Month: December 2014

December 23, 2014

The day of Martin Herbert’s funeral and celebration, which was held at Aberystwyth Crematorium:


The crematorium is close enough to home for not even the most inclement weather to have prevented me from attending. (See December 12, 2014). The entrance recalls those of many small-town American hotels that I’ve stayed in our the years. It was decorous and welcoming but, at the same time, at odds with with gravitas of the occasion and the operations of the establishment. The service, attended by loyal friends and a loving family, was, we were advised, ‘spiritual rather than religious’. I delivered a eulogy on behalf of the School of Art. Together, we severed our temporal connections with a remarkable man whose heart was as large as his talent.

10.45 am. Back to the business of this world (having been reminded that one must prepare for business in the next too). A time for putting away files, preparing for this afternoon’s work at the sound archive, and generally feeling the pulse of the exhibition preparations. A time also for making of list of things to be completed on re-engaging the endeavour after the Christmas weekend.

2.30 pm. An afternoon at the National Screen and Sound Archive, locked in a copper-lined ‘cell’ (quite extraordinary …  Serraesque … like being inside a water tank) full to the ceiling with mobile racks of sound media recorded on every conceivable format. The length of time it would take a person to listen to (let alone catalogue) it all, beggared belief:


4.30 pm. To town to retrieve the festive bird:


7.30 pm. The last evening of labour before the Christmas break. I’m tempted to give form to an old idea, one which I’d conceived in 2000 but never realised as a painting. It’s based on Ps. 119.41-48:

The King James Version setting of the sixth section (Hebrew: ו (vav)) of Psalm 119 consists almost entirely of rendered ‘passive’ cells. The objective was to paint just one of the sixth section’s 121 words. The word ‘trust’ occurs once only in this section, and occupies the 30th square in an 11 by 11 grid. In this work, the five ‘active’ cells (or intervals) corresponding to the letters T R U S T merge into one. This is because the letters making up the word — R S T U — are consecutive in the alphabet. In the midst of the overall whiteness of the picture, the word is almost invisible. Similarly, in the realm of faith, the object of trust, like that of hope, is often unseen.

The idea presents an opportunity to paint my own modernist grail: an entirely white painting that is nonetheless full of content. In this way, too, the work will provide an appropriate end-stop to The Pictorial Bible series.

December 22, 2014

8.45 am. After reviewing incoming emails, I processed Matt. 20.5. and began assembling the composition for ‘Sindebt’:

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 12.58.53

The composition took three hours to complete, but without any significant hitches or (the stuff of my nightmares) the discovery of a major flaw in the system that would require the project to be either abandoned or completely rethought. (That has happened in the distant past.) Vigilance is required from start to finish. There can be no compromise, no fudge or whitewash, no attempt to shoehorn a botch into an otherwise sound conceptual framework. To do other than this would be to betray oneself, one’s audience, and the source material.

1.45 pm. I completed the second annex (Handboard 3). This connects to the main board via an isolated loop:


An old idea for a sound work has reasserted itself: ‘The singing in the air’. This refers to a supernatural audition experienced during religious revivals in Wales and elsewhere. Witnesses claimed to hear choirs of invisible angels, situated in either the sky or the rafters of chapels, singing exquisitely beautiful and hitherto unheard music. I suspect that my rummaging in the National Screen & Sound Archive of Wales will throw up manipulable material for the project. A Christmas reciprocation and benediction from Mr Fripp landed in my inbox after lunch.

3.00 pm. Onto scaling the printed versions of several works in order to determine the mount and frame sizes. The printer is not accepting large-size files. Am I exceeding its cache’s memory? Very likely. The morning’s work on ‘Sindebt’ will need to be redone with smaller image components. But I’ll complete the composition faster the second time.

