Black Notebook’ (March 28, 2017) 241).

11.10 am: I recalled the Vocational Practice class to apprise the students about the assessment regime and alternative final project. I’ll miss this group. They’ve jelled well and been immensely self-supportive:

1.20 pm: There was a coding error on one of the AberDoc forms that I’d submitted to the Institute. This required a quick fix and dispatch.

2.00 pm: Further MA Fine Art tutorials and admin:

‘You make a mark everyday day!’ ‘1–46’. ‘Is this an anomalous way of working?’ Like Braille. Like arithmetic. There are things that you should do, rationally, but which you can’t do, temperamentally. Stripping back one’s practice to its DNA. Precious areas of the painting can handicap the progress of the whole. Eradicate them. Paintings as the slosh-bucket of one’s life experience. If the soul could be seen, it would look complicated. Resist a straightforward explanation of your work. Baudelaire — the poet-critic (MA Fine Art tutorials, from ‘The Black Notebook’ (March 28, 2017) 241–42).

Brigitte’s brushes (asleep):

B. and I were lost for words. One in particular. (Such lapses comes with age.) The word was ‘cuneiform’. Things return to you when you’re not searching for them. Now, there’s a lesson for life. The farmers are manuring the fields around Pen Dinas. The is an olfactory fact.

2.30 pm: I’d an hour and a half to address a back log of postgraduate admin before heading to the Old College for the final MA Fine Art tutorial of the day. Alysia’s table:

5.00 pm: Homeward.

7.30 pm: My Lent talk beckoned. I began in the middle, with the text: ‘Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden’ (Jn 19.41).

March 27, 2017

8.15 am: I mopped up emails that had dripped into my inbox on Sunday. 9.00: Studiology. The sound system designed for the next 24-hour open studio event is ailing. I’d now lost both ‘A’ and ‘B’ loops. I like a challenge, but not this one … not today. This was one for after lunch. In the meantime. I returned to the melodic sequence that I’d constructed last Friday. It still stood up to scrutiny. I wanted the source samples to remain untreated whenever possible. It’s too easy to gild the lily. One must always question the application of modulation? Why is the effect necessary? How does it serve to either further or articulate the idea? Beware of being beguiled by fascinating but meaningless sounds.

Scourby (the reader) signs off at the end of each biblical book by stating the period of the recording. For example, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel he says: ‘recorded July 1964’. It’s an aural date-stamp. This ‘signature’ situates the recording in a more recent history (his present). There are two other histories besides, represented on the album: the date of, first, the Bible translation (1611), and, secondly, the incomparably more ancient source texts:

1.40 pm: Then there were problems with the digital recording software. After several aborted attempts (each taking 40 minutes to elapse before it failed), and having turned off the automatic screen saver, the system stabilised (a bit):

4.00 pm: Now, I was woefully behind time, and would require a further half-day (or equivalent) in order to get back on track.

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.30 pm: The Vocational Practice module needed last minute adjustments to the project assessment regime. I’d become aware that some students were carrying a very heavy burden, above and beyond the demands of the MA scheme. My aim was to make life a little more bearable for all. Education should be demanding, but never a chore. One cannot learn under duress. Although, it’s quite possible to do admin in this condition (sigh!):




March 24, 2017

8.00 am: I made start on my application to the AU Learning and Teaching Conference for this year. I’ll submit a paper examining the way in which the fruit of individual instruction can be shared with the learning community. 9.00 am: Studiology. Pedalboard IV needed to be modified: the tube-based gain effector was replaced by the Pro-Co RAT gain effector. 9.30 am: The extracts of the word ‘blind’, taken from ‘The Talking Bible’ discs, were assembled linearly. In the background, I digitally recorded the discs that make up the Gospel of Matthew:

The process of digital translation will take an age and a huge file capacity. I fell into this project without any sense of what would ensue. This was liberating. Once the source material began to react with itself, possibilities presented themselves. (You cannot think these things out in advance.) Play is the way — an unhesitant and reckless abandon to the manipulation of form alone, in the first instance. Musicality arose. There’s no muse, of course. (Visual art never had one; too much a craft for that.) The absence of ideas is always the result of a failure of the imagination on the artist’s part.

