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The following notes are toward 'The Painters Tongue - 1990 - 2000'

The current draft concerns the year 1990.

I have posted some images if only to introduce of the specificiity of the cultural context. This project is stiil very much a 'work in progress' with so much work still to be done. 

Should anyone feel interested to communicate, critique or just comment 

My details are on the 'Contact' page.

                             The Painter’s Tongue - 1990


graham paton 1988 with john waller

Plan A

Mid-winter, London 1990 I struck gold.  ‘Alright then Guv ‘ere’s the deal – 20 quid a week for the flat and for an extra fiver I will throw you up a power cord.’  My new landlord, Nick a wide boy from Bethnal Green.  His girlfriend, Tiffany ran a flower shop downstairs, catering to the smart set around the Highbury-Islington precinct.  I had just taken on the two-floor apartment above their shop on St. Paul’s Road for 25 quid a week.  It was what they used to call ‘a cold water flat’.  At the time I couldn’t imagine a better deal.  By any measure it was a steal but you get what you pay for.  In effect I was paying for a pigeon loft.

Nick explained apartment hadn’t been inhabited for 30 years, I was wondering if that was since the war.  The entire first floor was choked with discarded machinery; it must have been a sweatshop in its last life.  Upstairs was where the pigeons had been living for the past thirty years.  To open the door triggered a dark flapping swarm, which soon enough cleared, since over the years they had smashed out all the windows.  After the pigeons escaped, all that was left was an uncanny blanched landscape.  It took a while to recognize the shapes of up-turned mattresses, beds, tables and chairs; as if it had been the scene of a crime since buried under thirty years of pigeon shit.  Had I been more enterprising I might have bagged up the encrusted phosphate and sold it for fertilizer.

Over the next week I stripped out all the furniture; scraped down the walls, the window-sills & skirting-boards and rolled all the pigeon shit into the ancient encrusted linoleum, dragged it downstairs and dumped the lot of it with the rest of the rubbish on the first floor; threw in a couple of insect bombs and taped up the door.

Upstairs, there were three useable rooms; the old living room which was to become my new studio, a tiny bedroom and the remnants of a kitchen; at least there was water and a sink. The kitchen doubled as bathroom.  After smoothing out some of the gaping holes with spackle-filler, I bought a five gallon bucket of white paint, semi-gloss, and painted everything with two coats, including the floorboards.  At least it felt clean.  I couldn’t afford to replace the broken windows so I stapled a doubled layer of plastic and old cotton sheets across them, which diverted some of rain and dampened the howling of the wind.  

At the end of a week’s work, it was still early afternoon but already growing dark inside. I turned back for a moment to contemplate the potential of my new studio, when I noticed snowflakes floating in on that final shaft of afternoon light and for that second it looked like a Japanese theatre set.  Pucinni’s ‘Madam Butterfly’ took possession for a moment; Un Bel Di Vedremo.  Tomorrow I would be up on the roof to fix the tiles and then the ceiling, but for the moment I pushed the empty paint bucket into the center of the room and stumbled downstairs back onto St Paul’s Road, N1.

Like most Antipodeans in London, I’d already overstayed my welcome, but my host was diplomatic and sensitive.  What option did he have, I had nowhere to go.  Graham was the namesake and director of the Paton Gallery, famous for championing ‘New British Painting’, the next generation of London figurative painters, who were widely expected to follow on from the School of London painters; Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff , R.B Kitaj, Michael Andrews and David Hockney.  Bacon was a regular at the Paton.  I had seen him there on a number of occasions.  He often came by during the day.  I could recognize his shadow lurking by the edge of the front window of the gallery, where he might sneak a glimpse of the work without being noticed.  Bacon was there for the painting - not the party.

In those days the Paton Gallery was located in Covent Garden.  Langley Court is a tiny alleyway, which runs between Floral Street and Long Acre in the midst of what has since become a well-trodden fashion precinct.  Paton was famous for talent spotting.  He showed the best painters fresh out of the British art schools.  He boasted ‘thirteen of our artists have been acquired for the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York’.  At the time Paton was showing artists such as John Monks, Nicolas Jolly, Jonathan Waller and Mary Mabbutt from the generation of painters, which included Steven Campbell, Graham Crowley and Paula Rego, arguably the last generation of British painters, borne of an unbroken lineage of painting.  This was particularly true of those artists coming from provincial art schools where, despite the advent of theory-based post-medium practices, the study of painting had not been destabilised and the art of drawing was still rigorously maintained.

I’d first met Graham Paton in 1984, while I was the Australian artist-in-residence at the Air & Space Studio on Roseberry Avenue, EC1.  Every year thereafter Graham would ritually send a Christmas card to my wife and I in Darlinghurst where I had been teaching painting, drawing and art theory at the National Art School.  That was until 1989, when I responded with a note explaining that Tempe and I had separated.

