The Glitheroe - Girling Foolishness - 1973


It was a two week project. I had it finished in four days.


It was nearly finished when I was approached by one of the lecturers. "Those lines aren't parallel." he said.

I turned with a surprised "What?"

He continued "I assume they are meant to be parallel, aren't they? Well they're not."

The clown, a 'concrete poet' no less, was behind me on the right. I had been working square on to the surface of the painting, he was standing perhaps another metre and a half back from the surface of the painting and perhaps three metres to the side of it, in other words in a position where perspective would make it impossible to judge whether the lines were parallel or not.

If I could remember the idiot's name I would surely state it.

I told him the lines were parallel, offered him my ruler so he could check for himself, and mentioned that the measurements were accurate to a fraction of a millimetre. He declined the offer to check for himself, repeated his nonsense in a hectoring manner clearly annoyed at being talked back to and departed in high dudgeon.

I stood shaking my head in puzzlement 'What on earth was that crap about?' - I didn't know then, I don't know now!

Whether or not it was connected with what followed once again I don't know.

I think the above happened in the morning, and what followed was in the afternoon - and as what followed was Eric and nonsense then it seems likely that pub lunch and alcohol may be its origin. Who can say.

Art college lecturers with functioning brains are a rarity.

Not an exhaustive list of those I've known - Dave Gormley at Sunderland, also at Sunderland Brian Sefton, and Barry Hirst (when not wandering off into half-baked indulgence of the spectacularly talentless under the impression their crud is intentional in the manner of 'Punk'), and at Derby Bob Girling - an all round decent bloke and fan of real art, which makes his co-operation with Eric Glitheroe in the the Glitheroe - Girling Foolishness all the more shameful.

I suppose in this non-exhaustive list I will have to admit, albeit through gritted teeth, the aforementioned Eric Glitheroe.

It is the afternoon and the work is finished when Eric approaches and tells me I have failed to follow the brief of the project because the outcome is 'literal'.

I assure him I have followed the brief and have constructed an 'abstraction' of the brief and then chosen a method to display the 'abstraction' - the outcome is not 'literal'.

(A simple 'philosophical' point, only one person can know whether I have taken the brief, constructed an 'abstraction', then chosen a method of display - that person is very clearly not Eric Glitheroe.)

The 'No you haven't' - 'Yes I have' argument/discussion/debate runs in circles for (in my opinion) around three quarters of an hour.

He assures me time and again that I do not understand what he is saying, I assure him time and again that he does not understand what I am saying

Eventually the agonist talking nonsense withdraws - the withdrawal could of course have been purely strategic if the origin of the nonsense was indeed pub lunch and alcohol.

While in my case there was no need to go for a pee I did indulge in a little pondering. Principally I was surprised that Eric hadn't tried to 'pull rank' "I'm the lecturer, you're the student."

(Years later, thinking back on this ocean of verbiage, I thought I remembered a brief apparent non-sequitur, specifically Eric saying "You do know I've got an IQ of 147, don't you?" - which would constitute a form of trying to pull rank.

I wrote to him asking if he remembered the argument and whether he might have made the statement above.

Unfortunately his response while lengthy was evasive, rambling and obscurantist to a remarkable degree - presumably the result of too much alcohol, with or without the pub lunches.

I in turn replied in kind - I can write obscurantist maunderings with the 'best' of them, with or without the alcohol!)

After Eric leaves the studio following the unresolved roundabout marathon I reflect that I should give him credit for not pulling rank. That was my first mistake.

In a spirit of (misplaced) generosity because he did not pull rank, I decided to demonstrate that I understood exactly what Eric had been talking about by repeating the process, but simplifying the method of display. I did so the following day.


This is simple, straight forward, unequivocal, pedestrian.

It is not open to misinterpretation - with or without an IQ of 147!

It would be playing Devil's advocate to claim
'too early in the day',
'sans the pub lunch and alcohol'
or even
'justified suspicion of a carefully laid quasi-philosophical trap of the sort perpetrated by the innately malignant, rebellious proto-terrorists unwisely allowed access to the magnificent benefits of the creme de la creme of higher education facilities unequalled throughout the civilised world and indeed the entire galaxy (except for those rumoured to exist on the dark side of the planet Thon (in the Crab Apple nebulae))'
as a reason for Eric's apparent failure to understand.

Tangibly, Eric's 'failure to understand' was entirely down to the fact that he was an irredeemably awkward old cuss - with or without the IQ or the alcohol.

Foolishly, having embarked on the project of unfuddling the mind of the sometimes fuddled one I felt obliged to complete task. That was my second mistake.

Much of the weekend was taken up with applying ink to card.

At this point let me observe that the first outcome was a somewhat joyous
'Deedely- Idely- Deedely- Idely- O!'
the second outcome was a dull
'D- dum eh- D- dum eh- D- dumm, eh...'
why, oh why did I allow myself to produce the dire, mechanistic
'Deeeah? _ _ Duuumh? _ _ Deeeah? _ _ Duuumh? _ _ '
and so on for near eternity?

On the Monday when I showed Eric the set of drawings he demanded they be stapled in sequence high on the wall.

Then he rushed off to find Bob Girling.

What a pantomime!

These two, Eric and Bob, standing side by side staring up at this parade of dullness incarnate 'ooing' and 'aawing' like a pair of grandmothers over newborn brats.

Listing in an orgy of hyperbole and pretension the nonexistent merits of these drear, drear elaborations.

Had they looked around they would have seen me standing a couple of metres behind them, hands on hips slowly shaking my head from side to side and thinking -

'If I thought either of you believed a single piece of the nonsense you're spouting I would lose any respect I have for the pair of you.'

Naturally, I believed none of the hogwash.

So what exactly was this marathon of nonsense about?

I think the problem was that I came up with ideas quickly, motored on, and, unlike most students, completed the set projects. I think they just wanted me to do more work.

I revisited the original idea in 1975, doing a neater and better developed version, with more emphasis on the optical illusion of the parallel blocks/steps.


In 2011 I again made use of the parallel blocks/steps in a set of four related works.


In terms of ART the five drawings of the 'Glitheroe - Girling foolishness' have always been a pointless waste of time. As an elaboration demonstrating that I had followed a particular process they had only a momentary value. On the other hand the 3 Discs image, relatively vapid though it is, does have 'validity'.

In 2008 I made use of it as the starting point for (Earth, water, air - so much better) second time around


The satisfaction which accompanied that work lanced the long held annoyance at time wasted back in 1973.