May 21, 2020

First, the flood; secondly, the fire; thirdly, the plague; and fourthly … . There will be a fourth.

WFH: DAY 48. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.40 am: This would be the final day of third-year painting tutorials until the new academic year. (Never has that sounded less certain than now.) There were draft Powerpoints of exhibition submissions to review before teaching began in the ‘studio’ of our combined respective domiciles.

9.20 pm: A beginning:

Across the background to our discussions, the mundane affairs of the student’s domestic world pass like clouds. My habitual nosy comments: ‘Oh! You’ve got a cat!’; ‘How many dogs?!’; (I bet that’s their dad, there!); ‘Who painted that picture over your mantelpiece?’; Is your mum likely to offer tea to me too?’; How big is your garden?’; ‘What’s that there? No. On the shelf … top left’; (Oooh! That looks an interesting book’); and ‘Your mum likes yellow, doesn’t she. I mean, REALLY likes yellow’. And so on. Very unprofessional.

Occasionally there’re intervals between tutorials — times of relative silence — when sounds from the outer world bleed into my studio. Of late, I’ve begun to distinguish different types of birdsong. (Ornithology will have quite a few more students by the end of this lockdown, I anticipate.) I hear the birds, but can’t see them. They’re the ‘invisible’ source of a consoling sound. Once in a while, two gulls do battle on the roof above my studio window. They’re heavy birds. ‘Keep it down, lads!’, I complain. 10.45 am: Mist covered the tops of the hillsides, dampening the ambiance, enclosing and vignetting the town, and keeping the rest of the world at bay.

The discussions continued, as speech silently and suddenly popped-up from the bottom of the screen like bubbles to the water’s surface:

1.00 pm: Lunch. 1.30 pm: The afternoon shift. ‘Enjoy the fruit of your labour!’, I enjoined one student this morning. In the frenzied rush to complete and submit projects, it’s too easy to lose sight of the ‘fulfilment factor’. To my mind, we make art neither to be assessed nor for an audience’s applause, principally, but in order to have an encounter and conversation with ourselves. Therefore, take time to acknowledge your reflection and find consolation in your achievement. 2.00 pm: Back to the chalk (keyboard) face.

4.00 pm: Done! Finally, for the afternoon, a review of incoming PowerPoints and dissertations. 4.30 pm: Runaround.

House (detail) #28:

7.15 am: There were several more incoming drafts of PowerPoints to review and sign off before getting my teeth into the meat of the evening’s work: determining how the School’s modules might be delivered safely, come September. We’ve never had to think like this before. Health and safety procedures will need to be raised to the power of 10.

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