It was Graham’s idea that I return to London.  ‘It might be good for you’, he boldly asserted in a direct call to my studio on Arthur Boyd’s property ‘Bundanon’, where I had been living at the time, adding he could always find ways of putting me to good use; which he did.  I hung shows, running errands and the gallery, when he needed back up.  He greeted me like an old friend when I arrived.  As arranged, we grabbed the train to Portsmouth, the ferry to the Isle of Wight and a train down to his house in Ventnor, which looked out across the English Channel to France.

Unpacking my case I offered up the ritual bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label,I had grabbed on the way through customs, imagining he might enjoy a nip with his colleagues from time to time. We knocked back the entire bottle that first night in Ventnor.  Graham would have been seventy-five at the time, I was yet forty.  The only thing I remember was Graham laughing like a prodigious sorcerer, hiding behind his couch trying to Zap me with some imaginary wand and accusing me of being a wizard.  Latter he described me as ‘a whole-hogger’, one who goes all the way, he explained adding, ‘all the best artist are’; as if to underline the significance of his novel phrase.  I must confess I felt quite unprepared for such a character, but the Black Labelhelped me through.

Graham was a self-confessed Anglo-Polynesian.  I never doubted his story of a youth spent studying classical piano, since his art language seemed to be crossed with musical syntax.  Graham maintained he had grown up like ‘A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’, referencing Tennessee Williams’ play, where a Cotton Tycoon’s family goes into emotional meltdown around issues of power, wealth and ambiguous sexuality.  Graham claimed he had been the adopted son of the then Governor General of New Zealand and his wife, but the question remains; was that General Sir Charles Fergusson, Sir Michael Meyers, Lord Bledisloe or any successive Governor General?  New Zealand has never had a Governor General by the name Paton.  Eventually Graham moved to London, forgoing a career as a concert pianist for his life as a civil servant.

The gallery seemed to have been his retirement plan.  You can catch a glimpse of him in action from the photographs, by Heather Wardell, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.  In one he is pictured with Sarah Kent, the infamous art critic for Time-Out Magazine; Graham appears to have stolen the moment. He had an irrepressible charm, an eloquent tongue and an unshakeable toupee. Although faintly recognizable in one of Nicholas Jolly’s paintings, I doubt that Graham was ever an artist’s model, paid by the civil service to stand about naked, nevertheless there was a possibility that Graham could have been a self-confected character inspired by Quentin Crisp’s famous book, ‘The Naked Civil Servant’.  We were sitting in Soho, one Saturday afternoon outside Patisserie Valerie enjoying a cup of coffee and a madeleine, when I first noted Graham had the power to pull a crowd; Graham had poise.  I watched perfect strangers cross the street as if he were a local celebrity; a couple kissed even his hand as he waved them off.

His generous invitation extended to sharing his tiny flat on Highbury Fields, a few doors up from Walter Sickert’s apparently unsuccessful art school, since marked by a green plaque.  In Graham’s flat I noted a couple of formal life-drawings of a young male model by John Devane, whose work Graham had shown at one point.  Having spent so much time in life-drawing rooms, I was blind to the homoerotic signification, in face of the eloquence of Devane’s exquisite draughtsmanship.  What I did notice was the complete lack of celebration of contemporary art, as I had come to expect from Australian dealers.  No - Graham’s flat showed all the modestly and taste one might expect of a civil servant.  He had said it was small.  He wasn’t kidding.  I imagined I might just crash on the living room floor until I got myself organised, but Graham had other plans.  He had set up a makeshift cot at the end of his double bed and would nightly encourage me to make myself more comfortable.

Intermittent intimations of his sexual exploits revealed a Baconesque preference for anonymous sex.  One brief sketch outlined an act of buggery as if straight from Bacon’s ‘Study of Figures on a Bed’ (1972), Graham’s version ended with a Chelsea boot being hurled at the bedside lamp; a light bulb explodes at the point of orgasm.  But despite my pluralistic sensitivities, amenable nature and compromised circumstances, I was not ‘a gentleman’s gentleman,’ as Bacon put it, and had no interest in sharing Graham’s bed.

Thus my sense of relief when I was able to move into my cold-water flat above St. Pauls’ Road at the Highbury-Islington roundabout.  It is amazing what you can achieve with an electric jug and electric fry pan, but nothing would protect me from the cold except a searing focus on my work.  Nights above St. Paul’s Road seemed to be haunted by ghoulish dreams; one night a dog eats out my stomach, the next its Count Dracula disembowelling me, the following night an indeterminate creature tears me limb from limb – and always the blood. Each night I would wake in a cold sweat, as if muffling a scream.

