August 15, 2017

Ultimately, one wants more of God. Then, all else will prove sufficient and bearable (Personal notes, St Beuno’s, October 18, 2013).

Throughout the night, I wrestled (in my dreams) with my sound system’s anomaly. The nature of the problem eluded me. I awoke abruptly, feeling mildly anxious, on being confronted (in my dreams) by a man who – trying hard to suppress his anger and frustration, following a reasoned dispute that I’d had with him earlier – asked: ‘So what do you think about the world, John?’

8.30 am: Off to School for a day of postgraduate teaching and admin. 9.30 am: A visit by a colleague from Biological Sciences to discuss the possibility of an interdisciplinary Masters by Research degree in Fine Art and Biology. I’m keen to explore ideas at the Art/Sci interface. A medium-sized university like ours makes collaboration so much easier to envisage and negotiate. 10.30 am: Back into PhD Fine Art submission review mode until 12.30 pm, when Dr Forster and I convened a Painting Committee Meeting at the newly refurbished town chambers.

1.50 pm: Back at the mothership, I began an afternoon of MA fine art tutorials. Reclining figure:

Brigitte’s studio:

3.15 pm: Two down; two to go. Off to Primary A and the West Classroom, Old College:

Between the top of the staircase and the latter is a connecting space: neither a corridor nor a room (properly speaking) – an antechamber, without daylight and embellishment and gradually decomposing, like much of the building above the first floor. My instinct is always to move through it as swiftly as possible:

The students vivify my resolve and sense of professional self. I can understand why some academics are reluctant to retire from teaching. With what would you substitute their ardour, seriousness, and good example? 5.15 pm: Homeward bound.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s encounters:

  • Creative rest: being a temporary cessation from art-working, in good conscience, after conscientious effort has been exerted over time and success secured as a consequence.
  • Mature students never assume that their success is the responsibility of the tutor. Immature students attribute their success to their own efforts and their underachievement to others.
  • Good teaching may have a negligible effect if it’s either poorly understood, or forgotten, or neglected.
  • Even bad teaching can feed the student who is truly hungry to learn.
  • Trust play.
  • Don’t be swift to judge your artwork, no matter how accomplished or appalling it may appear when its first completed.
  • We need to come apart from others in order to work. We need the community of other artists in order to give meaning to our work. These two principles are reciprocal.

7.30 pm: I caught up on the afternoon’s emails, mulled over the affairs of the day, and gave my mind a thirty-minute interval in which to contemplate an itch that I’ve been reluctant to scratch. As a rule, I don’t trust strong desire in the absence of an accompanying and articulable rationale. My heart can let me down. It has a wayward streak, and a propensity to idealise and shy away from the consequences of its compulsions.

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