I grew up in an era, if I can describe my particular circumstance as typical, where seeking formal qualifications as an artist was laughable. To be ambitious in that way was to be nothing other than unambitious. I studied as a ‘non-diploma’ student which is to say, I had no expectation of obtaining a diploma at the end of my studies. I started in fourth year and stayed two years, after which time I felt that I had digested what I needed. In hindsight, that was rather arrogant. I wish now that I had been more modest.
My particular story was that I left school early, in order to paint full-time. I had a studio and went off to it every day, but after a year, I was losing my mind, so I took a job working as a file clerk at The Opera House which was still under construction in 1969. I worked there for a year. The job of filing did not occupy all my working day so apart from exploring the various hidden corners of the Opera House, I would sit in my hut, and draw. The architects would come and visit and offer me criticism and advice. One particular architect, Paul Walsh said one day, “Sculptor’s drawings”, and a light went on in my head. The work of Peter Powditch, Ron Robertson-Swann and Ian McKay was well known to me. They were teaching at The Tech, so I went to see if I could study there. I think because enrolments were down that year, I was accepted.
Study is both painful and enjoyable. For one who feels themselves to be already knowledgeable, it can be difficult to absorb new information. So it was for me.
I did as much as I was able digest to what was being proposed by the teachers, but I concentrated on drawing. The drawings offered here are from that period, 1972.
After I left I digested more what I had learnt.
Those days though at The Tech, left me with an enduring legacy. I was taught a standard by which I was able to read my work and the work of others in relation to history, and to what had already been achieved. I was taught what was good. I was taught about the qualities of unity, clarity and harmony. Whatever may be the prevailing concerns at any one time, The National Art School, always carried with it, the best that a visual language can offer.
How do you construct a sentence visually? How do you write a book visually, how is the visual bookcase filled?
No other art school then, or since has been able to offer that.
Certainly, it is not achievable within the context of a university, where, by definition, the intellect is required to reign, and not the hand.
For my troubles I was back teaching part-time by 1976 and taught there for twenty years.