8.15 am: A communion. 9.00 am: The Turnitin submissions for the Abstraction module behind me, I moved to the Exhibition Report element and commenced marking in the ‘old-fashioned’ way, so as to preserve my poor arms and hands. The first task was to redesign the School’s art history feedback form to better reflect the objectives of the project under scrutiny:
One student’s submission drew my attention to the plight of the American/Jewish artist R B Kitaj who, along with David Hockney, was considered one of Britain’s foremost figurative painters during the 1970s. Kitaj received an utterly savage critical response to the major retrospective of his work, held at the Tate Gallery in 1994. He, as much as the work, was vilified. (So called ‘intellectual’ painters are frequently the target of British press journalists who’ve a pathological disdain for learning and cleverness.) He blamed the stress caused by the hostility for the death of his second wife, Sandra Fisher, who succumbed to a brain aneurism at the age of 47, two weeks after the show’s opening. His first wife had committed suicide. Kitaj never recovered from the trauma of both the public humiliation and loss, and took his own life, after a period of self-imposed hermetic exile, in 2007. Words can wound far more deeply than ‘sticks and stones’, sometimes. As the writer Philippa Gregory remarked: ‘Words have weight, something once said cannot be unsaid’. The impact of what we write or say can far exceed our intent, and may be unstoppable in its consequences.
Onwards. One must read the project brief before, during, and prior to submission in order to ensure that its requirements are met to the letter. Some students had neglected to do so. What was included is often fine. But what should’ve been there was absent. The temperature in my study dropped at the same rate as the daylight diminished:
Winter is like death before a resurrection. It’s a period when the world is pared back to its quivering skeleton; barren and comfortless (like an empty fire-grate), closed down and choked; a too silent time, too hard for the heart to embrace, lacking the redemptive, elegiac tone of Autumn. That season’s solace now gone, we wish Winter away like some matter that needs to be put behind us.
And, into the evening:
I continued marking, into the silence.