September 14-17. I’d not visited Bristol in decades. The landmarks that I remember are, now, concealed behind offices and hotels that have grown up in the spaces in between. When I was an art school student at Newport, Monmouthshire, I used to visit the city regularly in order to view exhibitions at the Museum and Art Gallery and Arnolfini. It was at the former, in 1978, that I first saw William Didier-Pouget (1864–1959)’s Corrèze, France (1911). The painting, of a region in south-western France, recalled my experience on top of the Arael Mountain, Abertillery, looking across to the Coity Mountain on the other side of the valley. Until then, I’d not considered landscape, and specifically the formations and associations of my home, as an appropriate subject for art. There’re certain encounters with paintings, places, and people, that have, for me, either changed everything to a degree, or a few things profoundly. This work is of the latter order:
Before leaving Bristol, I attended the morning service of Eucharist at the magnificent Bristol Cathedral:
From the sublime to the ridiculous. En route to Aberystwyth, I broke journey at Tintern Abbey – the ruin beloved of painters such as J W M Turner and Samuel Palmer. To my horror, a wedding had been held in the grounds the day before. The couple (and I’d rather not know who they were) had commissioned a faux-Gothic, plastic canopied ‘tent’, which was installed in the Abbey’s nave. It looked like a Weta Workshop reject. I can’t begin to imagine the cost of its construction and electrification. Inside were chandeliers and a dance floor. Tack! And all this just for one day. I don’t believe in the intrinsic sacredness of religious buildings, but this misappropriation of a major site of historic Christianity in the UK borders upon the sacrilegious. We have a duty to honour the building’s original function and those who built and worshipped within it:
Today. 9.00 am: Dr Forster and I undertook our viva voce examination of the finalising MA Fine Art students in their exhibition areas. They each acquitted themselves well. A time of testing, and a time for goodbyes, too. During the second part of the morning, I wrote up my feedback reports in readiness for the External Examiner’s review and assessment this afternoon and tomorrow morning:
After a light lunch, I reviewed PhD thesis material. One of my cohort will deliver their ‘baby’ tomorrow morning. Another is in the last stages of ‘labour’. And yet another, at the beginning of their ‘first trimester’, as it were.
6.30 pm: Off to Holy Trinity Church to prepare for the licensing service to appoint our new vicar. This has been a long time in coming. I was on sound and photographic duties:
Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:
- We must take risks with our work (as we do with our lives). At the very worst, our failures will be instructive. And, after all, we learn next to nothing by playing safe – other than our about our own cowardice.
- In order to find ourselves in the work we must first lose ourselves to it.
- It’s in the intelligent repetition of an activity over time than we understand its significance for us and its possible meanings for others.
- Our commitment to the work is in direct proportion to our confidence in it.
- The depth and profundity of the work cannot exceed that of the artist’s personality and understanding.
- Consider how far you’ve travelled during the past one or two years on the degree. That ought to encourage you to expect much regarding how much further you might go during your lifetime as an artist.
- Write in order to comprehend, crystallise, and communicate clearly, rather than to impress.