March 22, 2018

8.00 am: A communion. 9.00 am: The final day of third year painting tutorials for the term. Much had to be decided and resolved today. In the background and double gallery, the PhD Fine Art students were setting up a show of works made in response to artefacts in the collection. I’d be giving nothing away:

We are entering the most critical phase of the undergraduate fine art students’ development. They will be asking more of themselves than at any point in their career to date. Their metal will be tested in the furnace of endurance. From now and until the middle of May, the rest of their life must be put on hold. The prospect of letting themselves down is, for some, one of the major motivators. (Dignity and integrity always begin and end with ourselves.) I’m persuaded that my team of painters maturely appreciate the issues that are at stake. This exhibition will be their last and best shot. Each is intent on surpassing themselves … which is all that one could ask of anyone. I’ve no truck with contemporary notions of ‘excellence’. Hubris! Few things excel; that’s to say, push beyond the established bounds of the highest achievement. The term should be used sparingly and modestly, therefore.

12.40 pm: A lunchtime, research consultation with Dr Roberts. We discussed the recent Experimental Music Improvisation event, which he organised, and the problems of performance. I prefer to work, publicly, in galleries or non-auditorium contexts that don’t either give rise to expectations associated with entertainment or involve a stationary reception of the work in progress. Ideally, I prefer people to listen for as long as they wish, and to feel unselfconscious about removing themselves when things get too much. Neither do I expect them to be there at the beginning or at the end of my activity, necessarily. And, I don’t except the public to part with their hard-earned money for the privilege of so doing (if such it is). (Throughout our conversation, I had an image in my head of ‘performing’ with a small suitcase, or a briefcase, packed tightly with a well-organised array of sound equipment: a travelling sound-art bag, as it were. Neat, simple, portable. What would I put in it? The bare essentials of my practice? What are they? A mind-game had begun.)

2.00 pm: After lunch, I undertook the last of the day’s painting students and had an open-door drop-in session for Personal Tutorials. It’s more than rewarding to hear from students who’ve achieved far beyond their own and other people’s expectations. NEVER RIGHT-OFF ANYONE! I’ve yet to encounter a hopeless case. It’s most often those with the greatest potential, gifting, and opportunities who disappoint. We overcome our limitations, dump our baggage, and change our attitudes with the help of those whose opinions we trust; those who exhibit tact, empathy, and compassion; those with the practical wherewithal to make a difference. If you’ve been wounded in life, seek an advisor who isn’t a stranger to calamity, disappointment, loss, or heartache. (The doctor who’s never had a day’s ill health in their life is to be avoided.)

6.30 pm: After dinner, I caught up on admin and correspondence, made preparations for a postgraduate meeting on Monday, entered appointments for the week ahead into my diary, investigated hardware/software issues, and cleared by desk in readiness for a return to the studio tomorrow.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • You cannot describe in words what has not yet happened on the canvas. However, you can discuss anticipated outcomes of a general nature.
  • To my mind, a painting cannot express feelings. But it can be the product of feelings.
  • Problems come to everyone. It’s your ability to deal with them maturely that’s the measure of, and distinguishes, you.
  • Keeping a diary is a way of taking account of yourself.
  • Be audacious. Be impressive. Be brilliant. But remain modest.
  • Challenge yourself to undertake what’s presently impossible for you to perform.
  • Do five fully-resolved works rather than ten that aren’t representative of your best efforts.
  • S: ‘Trash can. Trash cannot’.
  • Confidence sinks as anxiety surfaces.
  • Conceding defeat is not an option.
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