5.15 pm. An initial colour trial for one component of ‘A Wordless Gospel’ is successful:

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 19.55.03

The printer problem encouraged me to think about other scales of works that I’d been considering. One piece may, now, be printed smaller, and another, much larger, than I’d originally conceived. Problems in one area can sometimes throw up solutions in another. Frustration and fruition and bedfellows on such occasions.

7.40 pm. I commenced composing again the matrix for ‘Sindebt’, and completed the task by 11.00 pm.

December 20, 2014

9.30 am. Into town and to the Farmers’ Market and other purveyors to retrieve orders and stock for the Christmas weekend. Onto the paint shop to purchase a decent quality brush (Hamilton, 1 1/2:) for priming, and ultra-fine grade ‘wet & dry’ for polishing the surface of gesso:


10.15 am A visit to the Craft Fayre at the Arts Centre, where young ballet dancers weaved in and out of the adults like the small aliens at the end of Close Encounters of a Third Kind. 11.00 am. I completed the distribution of Christmas cards and returned to the enterprises at hand.

1.30 pm. My daily Bible verse is Matt. 20.4. The process of copying, stretching, and composing the words is a meditation of sorts. I’m contemplating printing the finalised images on ‘bible paper’ (which I find exquisite).’Bible paper’ may yet be the support for ‘Sindebt’ too.  A return to sourcing. I need an absolute dead matt black water-based emulsion to begin the ‘Image & Superscription’ quartet. Farrow & Ball are always my first port of call:


3.30 pm. I created a test page for ‘Sindebt’ in order to determine and correct any tonal anomalies arising from the image-processing stage, as well as to establish the correct grid lattice:

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 16.02.26

4.15 pm. I stretched several test sheets for ‘A Wordless Gospel’ and then looked at the system notes for ‘Image & Superscription’. The motif will need to be simplified. Presently, the ‘T’ (Hebrew: tau or Anthony’s Cross) formation creates finicky negative spaces when rotated within a square. The concept requires only the crossbar of the ‘T’ (which is that section of Christ’s cross on which the superscription was nailed):

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 16.55.50

5.00 pm. Shop closed. An evening with the family.

December 19, 2014


8.30 am. I set down some ideas for my eulogy for Martin Herbert, which I’ll deliver at the crematorium on Tuesday. 9.00 am. Worked up Matt. 20.3, while reviewing the second page-proofs of the CD cover design and booklet. 11.30 am. I proof-read the component pages of ‘Sins Removed’.

2.00 pm. I printed the pages of ‘Line upon Line’ in readiness for a manual strikethrough. I’m attempting to copy the text onto so-called ‘bible paper’ — a super-lightweight opaque paper (40 gms) on which, unsurprisingly, Bibles are printed. This is a hazardous undertaking. A single sheet is too light to be picked by the printers rollers and likely to become entangled in some deep inaccessible recess of the machine. My first strategy was to, in effect, piggyback the ‘bible paper’ on top of a standard sheet of A4 photocopying paper while taping down the top and bottom edges:


Success. But I wouldn’t want to do this for a living. 4.30 pm. The night draws in:


7.30 pm. I turned my attention to the caption and explanatory board plaques for the exhibition, and to designing the annual Christmas card:

Madonna and Child statuette, Llanbadarn Church, Wales, 2014

December 18, 2014

9.00 am. A digestion (indigestion) and a rumination upon the published REF results. There is always a perceivable differential between one’s effort and attainment. For the School of Art to make a further improvement upon its score, there would need to be a significant inward investment on the part of the university. (I doubt whether, in this present climate, that’ll be forthcoming.) Nevertheless, what we as a very small department have achieved — in the face of an unjustifiably high staff-student ratio, in the absence of a sabbatical program, and bearing a weight of administration that, in large departments, is shared among a staff five times our number — is not to be sniffed at. We have had every excuse to throw in the towel, but accepted none.

