September 25, 2017

Over the weekend, I bashed on with module and degree scheme admin, attended the Private View of our current Postgraduate Exhibition, and finalised arrangements for the ‘I. Nothing. Lack.’ sound presentation. This will take place at Bethel Welsh Baptist Church (where MacMillan had delivered the sermons on Psalm 23), Aberystwyth, on November 24. The event is supported by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and CADW. Previously, I’d made two high-relief paintings in wood of the Bethel’s interior. These were transitional works that straddled my previous interests in landscape and The Pictorial Bible series, which began in 1999:

Bethel I
(1995) acrylic and wood stain on plyboard, 44 × 48.5 × 12 cm

The works were the most austere and abstract that I’d made up until that point. Moriah is the name of a chapel in Blaina, Monmouthsire, Wales, where my parents were married:

(1995) wood stain on pine, 71 × 101.5 × 7.5 cm

Saturday evening was spent at dinner in the company of some old friends (and their old friends), who’d now begun a new life in South Wales. On Sunday, we welcomed our new Vicar, the Rev. Mark Ansell, to Holy Trinity Church.

Sunday evening, I listened to part of Keith Jarrett’s Vienna Concert (1991). He includes the following reflection on the CD insert: ‘Evocation of emotion determined by a resistance of emotion. As Bach, at the organ, explained to an admiring pupil: ‘It’s a matter of striking the notes at exactly the right moment’.

The quote by Bach sounds like something Miles Davis would have said. What caught my attention is Jarrett’s counterpoint between ‘evocation’ and ‘resistance’. His thesis implies that expression is (paradoxically) dependent upon suppression. Or put another way, emotional expression is achieved through the denial rather than the exercise of feeling.  Instead, feeling is conveyed, very deliberately, by the exercise of a cultivated discipline, a command over one’s means, and a wisdom and discernment that are at the root of artistry. (This is what lay behind Bach’s explanation, I believe.) This truth is no less applicable to visual art practice.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s grave, St Thomas Church, Leipzig

Today. While teetering towards fractured sleep in the early hours of the morning, I experienced a waking dream. To whom it may concern: ‘I said to them, “Be hopeful!”. They responded, “Of what?”. I replied, “All possibilities”‘. 7.45 am: I failed to get get up at 6.45 am, having only dropped off to sleep properly at 4.00 am. 8.20 am: a express-communion followed by an overview of today’s agenda, along with email responses to replies responding, in turn, to my weekend’s missives. Between 10.00 and 11.00 am,  several opportunities related to the development of the ‘I. Nothing. Lack.’ and ‘The Talking Bible’ projects (the former is now a subset of the latter) had opened up. It was very encouraging.

An aside: When we plumb the depths of our being as artists, we do so not by dropping a bucket down a well and pulling the water to the surface. Rather, we ourselves descend the shaft and work the seam like a mineral miner. That dark drop has been excavated by deep and prolonged suffering, for the most part. The task of searching and scouring for the ore buried in the shadowy cavities of the heart is, itself, often a source of discomfort, but of an entirely different order. This type of suffering is productive, ennobling, and glorious. We willingly submit to it in the sure hope of unearthing something solid, valuable, enduring, remarkable, meaningful, and profoundly personal. (The wise and the maimed are one and the same.)

11.30 am: Later than anticipated and desired, I opened last year’s folder for the ‘Beginning of Term’. More of the Vienna Concert to lubricate the admin and remind me of higher things.

1.30 pm: Following lunch, I pressed forwards and downwards from PhD to MA to, finally, BA study preparations. This semester I’ve responsibility for third-year painters again, an art history module on Abstraction, and contributions to the Research and Process in Practice and Professional Practice Fine Art modules. By mid afternoon, I was getting a little jaded from carpet bombing the School’s Facebook pages with up and coming information. In between, I worked on the publicity for the ‘I. Nothing. Lack.’ project and updated my Personal Tutor profile, portrait, and handout. Will I look intimidating or friendly to new students? I wouldn’t dare ask them (or the staff)!:

By 4 o’clock, I was in a position to address the particulars of my Abstraction module. 5.00 pm: the annunciation:

7.15 pm: The first year Welcome Party. This has a long tradition at the School. There were students from the far reaches of the UK, Spain, and Bulgaria; and those were only the ones I’d talked to. They appear socially well-adapted, confident, open, and committed to their education and the School. Good to meet them:

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