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Meet Secret Art Prize judge Dr Grant Pooke

Posted on May 21, 2015

We met Secret Art Prize 2015 judge Dr. Grant Pooke to hear his art world insights in the last six weeks of the competition. 
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Dr. Grant Pooke
Senior Lecturer in the History of Art & Director of Internationalisation, School of Arts, University of Kent
TWITTER - @unikent
You have had an incredibly interesting career, to date. You have written several texts and books about Modernism, Globalisation and Marxism, alongside curating exhibitions and delivering lectures internationally. Did you set out to be a Senior Lecturer, or did one thing lead to another?
I studied Art History at St Andrews - Scotland’s west coast and highland landscapes and skylines are close and clear memories for me. Student politics and journalism preceded a move into freelance writing and teaching, which segued into an academic career.

What has been your career highlight so far?
Devising and collaboratively teaching, with an excellent academic team, the University of Kent’s first dedicated part-time Art History degree for the part-time student market was a formative experience. Reflections on that time and some of the exceptional students we worked with informed what eventually became Art History: The Basics (2008).
In recent years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the internationalisation and recruitment dimension to my present role. It’s a reminder that an academic vocation should be one engaged with discipline communities and audiences beyond the institution.
Describe a typical day in the life of Senior Lecturer in no more than 10 words.
No two days are the same. That’s what generally appeals.
What is the best and worst thing about what you do?
Best: our students render the days memorable - grounded, but fleeting.
Worst: the consequences of policy and funding decisions, which happen outside universities.
Who, or what is the greatest influence on your life?
Like many of my generation growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, one internalises the music, cultural politics and hopes of that time. Some tracks run through my mind now. Albums by The Jam, The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Cure are part of an internal soundscape to those years.
As regards a professional influence and mentor, Dr Anthony Ward, an accomplished educationalist and field archeologist; principled, decent and quick to laugh. Brian Debenham was an outstanding and generous teacher and his early death a great loss.
Who is your favourite artist or work of art at the moment?
One question not to ask of an Art Historian!  Peter Kennard’s present exhibition at the IWM underlines the durability and resonance of the political for contemporary practice. Nigel Cook’s dystopian, flat vista landscapes are evocatively Surreal.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
What’s that line from that Peter Gabriel number ‘When I see the future I close my eyes’. (?)
Seriously, I tend not to think beyond the present professional role or the next research project. Things can be just too contingent. 
Now, the Arts can seem impenetrable at times, please recommend one piece of essential reading and one piece of advice for anyone looking to get into the Arts- of course it can be one of yours.
Get a subscription to The Art Newspaper!
To paraphrase Clement Greenberg, a much-maligned critic of the visual arts – and with some good reason: less is often more – use your eyes, listen and trust intuition.
Do you consider a formal education to be essential to an artist’s growth?
Depends on the artist and the practice. But the trend in recent decades has been towards the increasing academicisation of aspects of the Fine Art curriculum. 
And just for us, if you could time travel to one era or event, when would you choose?
To have been in St Petersburg and Moscow between 1912-1921.
Who would be your dream dinner guest? 
Not sure about a dream dinner guest, but the late film maker and auteur Sam Peckinpah would presumably provide some lively anecdotes about his craft and the 1960s American film industry.
What super power would you have for a day, and what would you use it for?
The power to regenerate the ancient pre-Tudor treescapes of Sussex, Kent and the Weald.
What are you currently listening to? 
I’ve been replaying music by Thomas Newman and by Arvo Pärt recently.
And of course, we are looking forward to an exciting exhibition collaboration with the Curious Duke Gallery of course!
Thank you Grant!
Written by Curious Duke Gallery blogger Sinéad Loftus.
Lover of all art and fluffy cats.