August 25, 2016

6.15 am: Run!


The GCSE results were released today. My performance at O-level (GCE Ordinary level) was abysmal. (The outcome of my A-levels was only marginally better.) It took me two further attempts to pass my English Language O-level; but I never did succeed in achieving a qualification in Maths. Had I obtained one less O-level, I ‘d have been pointed in the direction of the coal pit, in all likelihood. Clearly, I was not ‘academic’. But neither was I particularly practical; my accomplishments in woodwork, metalwork, technical drawing, and even art were mediocre at best. I didn’t blame these failures on either the school or the teachers or my upbringing (which had been exemplary). The problem was me, or, rather, the misfit between the way that I needed to learn and the way that I’d been taught.

At art school I found myself among many others who’d been, similarly, designated educationally ‘disabled’ by the state school system. There were academic olympians in my cohort too. But what you’d failed or achieved in the past didn’t matter one hoot now. I’d been planted into an altogether different type of soil. Here, there was no top or bottom of the class or yardstick of attainment against which you were regularly measured. Here, family, friends, and previous teachers hadn’t a clue what you was doing. (I liked that.) Here, I began to grow in confidence and understanding in response to a set of expectations that I’d not before encountered. To:

  1. be an active investigator, rather than a passive recipient, of knowledge;
  2. respond to a teaching while, at the same time, extend the curriculum for myself;
  3. develop skills relevant to my intent;
  4. through observation and drawing, engage with a world beyond the pages of a text book;
  5. through observation and drawing, learn to see intelligently for the first time;
  6. through observation and drawing, engage with a history and geography that were relevant to my background and locale;
  7. through art history, to understand my position, as an image maker, within a broad framework of continuities and discontinuities, and to nourish myself on the work of others, past and present;
  8. teach myself. (Most artists struggle to be taught anything.)

And much else besides. In essence, I came to understand that one’s limitations were, in some large measure, acquired rather than innate. Moreover, their boundaries were weak and could be breached. In art school, it was possible for a student to transcend their past, their former prospects, the estimation of others, and themselves. Art school education works. Well, it did for me.

9.00 am: I returned to the final phase of the space rationalisation project, turfing out everything inessential, wasteful, unappreciable, and unfixable, while alighting upon notebooks and documents that I’d not consulted in years. (My state assigned incompetence with regard to numeracy skills has never prevented me from using them in my work.):


Sound studio notebook, 2010-15

With a little adaptive sawing, I prepared the studio rack to house the Yamaha THX 100 guitar amplifier head (top), in such a way as to make it straightforward to extract the unit from the system as a whole when in transit:


Afternoon. ‘Skipping’ at the School with my ‘little boys’. ‘Goodbye heavy surplus studio “stuff”!’ we said, as it disappeared into the great metal hod, forever. This was a weight off my shoulders — a lightening of life and an almost religious experience. I recalled Bunyan’s protagonist, Christian, in The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), losing the load from off his back ‘at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre’, into which the burden rolled:


William Blake, ‘Pilgrim Reading His Book’, Pilgrim’s Progress (1824)

Back at homebase, we set about creating additional shelves in the sound studio. Towards the close of work, our guests arrived for an overnight stay.


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