October 13, 2017

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest (Ecclesiastes 9.10)

8.30 am: Email catchup with correspondents at home and overseas.

Garden: Elysian Grove, pencil, 26.2 × 25.4 (1992)

It was strange seeing a work of mine from so long ago on a gallery wall again. I hadn’t forgotten the drawing; it had just been buried beneath everything else that I’d made subsequently, much like it had under the Turner watercolours in the School’s archive, I imagine. ‘Why don’t you draw like that again?’ someone asked. Because it was then and I am now. The drawing hasn’t changed, but I have. The artwork was an answer to a specific inquiry; today, I’m asking a very different question, one that requires an entirely other response. To undertake a drawing like this again would be as inauthentic as attempting to relive a day from my past. I can’t go back. And, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should … any longer.

9.45 am: Studiology. I rewired the sound set up for the  Turn Table project to permit two independent input/output paths for the two sampler/loopers in the system. On, then, with further tests. The solution worked, but only in part. A radical rethink was the call of the hour. For me, drawing = thinking. I can’t resolve problems of this nature other than schematically. In essence, the solution is about splitting and combining two signal paths before and after the looper/samplers:

There’re times when a simple problem requires a complicated solution. I remember one student, years ago, saying. ‘Why can’t painting be easier? I hate difficulty’. To which I replied: ‘If you didn’t have the difficulty, there’d be no painting’. Creativity takes place in the context of a battle (to adapt Matisse’s metaphor) against the recalcitrance of materials, the limitations of technology, and one’s own limitations, stupidity, and laziness. Artists worthy of that title are those who fight in spite. It’s too easy to throw in the towel when things don’t go to plan. That’s a symptom of creative immaturity.

12.00 pm: The revised sound system worked a treat: two desynchronous looper/samplers in parallel/independent operation. What next? Test the sound capture at the laptop. All was ‘okey-dokey’, as we’re apt to say in South Wales:

Playing this system is like painting in an abstract and improvisational mode. I add, layer, obscure, and obliterate in order to arrive at a resolved ‘surface’ – but a ‘surface’ that’s constantly undoing and reforming itself. Having built the system, I next needed to dismantle it for conveyance to the School of Art Gallery, this afternoon. This always takes far longer than I anticipate.

Good news on the conference abstract front. Against the odds, my proposal for a paper about the I. Nothing. Lack. project has been accepted for the Digital Past 2018 conference. Lesson: sometimes you have to give the judges what they need rather than what they think they want.

1.30 pm: After lunch, I tentatively initiated the ‘secret project’ and boxed equipment for transport. The advantages of having a studio two stories above the front door wane when it comes to lugging heavy equipment downstairs and up.

2.00 pm:  It suddenly and forcibly struck me: I’ve begun to conceive of painting more as an attitude of mind and a way of thinking than a discipline in relation to medium. I’m seeing the ‘painting’ behind painting – the spirit within the practice. This idea isn’t scrutable by logic, presently. I’m all at sea here. Either the ‘revelation’ is a harbinger of incipient lunacy, a result of sleep deprivation, or a genuinely meaningful awareness. I don’t know. I’ll remain suspicious of myself, as always. My study of art history has taught me that it’s not rare for artists, at a certain point in their career, to develop completely wacky and self-delusional notions and practices. I recalled the Welsh Painter Evan Walters‘ (1892–1951) who, in his mid 40s, started producing dreadful artwork based upon an utterly potty perceptual theory of double vision. (We need to be saved from ourselves, in so many ways.)

While looking for store boxes in the cellar, I alighted upon a Polaroid photograph that I’d taken around 1985, that captured a palette I’d used during my undergraduate years. The image brought with it the remembrance of those paintings for which that palette was the ground of being, and of which it remained their residue:

3.30 pm: I unpacked the equipment and began to reassemble the sound system in the double gallery at the School of Art, following my tried and tested procedure:

  1. Set up and secure the furniture: stands, table tops, etc.
  2. Take a cable from the wall socket to the power conditioner and plugboards.
  3. Take cables from the latter to auxiliary plugboards and PA.
  4. Set up equipment on table top.
  5. Take cables from equipment and laptop to conditioner and plugboards.
  6. Route signal cables from first piece of equipment to the last, in order.
  7. Switch on one piece of equipment at a time, in order, and the PA system last.

5.10 pm: Finished:

7.30 pm: Intercessions. I’d responsibility for leading congregational prayers on Sunday morning at the Harvest service. This was my last opportunity to prepare for the task.