My first degree was in Fine Art in the 1970s. I made a good number of paintings and had exhibitions, but soon realised that ideas in and about art were more interesting to me than practice. Art history is one of those ideas and when it arose I seized the opportunity to tutor for the Open University, both on regular courses and on the residential school. The latter was also an opportunity to work with some of the bigger names in art history, principal among whom was Charles Harrison – a writer whose books I have consistently recommended to students. I have done so in part to confirm my own view that the understanding of art continues to demand aesthetic judgements and that these in turn demand theoretical revision. In light of this belief I aim to engage with works of art according to a long familiarity with the discipline and a willingness to accommodate change and innovation.
My erstwhile experience as a painter proved to have other uses in the fields of illustration and community arts. The latter saw the organisation and production of a number of murals around Doncaster – long since painted over – and the former resulted in some illustrations for children’s books, the more prestigious one being the Oxford Book of Scary Tales. Both were short-lived, though I have revisited illustration of late and aim to have a website up and running in due course.
My teaching experience in the arts has been very diverse. I have taught most aspects of art and design from an historical and theoretical perspective (fine art, graphic design, illustration, 3-d design architecture, photography and film) across a wide variety of FE and HE institutions. Likewise my students have been of every age above 16. If there is one thing that is common to this variety it is critical thought – something we are all capable of, though we don’t always have the need or opportunity to exercise it. Teaching is, at its best, the mutual exercise of critical thinking and I consider myself fortunate that ideas and judgements expressed in a collective situation often find their way into my academic writing. In the wake of my PhD – Art, Writing and Autobiography – I have pursued questions around the subject of the teaching studio, visual culture, artists’ statements and the end of art, all according to the writing of Holderlin, Hegel, Nietzsche, Derrida and Danto. I remain committed to writing and painting and often reflect on their intrinsic rewards.