In this context I began to develop a vague plan – lets call it ‘Plan A’.  I had every confidence in my draughtsmanship and facility as a painter and recognised working at the gallery presented a special opportunity.  Although a solo exhibition would be out of the question, at least until I could substantiate the merits of my painting, I figured if I could just land one strong painting in the gallery, it might establish my credibility as a painter.  Thus I’d been contemplating the right spot; perhaps that blank spot near the front door where Bacon often lurked; maybe that empty space above the stairwell would do, of course behind the desk where I would sit minding the shows would be perfect; it was usually left empty.  Even if such a painting was only in position during the period I was sitting the shows, I figured I could initiate a wave of interest.  Even if I never even mentioned my work, I imagined the canvas itself could open an opportunity; such was my faith in the power of my painting. Of course it couldn’t be too big, and indeed it would have to be appropriately framed.

desert fishing

Thus I began to paint, intent on wedging open that window of opportunity for my work.  The natural alignment between New British Painting and my own Antipodean preferences left me feeling lucky.  Given the reciprocal influences of a previous generation of Australian artists on British painters and vice versa, such as the influence of Sidney Nolan’s early work on a young David Hockney or Francis Bacon’s work on the young Brett Whiteley; I imagined that I too might be able to bring something new to the Paton.  I began working toward that one strongly painterly image with a deeply poetic resonance.  Graham did me the courtesy of occasionally checking in on his way back from the gallery ‘to see how I was settling-in’ which was very kind of him but I felt my bohemian circumstances only served to further his erotic fantasies.  As if in direct proportion to my disinterest in his subtle overtures, Graham showed not the faintest sign of interest in my painting.


By this time, despite my lean lifestyle, my meagre savings were beginning to run low.  Graham’s idea of ‘helping out’ was at best self-serving if not totally exploitative. He always cried poor, rationing my work in a deadly configuration of minimal hours at a pitiful rate.  To take advantage of his offer would usually cost me as much in travel and lunch, as I might stand to earn in an afternoon, but I did so in the vain hope of winning that faint window of opportunity, which by now I needed desperately.

Working in the gallery had given me an insight into Graham’s curatorial processes. Despite the flamboyant rhetoric, the constant references to rich internal worlds and the passionate act of painting, Graham took his cues from the art schools; offering solo shows to graduating students, who had won the appropriate prizes, scholarships and studios. Sometimes he might include a work in a group show, but few of his artists went onto a second solo show, regardless of the critical reception of their work.  It took me a while to understand this. 

Working at the gallery I was under strict instructions to never accept any folio or presentation from any artist looking to show at the gallery, especially in face of the gallery’s growing international profile.  But of course - I had to learn the hard way.  One afternoon mid-week afternoon a young French artist, who had just graduated from École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, breezed into the gallery with her folio.  I immediately apologised and explained I was under strict instruction never to look at any presentation, and especially never to accept any folio or slides.  The gallery was empty and she had swept into the gallery with such a breath of optimism, it seemed disrespectful to send her away without a hearing; next I was leafing through her slides.  I was impressed.

I felt I was looking at a body of work that had success written all over it.  The painting seemed perfectly in-line with the sort of work the gallery had been showing.  I repeated all the caveats again, and the powerlessness of my situation - however given Graham’s constant lament about business being slow I began to imagine showing some contemporary French painting might help the gallery’s public profile.  Repeating all the caveats yet again I dared to take a folio.  Bad move.  When eventually I had the opportunity to talk to Graham about the work, he interrupted my introduction to repeat his own caveat.  Then taking the package of slides he disdainfully dropped them into the bin and snapped the lid closed ‘… and that my dear boy is that’.

In this light I began to reconsider the foundations of my own hopes.  Given Graham’s annual Xmas cards, I had always reciprocated by sending him invitations to my Sydney exhibitions.  Before leaving Australia I made a point of sending him a comprehensive folio of my own work, including slides and C/V.  However over the course of my time as Graham’s guest, I had conducted an exhaustive search for my folio and found not the slightest trace of it.  No doubt it had also been binned and that would have - no doubt - been that.  Eventually I began to recognise Graham’s curatorial choices were not made in response to an open field of choices but were determined by a narrow political framework.  As he said, Paton showed ‘New British Painting’ and this descriptor determined an exact limit.  ‘New British Painting’ was not simply the title of the exhibition which was touring the public galleries of America at the time, with a substantial catalogue bearing the same name by Edward Lucie-Smith, it was a structural framework determined by a hierarchy of critical institutional voices, which directed the Paton to a narrow selection of potential painters graduating from key British art schools. 

It wasn’t long after this realisation that Graham dropped by my studio one last time. ‘It’s time to talk straight’, he began;

‘I can see that you have imagined I invited you to London as a painter, and I appreciate that you have been working in hope of some representation by the gallery but I have to tell you that is not going to happen.  I show ‘New British Painting’; You are not new.  You are not British, and I must confess I do not understand your painting.  In short there is no future for you at the Paton Gallery as a painter.

I had imagined that sometimes when a straight man goes through a divorce they can sometimes be open to a gay relationship.  But clearly, that is not going to happen.  I had hoped that we might be able to develop some sort of partnership, which might have extended to the joint management of the gallery, perhaps support for your practice as a painter, but it is now obvious that cannot work.  So I have to say I can’t see any future for you here – I though it best you know.

On that note we parted ways.


Plan B

I had jettisoned my career as a high-school art teacher the moment I served out my scholarship bond to the Victorian Education Department in the mid-seventies.  Although I had since taught at a number of tertiary institutions, my posts were erratic, part-time and contingent upon my trajectory as an artist.  Nevertheless I did have a post-graduate Diploma of Education from Melbourne University. I dusted it down and headed off to try my luck with the British Secondary Education Department.  This time luck seemed to be on my side.

