Aberystwyth is a town that you fall in and out of love with repeatedly. You can live here for years, and gradually lose contact with it … take it for granted, and stop seeing, visiting, and talking to, the place. The new academic year rekindles the ardour. You appreciate Aberystwyth through the eyes of newcomers (young lovers) who’ll, in turn, either be captured by its spell or remain indifferent to the charms this strange and magical world at the edge of the sea. Some of them will stay far longer than their degree, others will visit repeatedly thereafter, and yet others will never come back once they graduate:
9.00 am: The morning of the internal viva voce for the finalising MA Fine Art students. It’s an exacting, soul searching, and draining enterprise. There’s always something vaguely ludicrous and condescending about assigning a percentage to artistic endeavour. Dr Forster and I were done by 1.00 pm. We bundled ourselves off to the Painting Sub-Committee Room, in town, to churn over issues related to the teaching of the medium at undergraduate level during this coming academic year.
Afterwards, I returned to homebase to write up the feedback reports in preparation of the external examiner’s review tomorrow. In tandem, I responded to research and postgraduate queries.
Evening. After Practise Session 1, I reviewed the feedback, prepared mark sheets, and sought my colleague’s perspective on them. On, then, with a review of sound cable resources in the studio and a wiring up of the Revox A-77 tape recorder:
Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:
- One of the greatest gifts you can impart to a student is a thick skin. They’ll need it in the wicked world of work. The characteristics of that skin are: resilience in the face of hard-to-bear criticism; the ability to undertake a realistic and sober self-appraisal of their own strengths and weaknesses; independence of thought, motive, and action; and a strong instinct for survival.
- Art will teach you about art.
- Keep your gut instincts and first impressions to yourself. You may repent of them later.
- Be just as cautious of your enthusiasms as you are of your misgivings. Either may betray a lack of sober judgement.
- What you see is conditioned by what you know. What you know has been informed by what you’ve seen.
- In the making of art, the path of intent, the path of development, and the path towards resolution may not follow on from one another. Indeed, they may not be joined in any sense at all.