WFH: DAY 33/LENT 2. 8.00 am: A communion:
8.30 am: Preparations for the day that presented itself. Thursdays are always singular — devoted to one task: tutoring my third-year painters. 9.00 am: The first tutorial:
I forget that students can still be laid low with all the other commoner illnesses that were hanging in the air long before Covid-19. One was laid up, today. Again, most students confessed to having had an unusually lousy week. Outside my studio/tutorial room/lecture theatre/office (they’re all one, these days), the weather changed from glorious to lugubrious and back again in a moment. So much like our moods, at times. During one tutorial, a jet aircraft flew low above my house; moments later, I could hear the same roar as it passed over the rooftops (in Aberystwyth) where my tutee was calling from. How strange.
1.30 pm: I checked the integrity of tomorrow’s Art/Sound PowerPoints. Like many things you put away in a box for two years in between uses, there’s no guarantee that they’ll work perfectly when you get them back out again. And I’d rather know that now than during the lectures. 2.00 pm: An absentee gave me time to catch up on admin, while listening to some my mixes in the background. Miles Davis once advised, something to the effect that, you need to listen for what can be left out. ‘I did, Mr Davis. I did!’ 3.00 pm: Onwards with tutorials until the end of the day.
Some observations and principles derived from today’s engagements:
- T: ‘Sometimes you persuade yourself that if things are either going wrong with a painting, or the painting isn’t come easily, or you’re floundering, then there must be something amiss. Rather, you should regard this experience as one of the necessary and normative conditions for making art. If you enjoy a period in your work when things go swimmingly, and a painting falls in place effortlessly, then that experience, and not the above, is the anomaly — a welcome gift and compensation for all those times when you strove hard, desperately, and fruitlessly.’
- T: ‘How we’re feeling, emotionally and psychologically, necessarily has an impact on our capacity to work. Of late, I’ve been impressed by my students’ tenacity to fight-on in the face of discouragement. They’ve refused to relent, and persisted against the odds. More positively, working at home and in isolation has instilled in them disciplines — in terms of time management, working intensity, and working intelligence — that they may not have acquired in the School’s studios (under normal circumstances). These difficult days will pay dividends if they become professional artists, later on.’
- Tiredness and jadedness can have a detrimental impact upon our perception of the work. What once we embraced with enthusiasm and pride, when our spirits were on an even-keel, may seem lifeless, dull, and lacking in any virtue, when viewed through the dark and clouded glass of a downcast state of mind.
- On distinguishing primary and secondary/subject and context distinctions in a painting: ‘Think of a ring. What is the gemstone and what is the gold band that supports it?’
- T: ‘The process is only as complicated as it needs to be.’
- T: ‘Your exhibition should not be a demonstration of all the things that you can do. Rather, it should show clearly and persuasively your capacity to do one or two things exceedingly well.
- T: ‘You can’t determine the direction of your work in advance of making it. The painting is the map, compass, journey, and destination.’
- T: ‘Some problems are for now, and not forever.’
- T: ‘The first version of the painting was like poetry, the last, like prose.’
- T: ‘If you try to please everyone, inevitably you’ll end up not pleasing yourself.’
6.30 pm: Practise session. 7.30 pm: The Thursday evening tidy-up. (In the background: Derek Bailey and DJ Ninj, Guitar, Drums ‘n’ Bass (1996).) I undertook postgraduate admissions, register updates, external examiner admin, and posting a notice regarding Friday’s Art/Sound session:
As a polite forewarning: The first of tomorrow’s lectures is on the relationship between imaging and sound technology, representation, and the supernatural. It includes putative images and sounds of ghosts. If this type of subject matter troubles you, I suggest you give it a miss.
I’d go, for sure.