May 28, 2019

7.00 am: Showered. 7.45 am: Following breakfast, I pressed on (quite literally) with what remained of the ironing. (Socks and other delicates would be coupled and sorted at the close of the evening.) Ironing can be a contemplative activity. As I flattened the terrain of tea towels, t-shirts, and trousers, my mind unfolded ideas and wistful hopes, and smoothed-over problems and vexations. Perhaps we each carry around in our heads an alternative life. In moments of unbearable unresolve, it’s our safe haven.

8.50 am: A chance for a final cuppa before heading to the School to assess the MA Fine Art exhibition. I anticipated that this would be a rich experience:

9.50 am: Dr Forster and I undertook our ward rounds. MA assessments are on an entirely different plane of discussion to that of BA assessments. So they ought to be. We are dealing with students who’re between two worlds – education and professionalism – and in transition.

There was a period of respite over lunch, mercifully, which gave me time to begin the process of assembling mark sheets for the ‘walkabout’ at the close of the day. After lunch, and until then, Dr Forster and I continued our consultations.

4.00 pm: The ‘walkabout’. This is the final stage of the internal assessment process. All staff reviewed the entire exhibition of undergraduate and Masters students, with a view to finalising individual marks, and ensuring that there was parity between marks given across illustration, painting, photography, and printmaking. By the close of the afternoon, we were satisfied that the awards accurately reflected the attainment of the individual students. Business was concluded at 6.30 pm:

Some observations and principles derived from today’s engagements:

  • T: ‘Learn to enjoy the fruit of your labour, especially if tilling the soil and planting and watering the seed has been irksome.’
  • T: ‘As you change, then, so will your painting. It’ll follow you just as surely as your shadow.’
  • T: ‘Set fire to expectations in order to set yourself on fire.’
  • T: ‘You are, for the first time, seeing the subject through paint.’
  • T: ‘Let your audience do some work, too. It’s not your job to make their life easy’. You’re giving them art, not entertainment.
  • T: ‘Whether the work is figurative or abstract, realist or expressionistic, what matters most is the quality, integrity, and ambition of the execution.’
  • T: ‘The work feels like someone turning a heavy mattress singlehandedly.’
  • T: ‘Why would someone with no interest in the represented subject be drawn to your painting?’
  • Just because an artist sells doesn’t mean that they’re any good. The reverse is also true.

7.30 pm: In the evening, and against the clock, I wrote up my feedback reports for the Masters students whom I’d examined today, and compiled mark sheets for the External Examiner for Fine Art, who’d be visiting the School tomorrow.

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