August 26, 2014

I’m back at my desk in the School of Art, sans the personal desktop printer. This has now been impounded/confiscated/seized (at least, that’s the way it feels) by the ‘authorities’ to force me, and every other academic in possession of the same contraband, to use the university’s central printer services. The policy will save the university money, I’m told. However, I’ve a supply of expensive toner cartridges that will now go to waste. Could I not have surrendered the printer when the consumables had been expended? ‘No!’:


A day of MPhil and PhD Art History and Fine Art tutorials. It began with a review of photographs of chapels in Wales by the nineteenth century Welsh photographer John Thomas (1838-1905). My tutee and I reverse-engineered the images to ascertain Thomas’s intent (which appears to have been multi-faceted), use of pictorial conventions, and unique contribution to architectural photography. He’d such a good eye for formality and austerity — very much in keeping with the spirit of chapel architecture. (A Calvinistic Methodist ‘style’ or sensibility, perhaps.) Some of the compositions transcend whatever ambitions he’d had in mind. The pictures are portraits of buildings, reminiscent of  Lowry’s linear drawing of Salford’s churches, chapels, and bystanders.

I made a prompt departure from the department and took a speedy walk to my doctor’s surgery to have a blood-pressure monitor fitted. On my return, I switched channels and gear for a tutorial on Schleiermacher, Otto, and the visualisation of transcendency. There’s a time when an art history thesis finds its own ‘voice’ — a tone that’s appropriate to the subject, method, and author. For this student, now is that time.

I had an hour after lunch to catch up with my teaching administration and loose ends — deleting insignificant, unread emails, like I was swatting flies:

The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to ask.
(John Keble, 1835)

Mid Afternoon. I phoned our external PhD Fine Art student, who’s studying from abroad:


One of the richest aspects of teaching fine art, at any level, is its holistic nature. Tutorial discussions often range wide of art practice  — touching upon the imponderable complexities of a person’s humanity and experience, and the state of the wider world of ideas, history, and events — and yet still remain entirely relevant. In this respect, my students teach me far more than they’d realise.

During my second tutorial of the afternoon,  the sun shone between the slats in the blind, contouring the room. In that moment, I became aware of another, unspecified place and time — quite possibly associated with my childhood — filled with a feeling of sweetness and melancholy. Perhaps such moments are, instead, anticipatory — foreshadowing a future state. These experiences come more often as I get older and closer to the border of that ‘far country’:


7.00 pm: Back to the Art/Sound lecture, and to Matt. 20.13 file processing in the background. A thoroughly rewarding evening session searching for illustrations of jazz music and abstract painting in America in the 1920s.

My current book at bedtime is Alister McGrath’s The Intellectual World of C S Lewis (2013).

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