The Secondary Education Department was in the midst of reconfiguring their Arts and Crafts programs to meet the demands of their new Technology curriculum with its emphasis on innovation.  No doubt it was my experience teaching video art at Melbourne University that secured my place in the program, although my itinerant history as an artist meant I had to start on a 1styear teacher’s wage.  The new deal was I would have to complete the six months induction into the National Curriculum on my own time, updating my qualifications to contemporary British standards, whilst concurrently teaching Technology, Computer Graphics and some Studio Art between the Fulham Sixth Form Centre and the Henry Compton School for Boys, on Fulham Palace Road.  Although the money was not great, the offer of employment was a godsend given my predicament.  I embraced the opportunity with open arms.  What option did I have?

All this was on the other side of London, which would oblige considerable travel time to and from work each day, if I stayed in St Pauls Road.  But given the change in tack I needed to escape the cold-comfort of my studio.  Thus began the search for affordable accommodation on the other side of town.  Given the radical change in social trajectory, I decided to be kinder on myself this time and setup base in a more gracious precinct. Scouting the transport routes, I selected the territory between Kew Gardens and Richmond Park.  However given my 1styear teacher’s wage, I could only afford a share-household or a bedsit.  After a few sobering days trudging about Richmond Hill I settled on a tawdry room, with a grubby en-suite kitchenette and a share toilet down the hall. The room itself was at least airy; it had a bay window and offered a modicum of privacy.  In time, I would be able to clean it up and give it a modest makeover; but the thought was in no way heartening.  So much so, that when I settled my agreement with my new landlord, I argued for an extra day to organise my bond – despite the fact that I had the cash carefully put aside in an envelope in my pocket.  I was still adjusting to the collapse of a dream.  Nothing the world has to offer, looks much chop to a failed artist.

It was almost dark by the time I got back to St. Pauls Road.  I pushed open the door ready to begin the trek upstairs and found myself distracted by a slip of paper that seemed to be wedged under the door.  Picking it up I recognised it as a note from Graham and paid it no further attention until I had settled into the comfort of a hot cup of tea.

Gary – 

I had a call from Arthur Boyd today.  

He had heard you were working at the gallery. 

He asked if you might call him

ASAP – Ph 0171 267 8304

- Cheers Graham.

Although it was dark, it wasn’t late.  I gulped down the remnants of my cup, grabbed my coat and headed straight out to the nearest phone booth.  Arthur answered – he was warm and said he and Yvonne were in London for the week and asked if I might be able to pay them a visit.  We made an arrangement for the following day - 1:00 pm.

Grove Terrace

This time I found myself in the leafy precinct near Parliament Hill, off Hampstead Heath; in front of another long Georgian Terrace - Grove Terrace.  I knocked on a glossy black door a few times to no avail.  Clearly there was no-one at home.  OK – they might be running late.  I distracted myself with my book sitting in the park opposite for a while before trying again – but still no response.  I hung about a little longer but eventually gave up and had just begun the trek back toward Kentish Town, when a car full of waving arms pulled up beside me.

Profuse apologies ensued, the Boyd’s demobbed and we all bustled upstairs.  Arthur explained his schedule – he needed to check Jamie’s house at the top end of the Heath in Highgate.  Jamie and his wife Helena were overseas at the time.  Perhaps I could come for the drive – it is not far?  On the way out Arthur pushed opened a couple of doors and introduced a couple of spaces. The whole place seemed as if someone had just moved out, leaving the furniture and stuff of life just scattered about.  This bore no relation to the order I’d come to expect of a Boyd house, having lived on their estate in Australia for the last twelve months, where everything was tidy and clean, in a richly bohemian sort of way.

arthur boydArthur explained that they didn’t really like living in London, the house was just a place to stay when they had business in town.  The entire ground floor had been a studio at some point, but appeared to have had been abandoned some years ago.  It had since becoming a dumping ground for disused furniture, art materials and assorted paintings.  It was stacked high with industrial cardboard barrels full of raw pigments in various sizes from 5 – 55 gallon drums.  The paintings did not appear to be Arthur’s but a mixed rack of others.  At the rear, a pair of French windows opened out across an overgrown garden, which seemed to stretch back the length of a small football field with a garden shed collapsing centerfield.

In the trip up Highgate Road to Jamie’s place, we talked briefly about my time at Bundanon.  I expressed my gratitude and apologised for having left a little prematurely.   Without saying much Arthur seemed to understand, obviously his staff had already sent in their reports.  At the top of Highgate Hill we got out at another Georgian estate.  This one was a freestanding house, a bit bigger than the last and backed straight onto Hampstead Heath.  I followed behind Arthur as he checked the locks on various windows and doors.  This place at least felt like a Boyd home - lived in and loved.  Arthur explained it had been their first London house.  What must have originally been a basement flat; now functioned as an archival storage unit for art works and materials; it also housed an industrial air conditioning system.  Arthur checked the gauges and temperatures, adding, ‘in winter pipes can freeze and damp can be a real problem’.  Upstairs was an expansive and homey kitchen-dinning room capable of accommodating an indeterminate number of friends and family.  I noted a small rehearsal room littered with music stands and instruments; violins, a cello.   Back at ground level Arthur opened a small door and we shuffled into what was Jamie’s studio – it looked out to Hampstead Heath and bore all the familiar hallmarks and smells of the Boyd painting processes.  It maintained a consistent tone of deep-grey until Arthur hit the light switch.  A couple of massive light bulbs exploded into light, and what looked be a deep grey turned out an encrustation of muddied pigment accumulated since the late 1950s, which bore traces of every colour in the rainbow.

