November 6, 2014

8.00 am. I set up my devices in preparation for the Art/Sound lecture, and materials in readiness for the ‘Priming Board’ demonstration:


I’ve not presented a talk on painting techniques in over fifteen years. What could have been a rather dull and pedantic account of ‘the way to do it’, felt animated, sweetened with humour, salted with precepts, and genuinely relevant to the students’ practical needs. Today’s art students are far more receptive to this type of instruction. When I was in art school, we actively resisted or, at least, filtered, our education — perceiving it to be constraining, value-loaded, and prescriptive. Better to learn nothing by yourself than something from someone else, we told ourselves. Foolishness!

Some observations, advice, and principles derived from today’s tutorials:

  • Discover ways by which to defamiliarise the artwork at hand. Make it look strange to you or other than your own.
  • A sense of fun, enjoyment, and fulfilment are not reliable criteria by which to judge the success or otherwise of an artwork.
  • However, if there is no fun, enjoyment, and fulfilment in the doing of it, then, something is seriously amiss.
  • Resign yourself to producing a great deal of nonsense. It provides the necessary coarse aggregate of your foundations.
  • Perhaps we learn more from the mistakes of others than from our own.
  • Attend to the process and the product will take care of itself.
  • Think and act (conceptualise and practice) together; never one without the other.
  • We all have ‘demons’ who insinuate that we’re insufficient for the task. They come in many forms and whisper different lies.

1.20 pm. Lunch in the Old College Quad. The dark plaque opposite my table:


Jones was a celebrated and successful Principal at the, then, University College of Wales Aberystwyth (1927-34), a scholar of ancient history, and a lexicographer. The Latinate inscription is, thus, peculiarly appropriate.

2.00 pm. A full afternoon and some encouraging engagements. I suspect that if a student had sufficient confidence they might be capable of anything. ‘Where is?’, indeed:


Shades of the final scene of Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Their ‘ghosts’ are present in the studio still: the names of some are visible on the screens and the remains of their pictures, buried beneath gesso and the efforts of current students.

Sandra’s workspace is always a joy to encounter. Sumptuous:


5.15 pm. Closure.

7.30 pm. I uploaded and archived sound files created today and posts to the Art/Sound FaceBook site, completed module admin. and emails for the week, and otherwise cleared my desk in readiness for a return to research tomorrow. I’m considering a performance of La Mont Young’s Composition 1960#7 for electric guitar and effectors. This would form part of the ‘Making a Noise About the School of Art’ series.

November 5, 2014

8.00 am. An early start, making a final review of a draft chapter submissions for a PhD Art History thesis before my first MA tutorial of the day. I’m now working with two computer screens in my office (just as I do at home). It’s a small addition to the working environment, but one that levers considerable benefits. The arrangement facilitates multi-tasking, clearer thinking, and an unimpeded movement between tasks and projects:


A ‘screen’ of an altogether different order: I’m so grateful that my office doesn’t look out upon another building, staring back. Instead, I have a view of the Irish Sea and the harbour lighthouse, and I hear birdsong. The robins have returned:


10.00 am. An MA Fine Art tutorial. I stressed the necessity to:

  • document the process and outcome
  • ruminate in writing
  • explore all of the project’s implicit variables
  • take responsibility for every dimension of an artwork’s process and production
  • define, develop, and defend the discipline peculiar to the practice.
  • persist (even apparently simple propositions can make significant demands on our time, energy, and attention).

10.45 am. PhD Fine Art tutorial. Further principles emerged:

  • Do that which you alone can do
  • Do that which your life’s experience, temperament and personality, and understanding and awareness equip and prepare you to do
  • Abandon what is good for what is best
  • Respond to change when it forces itself upon you
  • ‘Remember Lot’s wife’: she looked back and became permanently immobilised

12.00 pm. I cleared a backlog of teaching and pastoral admin. I’ve considerable doubts about SAMS’s (our register system) ability to collate, compound, and interpret individual module data with any accuracy. It’s throwing up ‘sinners’ who are known ‘saints’ — perfectly reasonable attendees.