1.40 pm: After lunch, I extracted ten ‘musical’ phrases (4-7 ‘notes’/’blind’s long) derived from all the samples taken from Genesis to Revelation. From this set, a provisional melodic sequence, of just under one minute’s length, was constructed. I’d no idea whether this will be included in the final work; I’d no desire to know, presently. The aim, rather, is to generate collage material; something to manoeuvre. When the digital recording of Matthew’s Gospel was completed, I overlaid the four files (one for each side of the two discs). The intention is to overlay each of the other biblical books in turn in this way and, then, superimpose their recordings on top of one another, so as to produce a dense fabric of speech representative of the entire set of records:

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.30 pm: I developed a repetitive motif of ‘blinds’ and looped it. This will serve as the spine for the composition – a regular pattern against which irregular melodic lines and non-pitch specific speech extracts can be mapped.

March 23, 2017

In memory of PC Keith Palmer’s sacrifice: ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair’
(William Wordsworth, ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, 3 September 1803’).

8.40 am: Helen and I met on Llanbadarn Road, and walked to the School while discussing choirs and why so few men join them. 8.50 am: I ensured that my PowerPoint slides had integrity in readiness for the morning’s ‘talk’ (the genre lacks precise definition). I needed a better image of a piano interior. Jakob’s recent purchase of a sad, old upright provided a source:

9.15 am: Admin catch up before the beginning of my second and third year painting day. My office is stiflingly hot.

Focus the subject; determine the priorities of the painting. Turn your eye to your circumstances — class, conditions, family, interests, and lifestyle. ‘Everything I paint is a vessel’. Metaphorically, the vessel is a body. ‘Your soul is the content’. Be aware of the personal associations of objects. Set yourself precise goals for each work. Observe yourself learning as you learn to observe. Concentrate on expressing the object rather than yourself (Second and third year painting tutorials, ‘The Black Notebook’ (March 22, 2017) 239).

Before the morning’s … whatever, I returned to the School of Art Gallery’s print exhibition, to ‘talk’ with Richard Allen’s (1933–99) Iconocross I (1979). Richard was a hero of mine when I was an undergraduate. I had the privilege of being his colleague at the School of Art, during my stint as Head of Department. By his own admission, he wasn’t a religious man. But the cruciform was too potent for him to resist:

For Lent: John of the Cross

11.00 pm: The Forster & Harvey double act. None of my tutors shared their undergraduate work with me (and for good reason, perhaps). We may yet live to regret this. A readying:

June — in authoritative and bookish mode:

There’s always something vaguely self-serving and discomforting about making oneself the subject of a lecture. On this occasion, however, the demands of the higher good prevailed. June presented a measured, engaging, and encouraging account of her experience. The distance that she has travelled since her first degree is astonishing. I’ve no idea if or when painting will move towards the centre of my attention once again. Having played an ‘end-game’ with my last exhibition, it’ll have to return with a rather different sense of its own territory. However, I suspect that there are clues to its future identity in both what I said today and the Image and Inscription sound composition. Since I cannot any longer locate painting, painting will have to find me.

1.40 pm: I needed to keep up the pace today. Tutorials continued:

Pentimento (Italian: Repentance). A visible, historical, and sublimated encoding of the process of construction and obscuration. Perhaps it’s that awkward and unyielding painting which’ll get you through the door to the next stage in your development. If you paint a subject repetitively, it becomes neutral. Then, you’re free to concentrate on the process of painting: seeing, translating, and rendering. The grass is always greener on the other side. But what shade of green is it? (Second and third year painting tutorials, ‘The Black Notebook’ (March 22, 2017) 240).

5.20 pm: An end:

7.30 pm: An evening of reckoning, reflection, tidying, uploading, irate letters, and planning for next week’s teaching.

March 21, 2017

8.55 am: The Promenade. Wind on water:

‘And the words of the prophets are written on the [studio] walls’:

9.00 am: MA day. It would begin and end at the Old College:

I’ll only contemplate doing what’s ‘too difficult’. I’m aware of holding imaginary tutorials in my head. Len Tabner. The students don’t realise how much I enjoy their work. For me, it’s not only an object of constructive criticism. Feel: the gentle pressure of the wind against the building. Listen: to the constant rush of brown noise made by the incoming tide. See: the students’ minds and sensibilities made manifest. Sometimes, I thinks that all my past times are focussed on the present moment; nothing has been either lost or forgotten. You have to go down many blind alleys in order to find the right way (your way) to work. You have to prepare the ground before you can land on it. The fault is always in ourselves. Take an extreme position … then draw back. Change is often incremental, rather than dramatic. You cannot be both an artist and dead to the world. Flat spheres. An exhibition: a group of works that interpret one another (MA Fine Art tutorials, ‘The Black Notebook’ (March 21, 2017) 236–37).

