May 26, 2016

9.00 am. Today I took the first step towards an protracted and intensive period of research, which will take place over the Summer. Such times need to be planned and executed with the same precision and organisation as any teaching and administrative duty. Where research time is concerned, the principle of ‘waste not, want not’ is paramount. Back, then, to my CD booklet text, and forward to reflect upon possible futures.

Over the last year, I’ve become conscious of industrial sonorities in my sound work. I associate them with coalmining and the generation of electricity, principally: the grind and clank of metal on metal; water under pressure; steam escaping; the dull thud of something pounding deep underground; the blare of pit hooters; and the resonant 50Hz hum of distribution transformers in unison. During the year after I graduated, on my visits home to the South Wales valleys, I documented the few still extant ruins of industry. The photographs were taken on a Soviet made Zenit-E SLR camera with a Helios 44-2 lens; it had the recoil of a 129-mm Howitzer:

‘Cutting off Shop’, National Grid substation, Aberbeeg Road, Abertillery (September 1982)
‘Danger’, transport cage, Big Pit, Blaenavon (September 1982)
‘Notification of Emergency’, coal truck terminus, Big Pit, Blaenavon (September 1982)

You get to a certain age or point in life when formative interests beckon once again. Ignore their call at your peril.

I’d been invited to comment on a piece of ex-curricula, off-site artwork by one of our ‘retiring’ BA Fine Art students. There’re some conversations that I wish I’d enjoyed earlier on in a student’s education. This was one. A truly remarkable, resilient, and resolute person disclosed themselves.

Thereafter, it was back to the School to double mark a set of module papers. At homebase, I inched the CD booklet text forward. On the deck: King Crimson’s Lizard (1970) (about which I’ve remarked elsewhere). Inches turned into feet turned into yards. A conclusion to the general statement of intent was in sight. Some endeavours (and this is one) are difficult because they’re impossible. One cannot fully either articulate the motivations and processes that give rise to an artwork or interpret the outcome of such. But one can do these things sufficiently and satisfactorily. That is enough.

Evening. I try not to expend all three (and sometimes four) sessions of a day on any one activity. The adjustments that I’d made to ‘The Wilderness’ composition from ‘Image and Inscription’ needed to be heard and confirmed on the main monitors. It felt good to be back in the studio once again. I fired up the ‘boiler’, and was off:


A two-day ‘strike’ (or, in this university, a ‘work to contract hours’) is presently underway. No longer do I have to suffer the indignity that some of my part-time colleagues endure. But I did, once. I first began teaching in 1985, during the initial year of full-time studies for a PhD in art history. Three part-time jobs sustained me: one at a further education college in Pontypool, Gwent, giving instruction to 16 to 18 year old students in every conceivable medium and its history at O- and A-level; another at my old art school in Newport, a half-hour bus journey from Pontypool, running first year art history seminars; and another in Aberystwyth, where I was studying, running the, then, biggest Open College of Arts provision in the UK. Each institution paid me by the hour to teach, but not for the time it took to prepare lessons. (When you’re starting out as a teacher, a one-hour lesson might take four hours to prepare.) And, I received no reimbursement of travel expenses to, from, and between my places of work. I maintained that regime, in one form or another, for the next five years.

The art department, Pontypool College, Gwent (May 1986)
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