Friday, 2 January 2015


Glyn Thompson’s exhibition at the Tetley Educating Damien*, continues into January and he is giving a lecture “where Thompson will ask whether Hirst is merely the personification of the bohemian stereotype, since he just happened to be in the right places at the right time, having first encountered the archetype of the post-romantic tortured genius Patrick Oliver at Jacob Kramer College”. I did think about going but hadn’t realised it was ticket only and of course when I eventually went to book the event was full. However Glyn’s thesis is interesting as it raises several questions that relate to this blog and its posts.
In one of the rooms in the exhibition Glyn has had a quote from this blog enlarged and wall mounted. I went to the opening and Glyn pointed it out, he said that he wanted to use it because my words were public and offered a verification of his own position. That was fine by me and I still stand by what I had to say about his lectures at the time. However memories are always selective and we construct narratives to fit our own very self-centered world-view. (A reminder of this situation to myself is therefore needed and to readers of this blog)

Terry has been to see the show with Colin Cain, apparently as they looked at the drawings Colin was laying claim to working with students to produce the very images that Glyn had used in the exhibition to illustrate his point that Damien had been introduced to the museum collections by Glyn’s drawing sessions. Glyn however claimed a special relationship with the museum because of his then friendship with the curator, so who was it did the deed?
My own view has been partly already expressed in my post of Wednesday, 21st November 2012 entitled Still Life
In some ways you could say we all did it, but there were subtle differences in our approaches. 
When drawing from observation many of the staff would follow the “It’s not what it is but where it is” mantra. Choices of objects were for several staff more often than not made on a formal basis and as I pointed out in my earlier post, to quote myself, “On the one hand there were concepts related to the types of things available to make images from and on the other hand it was a controlled situation whereby you could explore how to approach image making itself.”
Glyn’s point is that he was adopting a less formalist approach to the museum objects and was reversing the perceptual focus, recognizing that all vision is socially constructed and that, “It’s what it’s social context is, not how you see it that counts”. I did at the end of that old post mention that in complementary studies these issues were being discussed but that they had yet to really enter the studio floor.
The pedagogic point is that at the centre of all of this was the then primacy of drawing as a ‘training for the eye’. The ‘museum’ object and its cultural significance in levering forward a post-colonial awareness or being a centre around debates associated with the ‘gaze’ and museology or a more technology focused reading of art history, were always secondary to getting students to look. When artists working in this territory started to re-visit the museum they rarely drew, they photographed and re-presented. For many artists drawing took attention away from the cultural significance of objects and moved it into the arena of more subjective art processes. I would suggest that most of the time spent in these sessions when students were drawing from museum objects, that the conversations would revolve mainly around looking and its accuracy. My memory of the module Glyn mentions was that if you were asked to work on this you were asked above all to get the students looking. How you did this was up to you, and each member of staff had a different focus. Kate’s growing awareness of what was going on over at the university was also something to factor in here as she was working through her own growing awareness of Feminism and its reassessment of the ‘male’ bohemian stereotype and the art associated with that. 
Thinking of Patrick and  Glyn’s assertion that Damien has modeled himself on Patrick's persona, well I’m not sure, but I am sure Glyn will have a very well argued thesis for this. Perhaps Damien modeled himself on Glyn, or his old art teacher Mr. Bell from Chapel Allerton School or John Thompson when he went to Goldsmiths, or a black and white picture of Frances Bacon in a bar. My own feeling about this is that you are given rights of practice by some staff you come across and prohibitions by others. Some people affirm your existence and other don’t. When I meet ex art students, some remember the staff that held them back and others remember those that helped them move forward. Sometimes the pedagogy of art education is all to do with damage limitation. 
Art education changes with the years and the focus on 'perception' at the then Jacob Kramer was already behind the times and had already been debunked in several DipAD Fine Art programmes, not least at Newport where Keith Arnett was teaching us the post linguistic turn. The focus on a 'gestalt' of seeing was though powerful and it fostered a less intellectual approach, perception is though at the end of the day a cognitive process and as Goodman put it, "conception without perception is nearly empty, perception without conception is blind". (1987)

*and others

Goodman, N (1987) Of Mind and Other Matters London: Harvard