May 18, 2015

8.30 am. Cruel rain; glowering dark clouds; the first day of third-year assessments. 9.30 am. Dr Pierse and I were the double act on this occasion. Assessing those I’ve not taught is always insightful. It permits a degree of objectivity that is denied in relationship to one’s own students. I had six assessors at my ‘last judgement’ in 1981, half of whom I’d never before met. They delivered a fairly fierce interrogation. And, some of their questions were designed to trip you up. How things have changed, and for the better. The process is more humane today.

My art school at Clarence Place, Newport in Gwent, where I undertook my BA Fine Art degree in the late 1970s and early 1980s, had a number of architectural features and an essence that was not unlike that of the School of Art. I’ve always appreciated that dimension of continuity:

1980 06 (a3)

The fine art studios at Clarence Place were illuminated by tall, skyward-pointing windows that ran the length of upper wall. In most other respects, the interiors were identical to today’s studios. Some things don’t change: paint bespattered floors, tables, and chairs; a forest of inclining wooden easels; partitions; unclaimed drawing boards; broken portfolios; and gesso-readied canvases that would never be used. The only notable difference was that there were more men studying art then:

1980 06 (a2)

The art school closed in 1996 and moved to Caerleon, just a few miles away. There’s a blog site with photographs, by Paul Williams, of the building in a state of dereliction. I find them hard to look at. The rooms where I heard ideas that turned my thinking around, fell in love with art history (and other things), discovered painting and myself, ate Reg’s (the canteen chef) glorious Chicken Supreme, and urinated, collectively appear like some disinterred corpse.

My painting space in 1981, during the third year of studies. (I’m reading the music manuscript of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. This was a first, tentative attempt to relate images to sounds through notation.):

1981 (a1)

That same space (on the left) and the studio, post-1996, in Paul Williams’ photograph:


One day, the School of Art may suffer the same fate.

The building has now been redeemed and converted into smart, commodious flats that sensitively preserve many of the original and remarkable architectural quirks and features. Who could resist becoming an abstract painter in such an environment:

College 4

(The above photograph is taken from the YoungManGoneWest blog site.)

From 12.00 to 1.30 pm, Prof. Meyrick and I ‘processed’ several Illustration students whose time slot had to be moved to today from tomorrow. (Best wishes for their postgraduate interviews in London tomorrow.) 2.00 pm. After a hurried lunch and email catch up, I undertook a viva-prep discussion with one of my MA painters. 2.40 pm. An MA application interview, followed by a rescheduled second year ISP/Painting assessment. 3.45 pm. Homeward, to continue marking the Chapels in Wales module submissions.

6.30 pm. Practice session 1: slow, clean, and deliberate note progressions.  7.30 pm. On with the essays. 10.30 pm. Further on, and into the next day.

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