May 23, 2017

One of our students attended the concert at the Manchester Stadium last night. They drove to Aberystwyth this morning to attend their feedback tutorial at the School. That was an impressive and eloquent expression of defiance.  The murderers can stop or impede some lives, but not all. Nevertheless, we can none of us go on as though nothing has happened. We must allow such appalling events to change us.  At the very least, they’re an invitation to pause and reflect. In an earlier age, art provided that opportunity. Images in the tradition of the vanitas or memento mori often represented either an illuminated candle that was slowly melting, to be inevitably extinguished, or, as below, one snuffed out prematurely. Sudden death, especially before due time, is always tragic. These images were made during a time when infant mortality was all too common. Mercifully, today, the death of children is far rarer. Thus, when an 8 year old and teenagers are ripped from their family, friends, and community without anticipation or preparation – callously and violently – we stagger:

Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder, Vanitas (n. d.) (Courtesy of Wiki Commons)

9.30 am: Second-year assessments for students of painting and life drawing. (Four MA Fine Art observers were in attendance.) Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • Some students will be get there by stealth and hard work, rather than by virtue of an abundance of natural talent.
  • The influence of other artists’ work will add a dimension of depth and integrity to your own. Therefore, plunder their spoils for materials that you can use to construct your edifice.
  • ‘I’d like to be an artist when I graduate, but …’. Ditch the ‘but’; otherwise, the ‘but’ will ditch the artist.
  • Don’t aim to live and breath art, 24/7. Rather, aim to live life like that. Art will be the natural overflow of that passion, intensity, and commitment.
  • Being an artist is an attitude of mind and a way of apprehending the world before it’s a practice.
  • Stay visual.
  • Approach every work as though it was your last.
  • Not all the works that you make will be your greatest (by definition). But all the works you make could be the result of your best effort.
  • Wisdom is knowing when to abandon a course of action that, while intrinsically worthwhile, personally fulfilling, and appreciated by others, may yet be preventing something better from emerging.

Lunch (such as it was) was in synch with my footfall, as I moved between my office and the assessment room. 2.30 pm: Running late by half an hour, I left the School and dropped into my homebase study, 15-minutes later, to take up the plot of feedback write up. 3.00 pm: I pressed the Ego article a little further …

7.30 pm: … and a little further, to a conclusion. 9.30 pm: Done! Posted! Wait!

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