January 29, 2018

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27.14)

Sunday. At Holy Trinity Church, Aberystwyth, we hosted the annual RNLI service of thanksgiving.

The sterling endeavours of the boat team are an example of true and modest heroism on the volunteers’ part. They place their own lives on the line every time a call is answered. I was heartened to hear so many children express a desire to follow in the footsteps of their serving parents. The next generation of lifeboat women and men is in the making.

Today. 7.30 am: A communion. When my children were young and asked me for something, I would often tell them to wait. Either I hadn’t made up my mind about the matter, or wanted to kick it into the long grass in the hope that they might, in time, forget their petition (fat chance), or needed to test their resolve. If they really wanted what they’d ask for, then, they’d endure the delay patiently and, no doubt, badger me about the request periodically (like the importunate widow in Christ’s parable (Luke 18. 1–8)). Waiting can be hard. Our human instinct is for immediate resolution and guaranteed satisfaction. The experience can be particularly dispiriting if you don’t trust the integrity of the person you’re anticipating. Thus, whom we wait upon defines our attitude to waiting. In the spiritual realm, those that wait upon God are enjoined to ‘man-up’, as it were, and be confident and encouraged, because it’s no less than God. And he never disappoints.

8.30 am: A howler of a day ahead. My feet would not touch the ground until 6.30 pm. ‘Get go, John!’. Emails attended to and feedback for the Abstraction module dispatched, I reviewed my lunchtime lecture on ‘Culture and Society’ for the Art in Wales (which I also, rather disrespectfully, refer to as the Farting Whales) module. 9.30 am: I listened again to Saturday’s efforts. It was shaping up, but there’s still so much to do. I’ve decided to incorporate the Sea Interlude composition into the I. Nothing. Lack. suite. The former was originally intended to serve as a source of solace and calm. Dementia patients are, I’ve discovered, played sounds of the sea to assuage their anxiety and disorientation. Q: Would it be possible to construct a piece of sound to that end, more consciously? A sound that can heal.

Back, then, to a reconfiguration of the Art/Sound module (which will be offered next academic year) for Level 2 (second year) students. In the background: John Martyn’s One World (1977). 10.30 pm: A cup of tea and a square of 85% cocoa chocolate in hand, I made preparations for my afternoon of PhD Fine Art tutorials.

Over the weekend I received a grieving message from one of my former tutees, who’d lost a body of work in a local fire recently. I responded:

The only consolation is that they were things, rather than people, we loved. There must be an art history to be written about art that perished. (I recall Mrs Churchill’s incineration of Graham Sutherland’s portrait of her husband.) Whatever you’d learned from making them is still part of you and whatever will come after them. In art, nothing ever dies.

12.30 pm: Off to School to set up for my lunchtime lecture. I was in seminar room 216; the one with the tele – the channel-switching/identifying/connecting with PC function of which continues to fox me. I can deal with complicated audio hardware and software, but TV’s … . There’s something counter-intuitive about their functionality:

2.00 pm: After the lecture, it was off to the Old College via Park Avenue on a stunning afternoon:

I picked up a light lunch from Tesco Express (a useful watering hole on mad-rush days like this) before beginning an afternoon of PhD Fine Art tutorials. This was teaching at the highest level. Carmen’s studio floor: paintings of human hands are among the earliest expressions of human visual culture. They’ve been found in limestone caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi:

6.00 pm: Homeward. It’s only after I stop running that my body tells me how much it hurts. It needed care and sustenance, the caress of a hot shower, and time on the settee. One must love oneself, if only to establish the measure by which we are to love others.

7.30 pm: Teaching admin: uploads, emails, sound editing, and general catch up. 8.00 pm: Back to the conference paper. There’s a reserve of resourcefulness that lies beneath. But it’s not inexhaustible. Like a fire extinguisher, this should be used only in an emergency.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s considerations:

  • At postgraduate level, the cultivation of an independence of thought and action and of a confident self-determination should be your objective, even as you are being taught and supported.
  • It’s what we learn for ourselves that bears the most enduring fruit.
  • A good teacher may till the soil, plant the seeds, water and fertilise, and tend the tender shoots. But they cannot give growth.
  • Can you learn to live with a longing that cannot be fulfilled?
  • An unfulfilled longing can be either the making or the breaking of a person’s psyche. Decide judiciously and proceed with caution, therefore.
  • We are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, but as delicate as Meissen porcelain.
  • It’s the darkness of our experience that creates the chiaroscuro of our personality: the solidity of form without which we cannot be well-rounded artists.
  • The worst experiences may elicit the best from us.

 

 

Menu