1.30 pm. Marked up a third of tomorrow’s Art/Sound lecture text and then turned to research admin. and publicity for the R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A CD release and The Bible in Translation exhibition.

6.15 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. In the evening I prepared a worksheet and materials for tomorrow’s demonstration on how prime board:

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 20.57.53

Priming is, first, a philosophical and ethical enterprise. On one level, it’s a metaphor and paradigm for, variously: laying down a solid foundation, preparedness, a sound beginning as the basis of sound progress, and care for fundamental things, and for things that ultimately no one will ever see once they are worked upon. What a person does in secret is the true measure of their integrity.

9.40 pm. Practice session 2. 10.30 pm. ‘The night watch’. I compressed two PowerPoints on colour and mixing into one magnum lecture/demonstration, which I’ll deliver to the second and third year painters in the next few weeks.

November 4, 2014

8.30 am. It would be one of those days when my feet would not touch the ground. On setting up the sound system for the Art/Sound lecture, the Bluetooth connection between the MacBook and Line6 Amplifi failed. (I understand the reason why; this issue is now resolved.) I used the scenario in the Vocational Practice class to illustrate the point that one should always have several backup plans to counter equipment failure. (I overcame the problem by deploying a physical connection — having anticipated the precarious nature of Bluetooth.)

The Vocational Practice class was focussed and illuminating. I rarely leave the class other than richer and humbler than when I went in. They’re a fine bunch of students — intelligently critical, internally committed to one another, and with complex mix of personalities and dynamic relationships.

2.00 pm. An MA inquiry. Third year students are approaching the second degree as a notional ‘fourth year’. It makes sense. An MA tutorial, thereafter. The student is turning a corner. It doesn’t surprise me. I expect it to happen when students are conscientious and self-critical. I never know when it will happen. But then again, neither do they. Art schools are very special places. You can talk about running paint, stains, and dribbles with great seriousness and enthusiasm, while the world burns.

Late afternoon, I applied myself to admin.

6.30 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. I made adjustments to Thursday’s Art/Sound lecture in the light of ideas that occurred to me today. 9.40 pm. Practice session 2.

November 3, 2014

This world of ours, and worlds unseen,
And thin the boundary between.

(Josiah Conder, 1824).


8.30 am. In this world: the Monday morning ‘liturgy’ — the opening and dispatch of emails, an allocation of tutorials and classes, and a revision of module materials that I’ll use this week. The overarching objective is to economize on time, corral kindred activities, and release sufficient blocks of time for meaningful research.

10.00 am. I returned to processing image files for The Floating Bible artwork while, again, endeavouring to achieve further efficiencies in respect to time and effort. Errors, anomalies (that weren’t manifest during the test phase), and lapses inevitably creep in, slowing down progress. (‘Thorns and thistles’.) Previous gains were lost, while new ones were found; new problems (unconsidered) arose and earlier ones (ill-considered), solved. Nothing is either simple or easy when it’s serious. By 11.30 am, Matt. 19.4 was completed. I needed, then, to test the lateral accumulation of stretched words for the longest verse: Matt. 20.23.

Throughout the morning, I’d dipped into my photograph album to remind myself of those painting students with whom I’d graduated in 1981. (What draws one back to a specific period in the past? Something is afoot.):


How many of them are still practising … still in ‘this world’? The men’s names don’t yield any results on either FaceBook, Twitter, or Google. The women (some of whom will have married and changed their surname) are equally invisible. Perhaps our generation didn’t warm to social media. Ann Evans (far left) was a survivor of the Aberfan disaster in 1966. Max Palacz (far right) was a very fine painter in the mold of Serge Poliakoff. Of all of us, Max seemed most likely to break through. You can never tell.

My third year paintings were semi-abstract evocations of the post-industrial landscape around Abertillery, south Wales, where I grew up. Left: Vale No. 3 (1981), mixed media on canvas, 6′ x 6′; right: Vale No. 2 (1981) acrylic, gouache, and graphite on board, 6″x 6″:

1981-(126)-Vale-No.-3   1981-(130)-Vale-No.-2

Albert Irvin was our external examiner.