10.00 am. Back to the ‘Bible Studies’ series. I was intent on resolving the ‘Line upon Line, Line upon Line’, ‘Rivers’, and ‘Sins Removed’ pieces by the close of the day. The processing required a minor biblioclasm of a four-volume bible, published in 1792, in order to obtain blank paper sheets on which text can be printed:


1.40 pm. Over lunch, I began to develop the second filter annex (Handboard 2) for the ‘Graven Image II’ sound project:


2.00 pm. A further exploration of printing on different book papers was followed by a rehearsal of the strikethrough process for ‘Line Upon Line’, then a revision of two tracks from the CD master copy (so as to excise a few annoying digital artefacts), and, finally, the development of the text/image template for ‘Intercessions’:

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 17.02.54

5.15 pm. The day’s intent has been realised.

7.00 pm. Off to Llanbadarn Church to attend the Penglais School carol service:


School string sections always remind me of sawing wood. There was heart in it all. And, at this stage of the students’ musical development, that is of paramount importance. You can’t touch an audience without it. Technique and theory can be taught and learned. Passion and enthusiasm are given, and received with gratitude.

December 17, 2014

9.00 am. A time for a clearing of the desk and a putting away of things:


10.45 am. The first of three PhD tutorials today. 12.30 pm. Followed immediately by a second. Much meat for encouragement: things proceeding; things coming to an end. 1.30 pm. Lunch on the hoof before a final, off schedule, painting tutorial at the Old College — one which yielded an unexpected surprise departure, and anticipated a fresh and vital fusion in the coming semester.

3.15 pm.  Back at the School, I took a first look at the cover and booklet for the new Evan Roberts CD. It looks good. The problem of setting out a bilingual text is exacerbated by the limit’s of the case’s size. However, the designer has managed to either segregate or otherwise distinguish the two languages as well as any could, I suspect:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 16.08.06

Afterwards, I proof read an entry for the Schools provision in the new university prospectus before awaiting my final PhD tutee of the day to turn up. 4.15 pm. A ‘boring’ tutorial with a PhD tutee who’s recently returned from Addis Ababa and a fascinating core-sampling expedition. We ‘drilled-down’ through the science to the metaphor.

7.00 pm. The family attended the Penglais School Awards evening at the Great Hall, Aberystwyth Arts Centre. My younger son received the music prize — which is not something of which I would have  been remotely capable when I was his age. The sound master of the CD has arrived. I’ll need to review the post-production work tomorrow.

10.30 pm. The ‘night watch’. I proof-read and made comments on the CD cover text and layout for the designer, and completed Matt. 20.2 and another page of verses thereby:


December 16, 2014

8.30 am. I reviewed draft of chapter section for a PhD Art History chapter before beginning Matt. 20.1 and sourcing supports for several of the print-based pieces. Then, onto ‘A Wordless Gospel’, a 33-part composit-based upon the the entirety of Mark. The source pages are taken from Welsh/English edition of the New Testament published during the First World War. The English section is printed on the recto pages throughout. these, now, need to be surgically extracted:


11.00 pm. I began scanning Mark and continued so doing until lunchtime. Much rising and sitting and positioning and ‘zzzmming’:

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 13.19.28

2.00 pm. The pages were regularised and each assigned a biblical concept — sin, atonement, righteousness, baptism, growth, and heaven — in accordance with a corresponding theme in its text.  Next, colours will be assigned to the concepts, in accordance with the tradition of the Wordless Book, popular in evangelical missionary preaching during the nineteenth century.

6.00 pm. Christmas tree installation for all the family. 8.30 pm. The School of Art staff Christmas Dinner at Baravin:



December 15, 2014

8.30 am. Emails sent, arrangements for the week rearranged and preparations made for this afternoon’s meetings. 9.00 am. A second cup of tea before re-engaging with ‘Preaching = Painting’. Mixing and matching within the restraints of a software palette that does not readily permit desaturation requires patience and some imaginative workarounds. 11.00 pm. Completed colour match. More tea, please:

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.10.05

By an early lunchtime, I’d mapped the visual-textual content onto the grid. 1.00 pm. I contributed to a two-hour training session for postgraduate supervisors, at IBERS. As a teacher, one sometimes takes away more than one gives. 3.30 pm. The white, negative space between the forms appears too raw, and fails to integrate the whole sufficiently. (Or, at least that was my initial impression. Time will tell.) A neutral, mid grey was substituted first:

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 16.22.37

Then, a grey between neutral, mid-grey and white:

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I’ll sleep on it. 4.40 pm. Another Floating Bible verse was begun: the first on the recto page.

