Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose
(Frances Ridley Havergal, ‘Take My Life, and Let it Be’ (1874).)
8.15 am: A communion. 8.45 am: I looked at the washing-line of Post-its, at the base on my computer screen – covered with ‘things to do’ for this month, and their deadlines – and shrivelled inwardly. Some items will take minutes to dispatch while others, an age. Most are of no real importance, and will be forgotten as soon as done. Many of the most important issues of life don’t come to us as email attachments. They arise in the context of one-to-one exchanges; in: time given, sitting in silence together, sharing burdens and anxieties and joys and tears, providing and receiving counsel in season, and meeting practical needs. I prioritised those calls upon my attention that were most immediate and of consequence for others. My diary filled. The semester ahead would be a very busy.
9.30 am: I began writing up the feedback reports for Monday’s and Tuesday’s third-year painting assessment tutorials. In the background: J. S. Bach’s Art of the Fugue (c. 1740s). Bach loved God with all his mind (Luke 10.27). His religion was not an affair of the heart and soul alone. He engaged music as a rational practice. I hear a magnificent timepiece, wherein every wheel and cog moves and meshes with purpose and precision, at its own speed, and in perfect synchronisation with others. It’s no wonder that systems artists have regarded Bach as the patron saint of their practice. And yet the music is far from cold and deterministic. Thereafter, I played John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme (1965). Like Bach’s work, Coltrane’s modal jazz compositions reflected a deeply spiritual response to life, were an expression of worship, and acknowledged that his gift of music had been bestowed by a higher power.
And, afterwards, I didn’t want to hear music. My ears, instead, attended to the relative silence (that Cagian silence) of sounds emanating from within the study, the house, and the streets surrounding it. There’s a peculiar beauty to small noises, especially those that don’t betray their source.
Some chiding and commendation derived from this week’s painting feedback tutorials:
- What’s been missing are motivation, self-belief, and a commitment to the task at hand. These lacks and losses aren’t unrelated one to the other.
- You’ve recognised the principle of sufficiency.
- You’ve refined the imagery to a singularity.
- The challenge, now, is that of refining the visual language, bravely winnowing out what’s irrelevant; amplifying the core mood, ideas, and intent; and creating a series of works that hang together as a whole.
- You took a brave risk, and followed the logic that was taking place before your eyes. The result was a major shift in your visual language, one that, now, has to become more ambitious and controlled in equal measure.
- What a difference a semester can make! You began in one place and ended in an entirely different one.
- I was impressed by your willingness to put ideas to the test and take risks.
2.00 pm: A second afternoon of Research and Process in Practice presentations. On this occasion, I was assessing with Mr Croft:
The European students, in particular, acquitted themselves well. As staff, we hope that Brexit won’t be a disincentive to others making a commitment to School in the years to come. They’ve enriched the culture of our family here. No doubt Aberystwyth will retain its reputation as a Europhile haven, even while other areas of the UK descend into dismal provincialism.
5.45 pm: Homeward:
6.30 pm: Practise session, while watching a documentary on Samuel Beckett (an Irish man and avowed European). 7.30 pm: I returned to where I left off at lunchtime, writing-up feedback assessment reports for the remainder of the evening.