The Assessment

Self-absorbed post (when are they not?). Mostly about my own assessment and generally written for my benefit. I therefore strongly advise you to skip.

Just returned from my assessment at the Mall with Foz and Gary feeling dazed, breathless and slightly giddy.

I get out in a fog at Brixton, walk across to the other platform and sit on the train waiting expectantly. I’m surprised to find myself home already, I can’t recall changing tubes at Stockwell at all. I wander out in an absent-minded way, playing things over and over in my head. Sainsbury’s was a distant dream of buying random food I now won’t eat.

Foz & Gary both questioned me inside out and I tried to be as honest as possible without being self-effacing. There is a fine line that I can’t seem to locate between self-deprecating, fake modesty, overly critical, overly confident and being too cocky.

I have no idea how well or badly I did. I might have been so unclear and rambling I was none of the above. I did go off on a rant about hijabs at one point (god knows why).

Gary asks me if I think I try to see both sides of the argument.


I say, I can. Obviously I’m biased towards my own views, but can still understand what the other sides argument is. (I just don’t agree with it)

They just came at me again and again, first Gary’s upper cut from the left, then Foz with a half nelson from the right both working together like Mexican wrestling tag team. I felt quite battered by the end of it.

With Foz at least, its all laid out there on the table – This is what I think, I like this, I hate that. He can’t really disguise his feelings well. It all shows on his face and in his eyes. Now perhaps if he was a thief, he’d probably be the kind of guy who would forget to wear a ski mask and mug you by jumping out in front of you in the middle of the afternoon. The police would be on to him like a shot.

Gary on the other hand is a sly fellow. You can never tell exactly what he’s thinking, there is this murky gray area within his opinion. Before you know it he’s sneaked up behind you and clonked you round the back of your head. He might say something which (being a thick head like me) takes some time to digest, and then it dawns on you….

“Wait a minute…he wasn’t being complimentary…. he was saying you’re rubbish!”

He would be the kind of mugger to grab you from behind in a dark alley, take your bag, purse/wallet, phone, ipod and then frog march you to the nearest cash point and empty your bank account. Strong words I know, but they both grilled me like a bitch.

I kept standing up or kneeling and doing everything but sitting in my appointed chair. Foz kept reminding me like I was a naughty school child. Sit still stupid, and stop fidgeting.

“You always talk about the aesthetic but do you feel that you think about your content enough?”

‘Enough’ is the word that really gets me. How do you define ‘enough’?

I got the feeling that they think I don’t consider my content enough.

And yes I think about content a great deal, but for me, on my MA colour and practicalities like reducing time it takes to finish a piece to satisfaction have been much more of a struggle. It was about more than just content.

A recurring theme I’ve noticed over the last 5 years in art school is the whole hoo-hah about the importance of content.

Content and good ideas are valuable assets but nothing is so easily destroyed as a great idea badly presented. There is always this thing in art colleges, and Camberwell (my old college) in particular, where they say

“We’re not here to teach you to draw, it’s about pushing your content and your ideas”

One of the major problems I have is the notion that substance is more important than how it’s represented. I think, personally, that you can’t separate technical development and content development. They work in tandem; sometimes one gains more priority, sometimes another.

The impression I’ve consistently got from Gary (and not just today) is that content is and always must be the priority.

But my agenda has to include both. If not equally then 60% aesthetic 40% content. Disagree with this as you will philosophers, dissertation lovers and information designers. I find nothing is so dull as interesting information plotted out on a tedious graph. (come to the our show and you’ll see what I mean)

Unfortunately I never said any of this. I have a persistent and malignant case of esprit de l’escalier. It’s damn annoying.

Worst question by far was right at the end of the CIA interrogation:

“What is it that you’ve mastered?”

Foz demands to know. I say ‘the worst question’ for a 2 reasons:

1. My answer could have been better (for a start)
I’m worn down by now so I just said ‘Colour.’ Colour is the thing that’s dramatically changed for me the most.
The thing I had to really get my head around and thing I struggled with and still struggle with the most. But it’s certainly not the only thing.
Sadly, none of this is discussed. Since they seem to be hurrying me out, I just mention colour.

“Is that enough?”

they ask frighteningly.


I mutter, rattling off something else that I can’t recall.

There was something about being self-critical, writing the blog making me more coherent, sharper, remembering things better, which is clearly all rubbish because right now for the life of me I can’t remember half the things I was spouting.

2. The second reason why it was the worst question was because of the question itself.

‘What are you trying to master?’ and ‘What have you mastered?’ are two completely different questions that dictate two completely different answers.

‘What are you trying to master?’ is a good question. It suggests you’re trying to work something out, constantly moving towards a goal.

‘What have you mastered?’ suggests finality. It’s a bit poncy and meaningless. What does the word ‘master’ mean anyway?

To me it means you’ve done all that can be done, know all that you can know about a subject or technique and are at the top of your game. It implies others will come to you, humbly begging to be graciously allowed to apprentice under your phenomenal tutelage. (if only)

I’m bloody 25 I can’t possible have mastered anything and even at 45 can you say in all honesty (unless you’re an arrogant prick) that you have completely mastered any one thing? It’s always in flux (I’m fairly sure F&G will heartily disagree…or maybe not fuck knows. My brain is fried.)

Now an exception would be Yoda, he certainly was a Jedi master, but

a. He is 900 years old
b. He’s fucking fictional

(Foz disagrees, He’s not fictional, no he’s not, Yoda is real, he asserts. I get the feeling that I must at all cost, not shatter this fragile belief.)

Unfortunately I didn’t say any of this either. God I’m such a dolt.


4 thoughts on “The Assessment

  1. Speaking as a TRUE MASTER (I am now 46) I can resolutely say that what one masters is the ability to know that you will never ever actually master anything, for a set of skills are as long as a piece of string. This may seem like an awful waste of time and money but I am now taking a perverse satisfaction that I am now qualified to be in on the riddle. I’d would like to be able to wear one of those floppy doctorate hats one day but – hey – I draw pictures, not bend atoms and the thought of writing a lot of crap on something no one is really interested in seems a folly. No, I’d rather buy a floppy hat and sit and talk crap down the pub.

  2. i cant believe your going to the awards the way if you go drinking after can us cheapos not dressing up come and join you and take silly pics and generally live vicariously?

  3. I’m doing it for my silver-haired mother who is a sucker for dressing up. She is also a sucker for drinking and silly pics, and besides, so it would be a sham if we didn’t live vicariously post-nonsense. Let’s make it a stupidly (but cost-effective) party for everyone.

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