June 6, 2016

Maxim: Anything more than sufficiency is superfluity. 

9.20 am. My annual course of blood tests at the surgery:


Over the weekend, I received an inquiry from one of our earnest undergraduate finalists. They asked whether I intended to project spirituality onto my artwork, and what was my definition of spirituality. I replied:

Those are two intriguing questions. It makes sense to answer to the second one first. My definition of spirituality is informed by a biblical and an orthodox Christian outlook. In essence, it’s very pragmatic. The emphasis within this tradition is on the believer’s communion with God, and vice versa. That sense of togetherness and participation is predicated upon God’s spirit indwelling and working through individual, collaboratively. The fruit of that relationship is called spirituality. That, in turn, is manifest in an enlivening of a person’s own spirit and a progressive moral and religious reformation of their natural disposition towards the character of God. A person’s spirituality would be expressed in attitudes and actions associated with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, repentance, obedience, consistency, submission to God, and so forth.

So, to answer your first question: It would be impossible to ‘project’ spirituality, thus conceived, onto an artwork. However, an artwork may be produced spiritually; that is to say, in an attitude, and with a motivation, governed by love, joy, patience, etc. Some people have commented that they find my visual and sound work ‘spiritual’. I’m not sure what hey mean, and I’m not sure that they know what they mean. (Which is not to devalue either their experience or opinion.) My guess is that they are using the term ‘spiritual’ more loosely, as a synonym for either concepts such ‘contemplative’, ‘meditative’, ‘calming’, and ‘peaceful’, or for something real but indefinite.

Punctured, I returned home to wrestle with postgraduate admin matters and critique submissions. Deadlines are beginning to press in.

The valley where I grew up had many immigrants: Spaniards who’d fled the Spanish Civil War, Jews, Irish, Italians, and English. My home town of Abertillery would have been impoverished without them. It gave the place a faint air of cosmopolitan sophistication. The incomers co-existed with the locals without tension or resentment. In part, this was because the rest of us were the children’s children’s children of immigrants who’d populated South Wales during the industrial revolution. While the Welsh language was lost in my area, as a consequence of their intermarriage with the natives, something else of greater significance emerged:


My family is a case in point. Harvey is an English surname which, in turn, is derived from the Old Breton forename Huiarnviu and the Old Welsh, Haarnbiu. My father’s father, Trevor (who was Welsh) married Eunice (‘Nina’) May, whose own family heralded from Bristol and were a partner in the Bryant & May company, of England’s Glory fame:


I rejoice in my, and my forefathers’ and foremothers’, hybridity. (It encouraged me to take the ultimate step and become one of those ‘dreadful miscegenists’.)

Mid morning, I was able to return to the CD material while batting off incoming missiles responding to my earlier outgoing missives.  The need of the hour was to determine the track order on Disc two of the CD set, and to write a summary account of each track on both discs. Because the booklet’s text has to be bilingual, it must be concise … in extremis.

After lunch, I made a first attempt to order the tracks on the second CD. They fell out immediately and appropriately. Then, I began a hard but necessary consideration of what, if any, tracks must be sacrificed for the sake of the whole. One must establish punch, balance, forward motion, continuity, diversity, a beginning and end, and the journey in between. Sometimes perfectly good material has to be jettisoned in order to observe these principles. ‘Begin by being ruthless, John!’ The pruned tracks can be framed as ‘bonus material’ on the website associated with the album. Nothing will be wasted.

Evening. Three tracks bit the dust. The whole has to be played through repeatedly to identify any further excess baggage and encumbrance.

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