This was Arthur’s original London studio where he must have painted many of his Bride and Nebuchadnezzar paintings.  It was much smaller than Arthur’s Bundanon studio and in some ways more intense, having already served two generations of Boyd painters.  It was still active; Jamie’s brushes had been left soaking in tubs of gum turpentine, fat tubes of oil paint lolled about the palette in unbranded lead casings, lugubriously thick paintings were scattered about as if still drying.   The smells were intoxicating.  By this time Arthur was opening-out a brace of wooden concertina doors in the back of the studio to reveal a recital room, which under other circumstances might have functioned as a drawing or sitting room. It had a grand piano at the other end, with musical scores in piles on the piano and rows of gilded upright chairs in between.

Arthur had began to reminisce about the time when he first invited a London dealer over to look at his work.  I imagine he was talking about Anton Zwemmer. Arthur was visualising a deep red velvet curtain set up at the end of this recital room with an easel set in front of it and about a hundred paintings stacked behind it.   He had laid out a three-legged table, with a bottle of fine whiskey, a jug of water, a couple of glasses and one comfortable chair.  Zwemmer sat in the chair as Arthur placed each painting, one at a time on the easel, allowing time for comment, before replacing it with the next one and so on. As Arthur explained it - by the time he got through showing the paintings, they had finished the bottle of whiskey.  I must have been standing back quietly imbibing everything nuance of the moment, dreaming my way through Arthur’s story, when I felt something push against my chest.  Arthur was busy trying to stuff something into the inside pocket of my jacket.

‘What’s this?’ I asked, somewhat surprised by this almost affronting act of intimacy.  Arthur quickly explained that he had wanted to thank me for the work I had done at Bundanon the previous year.  ‘Oh no Arthur it is I who should be thanking you’, I explained adding, ‘I am so grateful for the opportunity of being able to paint at Bundanon for that year Arthur – you have no idea what it meant to me’.  By this time I’d managed to retrieve the envelope and realised it was crammed full of fresh fifty-pound notes, in neat stacks bound by rubber bands.

‘Oh No – No’, as if disconcerted by such a gesture, I quickly countered, ‘No Arthur you don’t owe me anything, I have done nothing to deserve this,’ and promptly handed it back to him.  I had heard the stories of Arthur’s generosity, the rumours of a modest madness and figured I was now witnessing both in action.  To be honest I found the entire gesture completely incomprehensible. Arthur pushed it back at me again insisting, ‘No Gary - It is for you.’ and I pushed it back again saying he should be giving it to Jamie – he had a big family to support and surely needed it – adding ‘Life is tough for painters these days, Arthur, things have changed since your days.’

By this time my mind was running amok as if my sense of reality had just been tossed off a cliff, and everything principle I had ever understood had been laid to waste. Nobody ever gave me anything like that before and suddenly I felt like I was having some sort of break down. Arthur stopped for second, I felt his hand on my arm as if he was giving me a reality check; ‘Gary - I wouldn’t be giving it to you if Jamie hadn’t already been well looked after.  You have nothing to worry about – this is for you’. Still I protested.  In retrospect, I think it was me who was touched by a form of madness – I just couldn’t conceive of such a gesture.  Such generosity was completely beyond my ken.

Arthur pulled back a little as if recognising that I had a problem with the idea of gift and quickly reconfigured his story.  Next he was explaining that he had wanted me to do a little job for him.  I began to sober up.  Ah ha here we go; my cynical ‘other’ immediately felt more comfortable.  ‘Yes - Yes’ Arthur continued, ‘We have been so busy and are not going to get time to see the Velazquez retrospective, which is on at the Prado in Madrid.  You know they have collected all of his paintings, from the museums all over the world, for this very first retrospective ever held of his work.  I was hoping you might be able to go over and report on it for me?  The money is to cover your expenses Gary.’  The envelope was by now back in my hands.  I looked at it for a while and suddenly realised he really was mad. ‘Arthur’, I explained, ‘this is more than double what would be required for such a trip’, not wishing to offend him I divided the bills into two and handed half of them back to him, in some sort of tacit agreement that I would undertake his mission.

‘No, No, No’ he insisted pushing the other half of the bills back again, ‘that’s just the half of it’, he continued, ‘then I was hoping you might be able to go onto the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, to report on the Van Gogh Retrospective for me.  This is the one celebrating his centenary, where they have gathered together a large number of his paintings from all over the world.  His drawings are being shown at the Kroller-Muller Museum in Otterlo, near the German border.  I was hoping you might be able to see those exhibitions as well and get back to me. Can you do this for me Gary?’  Well - what can you say to an offer like that?