11.45 am: In the Life Studio. What an exquisite dog. And clearly basking in the attention:

12.00 pm: A rescheduled Personal Tutorial was followed by the morning’s final MA Fine Art tutorial:

Success is on the path of many failures. Trust in the work’s sufficiency. Don’t dress it up. A low-lit gallery reveals the works more slowly. Modes of the storm on the surface of Jupiter. The importance of reviewing your work; it’ll change your perception. Works that fiercely deny the audience an access. ‘Something ancient speaks through your work’. A line: ‘a trace of you acting upon the paper’; ‘the proof of presence’. ‘I live a very structured life’ (MA Fine Art tutorials, ‘The Black Notebook’ (March 21, 2017) 237).

2.00 pm: A further MA Fine Art tutorial followed by a Research and Process in Practice consultation. followed by a general consultation with one of the postgraduates. 3.45 pm: Back to the Old College for two final MA Fine Art tutorials.

Alysia’s wall:

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.30 pm: Further requests for material to inform the AberDoc meeting, tomorrow, were in my inbox. What made matters worse … I was unable to access the DropBox material that I’d been sent, related to the award. (Sigh!)

March 20, 2017

Over the weekend, the extraction of ‘blind’ from the Old Testament records was completed, and the studio readied for composition. The ‘A’-loop on the system network is, now, compromised. An insufficiently strong signal is either entering or leaving the Moog units. This is likely to be a problem with either the capacitance or the resistance of the set up. A bit of buffering may do the trick. Perplexed.

Today. 9.00 am: A busy week ahead, and still tutorials to fit in. Dr Forster and I have decided to do something entirely reckless (again):

10.20 pm: I’d set the morning aside for first-year personal tutorials. Only a few have signed up to see me. Perhaps, they only turn up when they’ve a problem. (Rather like one might, at a GP’s surgery.) Although some with known problems don’t turn up because they have a problem. Their absence is indicative of that problem.

12.10 pm: In the Life Studio today, my past caught up with me. Alumni from the distant and more recent history were studiously engaged in drawing the model. A great deal of ability was represented in that room. And so many of them are still pursuing professional practice. Life drawing is as much a philosophical position as it is a practical discipline:

1.10 pm: Lunch having been taken during my final personal tutorial of the morning, I headed upward to the campus for the 2.10 pm PhD research training workshop on ‘Ways of Working with Sound’:

There are only ever a few curious enough to sign up to this class. Nevertheless, the experience (for me at least) is rewarding. The discussion opened up many potential avenues of thought that couldn’t be traversed due to the restriction of time. As on the previous occasion when this workshop was held, the Impromptu Aberystwyth University Music Department made a collective composition in situ. Each member of the ‘orchestra’ brought to the table (quite literally) an ‘instrument’ of a very rudimentary nature. These were played following a game plan (inspired by John Cage), initiated by the toss of a coin:

4.15 pm: Back at homebase, I completed the admin for the afternoons class (uploads, register, communications, and so forth).

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.30 pm: I finalised the last of the slide scans in readiness for the Forster/Harvey magnum blast on Thursday. An AU Learning and Teaching Conference will be held in July. I’m considering submitting a proposal.


March 16, 2017

9.00 am: At Holy Trinity Church, I conducted a sound check of the organ and PA system in readiness for a funeral, which will be held here tomorrow afternoon:

9.30 am: This was my day for second and third year painting tutorials:

If you don’t think that you have a blind spot … you have a blind spot. A teapot made out of paint. You must enjoy the paint as much as you do the thing that you’re painting. The painting is the bi-product of your interrogation. Think of a painting as though it were a building site: messy to begin, requiring excavation, demolition, clearance, filling, building, and, finally, tidying. Don’t get prissy, therefore. John Bratby: painting like swearing — rough edged, gnarled, earthy, offensive, and confrontational. A photograph of the object you’re painting is but its ‘ghost’. ‘What am I not seeing?’ (BA painting tutorials, from ‘The Black Notebook’ (March 16, 2017) 234–5).