6.00 pm. Harry and Bob’s wedding ‘do’. Practically the whole department turned out. It’ll be memorable in so many ways. And, the occasion provided a helpful emotional restorative for staff after our recent period of bereavements:


8.15 pm. Back to Matt. 19.29b. 9.50 pm. Completed.

December 13, 2014

9.30 am. I’m aiming to complete processing the verso half of The Floating Bible pages by the close of the weekend. Matt. 19.27 (a biggy) opened the working day. Scan … ‘zzzmm’  … scan … ‘zzzmm’ … scan … ‘zzzmm’ … ‘hic’ … etc:


1.00 pm. By lunchtime, after three hours — with one welcome interruption by a good friend who popped in for a brief visit — the verse was finished. Any task peaks in interest once one has reached an optimum efficiency for its performance. Now is that time.

1.40 pm. I took up from where I left off on ‘Preaching = Painting’ last night. The palette for the project is derived from the predella of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Wittenberg Altarpiece (1547). 24 hues (one for each letter of the Greek alphabet) were extracted from the colour scheme of the painting as a whole through a process of automatic colour aggregation facility in Photoshop. The hues were then rearranged in order of their achromatic values (consistent with the practice in Greek thought, which regarded chromatic colours in terms of lightness and darkness, principally):


mono copy

3.15 pm. Afterwards, the rationalised palette was prepared for incorporation into Excel. This is where the software hits a hard wall. Its integral swatches cannot be modified numerically to accept either precise RGB inputs or Hex codes. The colours will have to be recreated by eye. I copied-in sample swatches from Photoshop in readiness for mixing and matching:

RGB palette

The derived palette is very much like that Picasso and Braque used in early analytical cubist paintings.

4.45 pm. Enough! Time to enjoy my elder son’s return from university, and an evening with the family:


December 12, 2014

The day of Steve’s funeral. 4.40 am. A drizzled walk (rain and funerals were made for one another) through the town to the railway station. A surprising number of students were starting their parole before the close of the last day of term. Unfortunately, neither they nor I were going far. Severe, overnight rain in the Welshpool area had flooded both the lines and the road network passing through the town. There was little likelihood of any of us arriving at Shrewsbury until mid morning, and certainly not in time for me to catch my connection to Colwyn Bay. I abandoned ship, and retraced my journey home:


The condition of my hand and my continuing bouts of nausea precluded a car journey. Somethings don’t happen. I went back to bed until mid morning. 10.15 am. I responded to a number of ‘leadership’ emails arising from yesterday evening’s correspondences, before returning to The Floating Bible file processing. Matt. 19.26 was completed by lunchtime.

1.45 pm. On, then, with Matt. 19.27. 3.00 pm.  Verse completed, I reopened the Large Letters project. The letters needed to be stretched vertically, like those in The Floating Bible project. Due to the character of the source — individual letters, as opposed to whole words, handwritten using a fountain pen in blue-black ink — the output of the process is entirely different:

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6.15 pm. Practise session 1. 7.15 am. The initial composition of the 42 Greek letters that make up Gal. 6.11. The file sizes are substantial. On, then, to ‘Preaching = Painting’, based on Gal. 3.1. The digital framework for the work is a series of grids drawn in Excel. The software provides a simple but entirely adequate means of drafting and finishing images made up of rectilinear elements.

9.45 pm. Practise Session 2.