By this stage it was my sanity that was in doubt.  What the hell was I thinking?  At a time when I was so pitiably humbled, here is someone trying to push a thousand pounds into my pocket and I am unable to accept it.  My response wasn’t a ploy.  In retrospect I can only imagine Arthur’s gift must have disturbed some deeply seated sense of unworthiness; who knows?  By now Arthur was so insistent I put the money back in my pocket if only to placate him, and agreed to undertake his mission.  On the way back to Grove Terrace Arthur intimated that I didn’t have to do the mission if I didn’t want to – but I should take the money.  ‘Perhaps you could … painti… ‘, his voice faultered before petering out.

Getting back down to Grove Terrace, Yvonne had set up for coffee and cake, and while Arthur took a break I found the opportunity to briefly outline the story to Yvonne and handed the envelop back as if Arthur must have suffered a temporary lapse in judgement and I did not want to be accused of taking the advantage. Yvonne looked at the envelope with some surprise, before looking back at me somewhat quizzically asking ‘Did Arthur give this to you?’  ‘Yeah’, I apologised again, to which Yvonne replied ‘well if Arthur gave it to you I imagine he wants you to have it’, and handed the envelope back to me again.

Over coffee Arthur opened another situation he wanted to discuss.  He had already mentioned they didn’t like London; they preferred living in Suffolk.  This meant the house at Grove Terrace was effectively empty, of course some friends and family would occasionally stay over, but mainly it was empty.  The real problem was that some people in the neighborhood had begun to recognize this fact and the house had been broken into - on a number of occasions.  Furniture had begun to disappear; they feared next time someone might just back up a removal van and take the rest of it.

For some time Arthur’s young apprentice, Laith Wark, must have been living at Grove Terrace, but being young he seemed easily seduced into new worlds.  I heard the stories from other sources at the time. Laith had moved out of Grove Terrace to live with his Australian mates in a squat; next he was off to Spain - surfing.  No doubt Arthur’s generosity facilitated such adventures.  Following his Spanish surfing expedition Laith returned to London broke, oblivious to the fact that, unlike Arthur, the British Home Office had no interest in impecunious surfers.  Customs officers asked him where he was staying, he explained he was living in a squat with his mates.  They put him on the next plane back to Australia and so ended his apprenticeship. Grove Terrace had more or less stood unguarded ever since.  I could see their problem.

Arthur took me downstairs and showed me about the basement flat.  It was as if the last inhabitants had left six months ago after a boozy farewell party with no time to clean up.  Mould was taking over from where the last supper left off. I noticed an industrial paint-making machine discarded in a corner of the kitchen.  There was a living-dining room space adjacent to the kitchen bench, next door was a small bedroom with a heroic Spanish wardrobe and low sleeping platform, which looked out across the back garden at eye level.  It even had its own cellar.  It came with central heating and a separate bathroom/toilet, a bath, but no shower - how British.

Arthur asked if he might be able to tempt me to take over the basement, adding seductively ‘You could get on with your work. We would cover all the bills - electricity, gas and telephone.’  I introduced my story and explained that I had already taken a position as a Technology teacher.  ‘That’s no problem’ said Arthur, ‘when can you move in?’  I was in residence by the end of the week.  Arthur and Yvonne had already returned to their place in Ramsholt, Suffolk by then.  It took me a while to clean out the basement to my satisfaction.  Everything needed to be scoured and scrubbed; what couldn’t be cleaned required a fresh coat of paint and if not completely replaced, but eventually I was happily ensconced in my second Boyd residence.  This one was a more or less empty, somewhat derelict five-story Georgian Terrace at Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath. My only question was how long did I have?  Three months, six months, a year, three?  But time proved a question that was impossible to discuss; there was no-one to talk to about it.

I was aware that the sculptor Joel Ellenberg and his wife Anna, who later became the director of the Anna Schwartz Gallery, had lived in Arthur’s house in Tuscany, ‘Il Paretaio’, for several years.  Il Paretaio was the Boyd’s two-story Tuscan stone farm-house complete with a rambling kitchen and many rooms, studios, stables, a swimming pool, vineyards and olive groves.  The Ellenbergs hosted many well-known and unknown visitors over the years they were there including Brett and Wendy Whiteley, Akio Makigawa and Gary Foley to name but a few.  After Joel died of cancer, Arthur offered ‘Il Paretaio’ to the Australia Council to manage. Over the next fifteen years the Australia Council offered short residencies to a wide selection of Australian artists including; Janine Burke, Tony Clark, Dom De Clario, Rosslynd Piggot, Elizabeth Gower and John Neeson etc. Clearly Arthur and Yvonne were extraordinarily generous people and I felt touched, as if Arthur really was some sort of a saint.

