May 25, 2016

8.45 am. Off to work. A deadening grey awning covered the town, and a quietness — associated with the end of term and the long stretch of Summer vacation ahead — filled the rooms and corridors of the School. After the hubbub and feverish activity of the past few weeks, the contrast was striking. It felt like all the children had left home at once:


At 10.00 am, I held a meeting, in my capacity as Exhibitions Module Co-ordinator, with Professor David Ferry, our External Examiner for Fine Art. This was in preparation for the more formal gathering of the Examination Board Meeting, an hour later. As ever, the latter occasion was a matter of not only business but also reflection upon our practice as teachers and assessors. He brought to the table a wealth of experience, a bucket of common sense, perspective, clarity of thought, diplomacy, and high standards, all peppered with a cheeky and infectious humour. The ideal External Examiner in every way. We’ll miss his contributions dearly:


After lunch, I began preparing feedback forms and marks for distribution to my BA and MA fine art and art history tutees. All morning I’d been plagued by the melody of Spandau Ballet’s Instinction (1981).The song was released in the year I graduated with a BA (Hons.) Fine Art degree. It’s curious how some music stays with you. Back then, I doubt whether I’d listened to the recording more than half a dozen times. This is a testament to the composition’s good ‘hooks’. And, I don’t believe that I’ve listened to it again in the intervening thirty five years, In that strange age, many New-Romantic guitarists held their instruments high upon their chests, like the lute players in Piero della Francesca’s The Nativity (1470-5) [detail]:


The positioning of the guitar looks naff; but it’s surprisingly ergonomic. China Crisis’ African and White, from the same year, is another song that haunts my sonic memory. An intelligent bass-riff!

Leaving art school was no less unsettling an experience then than, I imagine, it is for students today. Up until that moment, education had divided my life in to one, two, and three year intervals: ‘O’ levels, ‘A’ levels, Foundation Studies, and the degree. On the 2 July 1981, a road called ‘The Rest of My Life’ stretched, as an unbroken continuity, into the distance; it had no sign-posts, markers, crossroads, or obvious destination:

At the close of my final day of art school, halls of residence, Caerleon campus, Gwent College of Higher Education, Caerleon, Gwent (July 2, 1981).

Academic gown et al ordered. ‘Let’s party!’.

Evening. I’ve a PhD Fine Art student who’s reaching the conclusion of the degree’s thesis element. I read that conclusion and provided a commentary.


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