May 20, 2016

9.00 am – 2.00 pm: a protracted session of assessing the third year fine art finalists. This is the last day of intensive assessing. (A few rescheduled appointments will be held early next week.)

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Once again Cerebus was let out of his-her kennel. On the whole, the students gave a good account of themselves. These are the last professional conversations we’ll have with the finalists. As such, the assessments are coloured by the melancholy of departure. No teacher worth their salt can remain untouched by it. Some students will go straight into employment, others onto MA studies, and yet others along a path, the destination of which is still unknown to them. But all will leave with a greater sense of self-awareness. At the very least, they’ll know what they don’t want to do in life.

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Occasionally, this parting exchange reveals something (either a fact, an anecdote, an attitude, or an opinion) that discloses something quite remarkable about the student; something that had been concealed or unsaid hitherto. I’m convinced that they’re not conscious of the disclosure. Suddenly, you see them and what they’ve achieved in a very different light. Wonderful!

For some students, the final exhibition will be their final exhibition. No shame or sense of failure should be attached to that. Many came for an education in art, an education through art, and, to their great surprise, an education by art. Not every one wants to, or should, be an artist. For others, this exhibition will have been the first of many public and professional engagements. By early afternoon, my colleagues and I had given of our best. The experience of assessing continuously is hollowing. It incurs a heavy expenditure of physical energy, emotion, and intellect.  We were ‘maxed out!’

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Over lunch with a colleague, we reflected upon the week’s work and engaged in mind games about the possible futures of an education in painting at the School. The imminent death of painting as a viable and progressive art form has been anticipated since the close of Modernism. However, with the rise of Postmodern, painting became, once again, central to fine art practice in the occident. Granted, painting has not enjoyed a golden age during or since that period. (The last great movements associated with the medium were Abstract Expressionism and Post-Painterly Abstraction, in the 1940s to 50s.)

Painting today is, as Clement Greenberg would have out it, ‘coming along in a small way’. Thus it’s neither in terminal decline nor comatose nor otherwise so stricken that we need write ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ on its clipboard. Curiously, musicians never argue for the death of the piano forte due to the invention of the electronic organ and synthesiser, or the abandonment of traditional compositional structure with the rise of twelve-tone serialism and noise music. The new was accepted, eventually, as an extension of, and complimentary to, traditional instrumentation and compositional practices. We fine artists and art historians really do have it in for ourselves on some issues.

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Back at homebase, I assembled the marks for the BA Exhibition and MA Exhibition and Portfolio modules in readiness for the annual ‘walkaround’ the studios by the staff en masse on Monday, prior to the External Examiner’s visit on that day. In the evening, I completed writing up my feedback reports on the day’s exchanges.

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