School proved all consuming; it took me an hour and half to get to school in the morning, then teaching all day between two schools, to be followed by my studies with the National Curriculum Program, a further hour and a half back home again, a hasty meal and time for my lesson preparations for the next day, and finally to bed.  At Grove Terrace I was on the precipice of an enormous opportunity as an artist but I had no time to paint.  I felt trapped, but there was nothing I could do about it.  My time had already been committed – I'd just become a Technology teacher.


To Be Continued.

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M.B.T.I. celebrates its 70th birthday - in Shanghai

Can you believe it? It’s been 90 years since Carl Jung’s ‘Theory of Psychological Type’ was first published in English in 1923, and 70 years since Katherine Cook-Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers, patented the M.B.T.I.® psychometric instrument: The following review is my way celebrating its 90 years of development.


‘Psychologische Typen’ published Zurich; Carl Jung -1921  

Around the turn of the 19th - 20th century, Jung had been Sigmund Freud’s ‘adopted eldest son, his crown Prince and successor’ before fundamental differences came to light. Recognizing disparities between the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud and his colleague Alfred Adler as type antagonisms, ‘Freud's view is essentially extraverted, Adler's introverted’, Jung stepped back from their respective theories of our behavioral drivers (Freud ‘repressed sexuality’ - Adler ‘inferiority complex’) and developed a more comprehensive model of psychological type modeled on conflict patterns he had observed within the psychoanalytic movement itself. Freud literally collapsed when Jung first tabled this theory of type difference, in 1912.

Whilst Freud, the committed atheist, railed against religion as the nexus of neurosis, Jung immersed himself in a ‘big picture’ survey of religious mythology; Gnosticism, Greek myths, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Medieval legends, Alchemy, Astrology, Tarot, I Ching, Tao, Yoga, etc.  It was this anthropological overview that enabled Jung to develop his theories of ‘collective unconscious’ and psychological type. However this humanist immersion in cross-cultural spiritual knowledge earned Jung the dubious title of ‘mystic’, a problematic nomenclature for the increasingly analytic scientific community. Given the rift between Jung and Freud, the onset of WW1, Jung spent the post-war years in isolation dealing with his own ‘confrontations with the unconscious’ developing his methodology of ‘active hallucination’, and transcribed his visions and theories into his illuminated manuscript – ‘The Red Book’.

It would seem that Jung’s work is currently in the midst of something of a revival. In 2009 Jung’s ‘The Red Book’ was published, for the first time, inspiring a series of exhibitions around the globe on this aspect of Jung’s work, not least of all the 55th Venice Biennale this year. Entitled ‘The Encyclopedic Palace’, the current Venice Biennale presents Jung’s ‘The Red Book’ as the axis of their exhibition and Jung as the exemplar the exhibitions stated themes; ‘the desire to know everything’ and ’the transformative power of the imagination’.[1] Equally, the psychology industry has noted the revived use of Myers Briggs Type Indicator (M.B.T.I.®); the psychometric assessment instrument derived from Jung’s 1921 theory of ‘Psychologische Typen’.

Jung's Red book -1914-30 published 2009Jung's Redbook - Illuminated page Dragon

Katharine Cook-Briggs, a voracious reader of psychoanalytic theory coming out of Vienna at the turn of the 19th - 20th century, was amongst the first to read Jung’s theory of ‘Psychological Type’ when it was published in English in 1923. Following the horrors of WW1 Katherine felt inspired to develop Jung’s theory of type in a bid avoid further conflict of such a scale.  Katherine’s fascination with Jung’s theory of type was complimented by her daughter’s interest in the subject. It wasn’t long before their system of cards, recording and cross-referencing classifications of type took over their living room. Just six years later, in 1929 Katherine’s inventive daughter, Isabel Briggs-Myers, who had a B.A. in a political science, published her murder mystery novel ‘Murder Yet to Come’, based on their developing theories of type. The novel won the American ‘National Murder Mystery Contest’ that year. By 1943 Katherine and Isabel had taken out copyright on the first state of what is now known as the M.B.T.I. - their offering for ‘world peace’.

What followed are evolutionary layers of development for the psychometric Instrument. Working intensely over the next twenty years, Isabel developed her theories with the support of the head of personnel with a large Philadelphian bank. Isabel went on to test her theories on thousands of high school students, with a longitudinal study across Pennsylvania State, before she was offered the opportunity to work with the medical students at George Washington Medical School, in Washington D.C., developing her understanding of the implications of the instrument with both successful students and dropouts alike. Isabel’s daughter recalls that her mother ‘worked on it from early in the morning until she went to bed at night’.

The first M.B.T.I. manual was published in 1962 and first Japanese translation published in 1968. In 1975 Isabel, by then in her late seventies, established the ‘Centre for Applications of Psychological Type’ (C.A.P.T.), a non-profit research organization and awarded the exclusive publishing rights for the M.B.T.I. to Stanford University’s Professor John Black’s publishing company; now ‘Consulting Psychologists Press’ (C.P.P.). In 1982, the first M.B.T.I. training program was approved. In 1998 the instrument was revised to include the Step II, with new psychometric methods and computer scoring. In 2009 the complete on-line program was released and the Step III tool was developed.

Today the M.B.T.I. is available in 24 different languages, as many as 2 million assessments are administered each year.  