Elli’s swatches:

Myfi’s grey-dappled palette:

The analogy and reciprocity between the title and the image. ‘Is it wrong, or a different type of right?’ Teachers set traps. It’s how you work your way out them that proves your metal. The painting doesn’t always have to work, but you always have to learn. It’s easier climb a craggy rock-face than a smooth one. The more difficult approach is often the most enabling. ‘The problem is complex; it requires more of you than you’ve the capacity to give, presently; but by engaging with the challenge, you’ll grow in stature, assurance, and competence’ (BA painting tutorials, from ‘The Black Notebook’ (March 16, 2017) 235).

4.30 pm: A wind up of the week’s teaching and preparation for the next.

Throughout the morning I’d battled with an outrageous administrative demand from on high, that (with some muscle from other departments) was rescinded. These, relatively minor, irritants crop-up now and again. But they threaten to draw my mind from the task at hand — teaching. And that’s not fair on my tutees. I’ve always had a flare for mentally partitioning my affairs. That skill was rigorously exercised today.

7.30 pm: Socks paired, I dug in for an evening (and early morning) of tasks, all of which had been begun and needed completing over the next few days. My intercessions for this Sunday’s morning service was first on the roll, followed by further work on a PowerPoint for a workshop that Dr Forster and I will hold next week on the topic of our respective undergraduate studies.

The delights of Japanese confectionary and packaging. This will never be opened:


March 14, 2017

9.00 am: Off to Kilburn underground station (beloved of Leon Kossoff) and into the city centre. I took a coffee-shop respite to gather my thoughts and plan my morning. Central Line: ‘Adjusted Shape Array’:

9.30 am: I made my pilgrimage (again) to the centre of the known universe: Denmark Street. Every time I visit, there’s one less shop to enter. As they disappear, so too does a little more of Britain’s popular music history:

10.00 am: I attended >

at the British Museum. The print output of the period from Pop Art to Conceptualism provides a striking index to the movements characteristics and attainments as a whole. Unfortunately, the (necessary) low-light conditions defeated the luminosity of the highly chromatic works by Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, and Warhol. Brice Marden’s grid-based prints were new to me, as, too, Serra’s darkly engorged surfaces.

11.30 am: Back to Tottenham Court Road by way of L. Cornelisson & Son – the best professional artists’ toy shop in the country:

There, in the late 1980s, I brushed shoulders with Howard Hodgkin. I wished I’d been brave enough to shake his hand and say ‘thank you’. Yesterday, my son and I passed Bewick Street. Today, I returned to visit the daily market. Presently, it’s tucked away behind construction hoardings that box-in alleys throughout Soho. The old world of strip clubs, sex cinemas, and furtive video and bookshops has been overlaid by gentrified eateries and specialised food outlets:

1.30 pm: Following lunch, I returned to the British Museum. During the late 1980s and early 90s, when I was undertaking PhD research in the British Library (which was within the museum in those days), I’d sit under the portico to eat my lunch:

During my break, I would take on one of the room’s contents in order to broaden my mind beyond the narrow bounds of my doctoral study. Today, I was drawn to the collection of Byzantine and Russian Orthodox icons. Inevitably, I also gravitated towards the Egyptian, Assyrian, and southern Arabian rooms and, there, renewed my childhood fascination for ancient forms of writing. I’ve never tired of them:

2.40 pm: I began a circuitous return to Euston via Paul patisserie on Bedford Street. At the station, the voice on the public address announced: ‘The toilets on the concourse are now closed; we apologise for the inconvenience’. A classic. 3.43 pm: I boarded the Glasgow Central train for the first leg of my journey home. I’ve committed myself to presenting one of the Lent talks at Holy Trinity Church. I made a start. The man opposite was coughing like a TB ward. Not good! 5.09 pm: From Birmingham International to Shrewsbury. Behind me was a mother with bronchial children. Done for!

Later, I returned to the AberDoc admin. This needs to be off my desk by the close of tomorrow evening. 8.20 pm: We crawled into Aberystwyth station on time. I need a meal, and shower, and a bed. The town was in dense fog. Beautiful and welcoming.