2.00 pm.  Now … a world away. An afternoon of file processing, with a view to completing the process (at least) by the close of the day. 4.00 pm. Sunlight through the rain, through the glass (the thin boundary between the interior and exterior worlds):


6.15 pm. Practice session 1.  7.30 pm. In the evening session, I marked up tomorrow’s lecture. It’s the first time I’ve read the script since writing it; so, I find it useful to refamiliarize myself with the content and dynamics. The mouth is a very different vehicle of transmission from the keyboard.

Alongside, I completed a 2-minute sound piece derived from the noise that my flatbed scanner made when scanning the words ‘flatbed scanner’:


The output was, then, un-synchronously superimposed and looped. I’ve neither topped and tailed the piece, nor added any modulation or effects. It’s very bald. The composition will be sent to a colleague of mine, who’s also a practising noise artist/musician. He’ll engage with the piece and transform it into something far better. He, in turn, will send me a sound sample, and I’ll endeavour to do the same. It struck me that the idea could be extended by recording the scan at different dpi settings (each of which sound would have a somewhat different speed and pitch, in all likelihood), and integrating the variations as a whole.

9.40 Practice session 2. 10.30 pm. ‘The Night Watch’. I completed the processing of word stretches for today’s verse and made a mock up of its insertion into the recto template. The completed image suggests the possibility of a much larger scale rendering of the formation, in paint. But, for me, a possibility is not credible solely on the basis of a visual potential. It needs to have, also, a coherent concept that allies form and content to persuade my resolve.


November 1, 2014


9.30 am. The final page of my study notebook was reached. It’s always been at my elbow and contains reminders, reminders about reminders, lists of things to do, telephone numbers, user names, the seeds of ideas, alpha-numerical sequences, dates for appointments, registration numbers, thumbnail designs for networks of components, costings, and route plans to journeys. Collectively, these shards of information represent the signifiers of a life lived, residues of incidents and intents, and prequels to more developed thoughts, but without any connecting narrative.

10.15 am. I returned to scanning and preparing the first verse of The Floating Bible. The stretched words are prepared for composition:

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 11.15.39

The completed visualization of Matt. 19.3b. The wraiths of words, having passed beyond the event horizon:


They were inserted from left to right (following the direction in which a text in English is read) into a verso-format, which preserves the size, format, column height, and proportion of the outside and gutter margins of the source page. The assembly of the words was technically straightforward and reasonably swift. The project is doable.

12.45 pm. Kim’s, my younger son, baptism in Cardigan Bay. 3.30 pm. I recommenced work on the  R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A  CD cover, attending to the spine. 5.00 pm. Task completed, and ready to send to the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales on Monday.

An evening with the family:



October 31, 2014

8.30 am. Updated the John Harvey: Blog site with reports on the first two of three reconstructions of Duchamp’s music.  The final piece will be a rendering of his The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. Erratum Musical, which I’ll endeavour to complete before the end of the calendar year. These pieces are not by any stretch of the imagination significant outputs in terms of either my own work or a contribution to ‘Duchamp studies’. Nevertheless, they’ve presented themselves to me as a necessary undertaking — a self-education in musical interpretation and performance, and an opportunity to explore how an art historian (or an artist for that matter) can intervene in, interrogate, and interpret an artwork through its reconstruction (see Making Ready Duchamp: Sculpture Musicale):


11.40 am. Updated and posted my Personal Tutor invitation to my charge. The pastoral dimension of academic life absorbs a considerable amount of time and emotional energy. But it’s of the essence of one’s vocation —  bit like being a plumber: you have the responsibility of keeping the pipes clean too, so that the water can have free course through them to the tap:


12.00 pm. Back to The Floating Bible visualization — finalising templates and developing an efficient and reasonably straightforward process for stretching and copying handwritten words. To begin, every diffrent word was written down:


From this list, individual words will be scanned at 1200 dpi and stretched vertically to the height to the of the text columns in the edition of the Gideon Bible which is likely to have featured in the original account of the ‘miracle’. It’s only as one engages the mechanics of the process that the full implications of the labour ahead —  in terms of the investment of time, the demands that’ll be made on my patience and fortitude, and the irksomeness of the necessary routine — become apparent:

Screen-Shot-2014-10-31-at-16.22.26 Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 16.59.23

I need to complete one verse from beginning to end — from scan, through the parameter adjustments, and to the final artwork — in order to ascertain the viability and duration of the procedure.

