On Saturday, I attended Peter Wakelin’s curated exhibition Roger Cecil: A Secret Artist at MOMA, Machynlleth. Like me, Roger Cecil (1942–2015) was born and lived in Abertillery, came from a working class background, grew up in a terrace house (which he later converted into his studio), and trained at the, then, Newport College of Art, Clarence Place, Newport. Unlike me, he returned to his home town to paint for the rest of his life. (For my part, I desperately needed to leave.):
Abertillery, from the south slope of the Arael Mountain (1982)
He’d walked the same mountain paths, travelled on the same bus between Abertillery and Newport, and knew the same ‘homing instinct’ (a profound sense of the psychological borders of one’s spiritual domain (this world)), as had I. His refusal to maintain a place at the Royal College of Art, London and make a name for himself in that city consigned him to virtual and knowing oblivion for most of his professional life. But, being a good artist and being a well-known artist aren’t necessarily synonymous. You can be the one without the other, either way.
Fortuitously, the exhibition came only weeks after I’d revisited by my undergraduate work, in preparation for a talk on the same to the School of Art’s BA Fine Art painting students. My final works, based upon the town, were made in 1995, and coincided with a breakaway from the genre of landscape that has persisted until the present day:
John Harvey, Abertillery I (1995), oil and pencil on board, 36 × 40.5
Much of what made the town engaging, visually – the collieries, coal tips, and the detritus of industry – have been variously levelled, overlaid, or removed. What remains, for me, is the vestigial presence — the corpus of my own and other artists’ works; my tactile, emotional, visual, and acoustic memories; and a historical knowledge of its social, industrial, and religious underpinnings.
Back on the bench:
The parallel Synth Engine units underwent further testing and reconfiguration. Back at the mixing desk, I reviewed the 800% stretch and pitch reduction of the New Testament combined mixdown. A curious formation had emerged:
Processing takes an age. One file was 16GB in size. One more ‘hum’ to cure. And this one would not be straightforward. Strip down; build again, piece by piece; and locate the juncture at which the ‘hum’ is generated. And, just when you feel that the solution has been reached … The problem was caused, again, by a power supply. The supplies to PB II and PB III were both earthed; the one to PB V (the errant board) was not. An additional earthed unit will need to be ordered.
7.30 pm: Sifting, searching, sorting, planning: an evening of self examination and reflection: