Light Relief 6

I had a very enjoyable and relaxed weekend. I am very grateful indeed to more than four hundred people who have so far emailed the parliamentary joint human rights committee to ask that the committee accept my direct witness evidence on the UK and US governments’ use of intelligence from torture.

There are still 30 hours before the committee decides whether to hear me. If everyone can email round the appeal and encourage others to write, it would be very helpful.

Meanwhile, my weekend was cheered by small things. Nadira is now entering the eighth month of pregnancy. She still occasionally makes delightful little slips of English in her lovely light accent. Yesterday we had “Hot crutch buns” for breakfast, which made me giggle a lot in a Homer Simpson kind of way.

On Friday night I met some lovely people at a dinner party at my friend Elsie’s. They included the Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry. I was surprised to find he was not dressed as Marie Antoinette but was in fact completely down to earth in manner and appearance. It led me to recall that there is an old fashioned craft in his ceramic making which has little apparent relationship to his perfomance art (I presume that’s what his appearances in wedding cake outfits is).

We discussed art education, which has become a great inerest of mine as Dundee University includes the Duncan of Jordanstone Art College. Perry’s view was that you can neither teach creativity, nor can you expect it to reveal itself in great bursts. What you can teach is skill. I was very impressed by him.

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6 thoughts on “Light Relief

  • eddie

    I’m a great fan of Grayson Perry. His pots are exqusite. He curated a wonderful Arts Council exhibition of post war British art last year. I saw it at the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill. He is an interesting character and he has more artistic skill than most of the YBA generation of Hirst et al.

  • ken

    “Meanwhile, my weekend was cheered by small things. Nadira is now entering the eighth month of pregnancy.”

    Hell’s bells! The eighth month of pregnancy is not a ‘small thing’.

    It’s a new human life – about the biggest thing you can get!

    The very best of luck for tomorrow with the JCHR, and for the remaining month. Roll on Easter, hot crutch buns, and a new baby!

  • John K


    Agree about Grayson Perry, he’s a very sorted and warm human being. Don’t particularly like his pots but admire his technique.

    He’s right, of course: in order to be sucessfully experimental you have to first master the techniques, and it shows. Damien Hirst can at least draw, unlike Tracy Emin who appears to be completely lacking in “skill”.

    e.g. Picasso was a wonderful draughtsman, if you get the chance to see “Guernica” in Madrid look at the cartoons (sketches), they are beautiful…

    Not sure Perry is engaging in Performance Art, I suspect he just likes nice dresses…

  • kazbel

    I heard Grayson Perry “in conversation” about a year ago – thought he was terrific. I went because I’d been stunned by the beauty and craft in a vase of his at the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art.

    Of course “creativity” can’t be taught. Students of all ages can be taught relevant skills and how to use their creativity, whether it’s in music, fine art, drama, writing … It’s the same in other subjects – people have an aptitude for a subject and are helped to develop it. You can’t teach an aptitude for higher mathematics either. The problem is the degree of snobbery with certain (but not all) craft skills. One interesting side effect of this can be seen in libraries’ Dewey Decimal system of classification, according to which architecture is a “fine art” while flower arranging is a “useful art.”

  • Michael Bentley

    I can relate to this a lot. I spent most of last year recovering from severe anxiety, and realised that years of constant focusing on war and torture issues had taken their toll. Now I’m getting back to being active again, but I need to balance that with light relief and things (one of which is art)that give me pleasure.

    I’m glad you had a relaxing break in these days before the JCHR makes it’s decision on whether or not to hear your evidence. And it’s great to hear that so many people have sent emails in support.

    All best wishes.

  • KB

    Perry is wrong – you can teach creativity and I suggest you come and watch us do it here at Duncan of Jordanstone before listening to him and deciding he’s right. Yes he’s charming, yes he’s intelligent but he’s not a teacher.

    You are rector of a university which just received a stunning result in the RAE for doing exactly what Perry said was impossible.

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