5.45 pm. An evening with my fully-assembled family:



October 30, 2014


9.00 am. An MA fine art tutorial. Owen’s studio rags. They are an unselfconscious residue of his palette, mark-making, application, and gesture; as distinctly his handiwork as anything he has produced, with deliberation, on canvas. When is a painting not a painting? Below, another ‘over-painting’ (as I now call them), made by cursorily applying a thin layer of gesso over a ‘readymade’ painting (originally wrought by Dr Forster in this instance), creating, thereby, an entirely new and unpremeditated image (October 16, 2014). When is the artist not the artist?:


10.30 am. My walk to the Old College studios to teach the third year painters, down Park Avenue, through the town, and across the promenade:


Some observations, principles, and lessons:

  • Painting is incapable of saying anything explicit. It is a non-propositional art form like music and architecture, but unlike literature. But therein is its virtue: painting is consummately able to be evasive, suggestive, and evocative — hinting at, rather than pointing to, things.
  • Responsible, personal time management is of the essence of creative endeavour. Good ideas, consummate skill, and notable intentions require a temporal arena in which to be applied and developed. One of the hardest tasks faced by an artist is to establish a routine for consistent creative engagement within the framework of their busy lives. We would do well to learn from musician-performers in this respect. They are committed to regular and structured practice, without which their professional form would quickly deteriorate.
  • A limited palette is not a limiting palette. Quite the contrary. The number set 1, 2, and 3 has six permutations. How many permutations has a set of three colours?
  • A working knowledge of colour recognition, mixing, and harmonies would appear to be every student’s most pressing need presently. Too often, they arrive at the correct colour mix by way of what can only be described as a chance procedure.

7.30 pm. I made adjustments to the text and PowerPoint for Tuesday’s Art/Sound lecture and completed the Sculpture Musicale blog. 9.40 pm Practice session 2. ‘Sufficient unto the day’.

October 29, 2014

9.00 am. The first of three MA Fine Art tutorials. For those students from a fine art only background, the first part of the degree is very demanding;  they’re hitting (for the first time) art theory like a car a wall in a destructive vehicle test. They’ll orientate; of that I’ve no doubt. However, the endeavour takes time away from their practice. As a consequence, some are prone to the jitters (understandably). In short, they have to grow another head in order to cope with the dual function of being (temporarily at least) a practitioner-theoretician. I would have it no other way.

11.00 am. Back at home, I worked on module admin, dealt with the morning’s emails, and tried to understand how Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even. Musical Erratum (1913) might be realised. This is the most complex and incomplete of the three musical compositions conceived by the artist and, along with Erratum Musical, a work that involves chance procedure:


I may need to commission our Computer Studies boffins to design an algorithm to mimic the action of the moving cars. The arrangement of the funnel and mobile open cars reminded me of the way in which trucks were filled with coal from a large hopper at  collieries in south Wales, before being pulled by steam engine to the nearest port.

2.00 pm. A further MA tutorial with a student who is turning a corner at speed, with all the attendant expectations of skidding and swerving in interesting and necessary ways. The chore of completing on-line registers. The task is made the more difficult because the register system is locked into an entirely bonkers timetable system that imposes an unnecessarily restrictive practice:


A man from IS came at 4.00 pm to (for the fourth time) to enable my laptop to communicate with the departmental ‘central’ printer. (Yet another unnecessarily restrictive practice.) Fourth time lucky. At the end of the afternoon, I held a reassigned painting tutorial.

6.15 pm. Practice session 1 (sans nice amp). 7.30 pm. I began a review of an article dealing with a historical book that I’d been committed to in the past. 9.40 pm. Practice session 2. 10.40 pm. ‘The nightwatch’. Review complete, I commenced a blog on this week’s Sculpture Musicale event:







October 28, 2014

8.00 am. At the School, duck-tape to hand, I was on my knees making safe cables in readiness for the morning’s reconstruction of Duchamp’s Sculpture Musicale (1913) by members of the Art/Sound module. 9.00 am. The composer/audients arrived and, after a brief introduction, entered into the spirit of the exercise — walking from room to room, through the corridors, along landings, and down staircases, adjusting the parameters of the oscillators, and articulating their response on a worksheet:




We recaptured the industrialism of last night’s ‘rehearsal’ with avengence. The exercise lasted thirty-five minutes. I suspect that some students had fun, others, a genuinely new and enriching experience, and yet others, no doubt, found the noise oppressive and unsettling. The second part of the workshop was held in Holy Trinity Church, close by … in silence. The students adapted very well to the project’s expectations and the unfamiliar environment. There’s much I need to consider in relation to both parts of the morning’s proceedings in relation to the participants and myself. A more extensive and considered blog is in order:


1.30 pm. I set about sifting through documentation generated by the workshop, and disseminating it to the contributors, principally, while editing and remastering the sound material for Sculpture Musicale (a poor token of the real experience, and uploading it to my Studium website.

7.30 pm. A treat. I attended Music Theatre Wales’ production of Philip Glass’ The Trail (based on Kafka’s novel). Tight, clean ensemble playing, austere stage design and lighting (appropriate to the music), good acting and choreography, and some exceptional voices. It wasn’t always possible to maintain a balance between the orchestra and some of the solo singing. Microphones would have helped matters:


10.15 pm. ‘The nightwatch’. I completed updating my diary page for the day and my website ‘news’ and ‘project’ fields.


October 27, 2014

The revision of the my circuit bending juvenilia was launched over the weekend: Auld Tune (2014).


8.30 am. Having orientated the soul, I attended to more mundane and temporal matters — establishing my timetable for the week and beyond, and updating the Professional Practice lecture that I’ll deliver at the close of the day. 9.30 am. I revived a studio notebook that is kept whenever I return to image making after a hiatus. Now is that time, once again. For those students undertaking the undergraduate Research, Process & Practice module: this is my ‘visual diary’:


During a restless period last night, thoughts arose regarding the process and structure of a visual analogue of The Floating Bible sound work. When an idea comes with such clarity, one must act  — if only to prove its metal. For there can be a yawning credibility gap between the quality of an idea and the integrity of its visual realisation. So, some initial, developmental strategies:

1  The text of the printed bible will be translated into handwriting. This is visual equivalent of speaking the printed text: likewise, a conversion of the source through the agency of the reader’s body and idiosyncratic articulation. Fountains pens were readied:


2 Following the process principles underlying the sound version of the project, I stretched a word horizontally to the width of a double-spread bible page. The outcome was too obvious, too literal, and insufficiently transformed:


However, when the same word was stretched vertically, to the height of the page column, the resultant image (here shown on its side) resembled the waveform graph of a sound:


You cannot stretch a sound recording vertically, because there’s no such thing as vertical time. (I’m more than willing to be proved wrong.) The passage of time ‘feels’ horizontal: ‘Time stretches before us’, as the saying goes. Not ‘above us’. To stretch a recorded word vertically on a waveform graph is to increase its volume only. So, by analogy and notionally, this vertically stretched word is very loud indeed.

3 I need, now, to visualize the stretches of shorter words and of the shortest words (‘a’ and ‘I’), and source ‘bible paper’ (which would seems to be, conceptually, the most appropriate support on which to print the works), as well as a means of printing on such thin, fragile, and shiny paper. By the end of the afternoon, I’d made progress on all fronts.

5.10 pm. I gave the Professional Practice lecture. The opportunities for self promotion afforded by internet are bewildering. ‘In my day’, the scope for advertising oneself and one’s work was limited to whatever one could stuff into a manilla envelope:


7.15 pm. The sound equipment for tomorrow’s Art/Sound workshop was trundled to the School, where one of my students was waiting to help install (with great enthusiasm) the eight amp/oscillator units throughout the building. Two hours later the building resonated fiercely and loudly, like a site of heavy industry. We’d successfully overlaid the architecture of stone with one of sound.