'The Age’ late last year, reported that in the U.S.A. alone, employees from most of the ‘Fortune 500’ companies, more than 2,500 colleges & universities, 200 government agencies, including the C.I.A. and the U.S. military, have implemented M.B.T.I programs; ‘There’s a story that goes around that says if you’ve risen to the rank of major in the Army (U.S.), you’ve taken the M.B.T.I. at least once.’ For many the M.B.T.I. represents the gold standard of psychometric testing.[2]

Although the Briggs-Myers family retain a financial interest in the M.B.T.I., the instrument is now administered by a public company, C.P.P. The current chairman of the C.P.P. board of directors is the academic psychologist Carl Thorensen (Ph. D), Professor Emeritus of Education and Psychology and Psychiatry/Behavioral Science at Stanford University, who has been an active board member for more than 30 years and the chairman since 1985. However, despite Thorensen’s considerable academic standing, he has not published on the M.B.T.I. within his scientific community. Although he regularly uses the instrument within his corporate consultancy practice, Thorensen doesn’t use the M.B.T.I. within his research, as he explains it ‘in part because it would be questioned by my academic colleagues’; it raises an issue of ‘conflict of interest’. But here lies the challenge facing the M.B.T.I.

Over the years the Myers-Briggs theory of type has had its detractors. The Christian community has expressed concerns that the M.B.T.I. is derived from the theories of Jung, which opens the door to what Rev. Ed Hird, a past chairman of the Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada, called hard-core Jungian gnostic concerns.[3] Thomas Kirsch, a Jewish Jungian psychoanalyst, details the marginalization of all Jungian schools of thought by the predominantly Jewish, Freudian psychoanalytic community in post-WWII America. ‘Being a Jungian analyst one ran the risk of not being able to earn a living.’ Needless to say this shadow of anti-Jungian thought extended to the M.B.T.I.[4]   

Scientific skeptics consider the Myers-Briggs a ‘pseudo science’, a practice based on belief rather than empirical evidence, whilst the research of Katherine and Isabel has been historically demeaned as the work of amateurs; ‘Neither Katherine nor Isabel had any scientific qualifications in the field of psychometric testing’. However as Robyn Dawes, Professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, writing for European Business Forum, pointed out that many of the criticisms leveled at the M.B.T.I. come down to questions regarding its pre-scientific origins, but rarely take into account its usefulness.

Although the M.B.T.I. might not be the instrument of preference for a clinical psychologist, many family, community counseling and organizational psychologists engage the M.B.T.I. as the first step in the process of helping clients choose the right career, negotiate complex family issues, develop team performance or save a relationship in trouble. Oxford, Harvard, Melbourne, Monash, La Trobe, A.N.U., all offer psychometric testing for their students. You can get a Ph.D in Psychometrics from a number of universities including Cambridge, University College London or U.C.L.A.

This year M.B.T.I. has been celebrating its 70th birthday and I was fortunate to be able to attend the M.B.T.I. Conference in Shanghai, China in September 2013.


Rrit-Carlton Hotel - Conference Room - Pudong- Shanghai


Facilitated by Shanping Wang, the Managing Director of the Chinese business development and executive coaching company ‘Skill & Will’, many of the key M.B.T.I. and C.P.P. representatives made presentations; Naomi Quenck, psychologist, co-author of M.B.T.I. Step I, II & III manuals and several books on the subject; C.P.P., C.E.O., Jeff Hayes; C.P.P., Director of International Business Development, Michelle Johnson; C.P.P., Vice President of International Business, Andrew Bell; C.P.P., Director of Research, Dr. Rich Thomson: C.P.P., Asia-Pacific Managing Director, Cameron Nott; C.P.P., Divisional Director of Professional Services and International Training, Dr. Martin Boult; the C.E.O. of Oxford Psychology Publishing, Penny Moyle. Contributing speakers came from all over the globe; China of course, Singapore, India, Korea, South Africa, Mexico, Britain, America & Australia.

The companies represented by speakers included: Bao Steel, China; Hutchison Port Holdings, Global; Anahat Organization, India; McDonald’s University, China; Raffles Institution, Singapore; Michelin, China; Assessta, Korea; AstraZaneca, China; JvR Psychometrics, South Africa; Amway, China; Human Development Solutions, Mexico; Career Consulting & Mentoring, China. Of course there were many companies represented by the hundreds attending the conference, including: Rio Tinto, China; Business Performance Coaching Australia (B.P.C.A.), etc. Needless to say the M.B.T.I. is a global tool and looking toward an expanding future over the next few decades.


MBTI Celebrity types


In Shanghai, Dr. Rich Thompson, the research director of C.P.P. announced a research push over the next few years, pulling together literally millions of cases that C.P.P. research has amassed over the last 70 years, making them available to publishable research projects for top-tier psychological journals. Although there has been an expanding growth in articles published on the M.B.T.I. since the early 1960s, the biggest challenge facing the instrument is the lack of support from the psychology and scientific communities.

The M.B.T.I. is ‘a well-persons instrument’ used to develop self-awareness and more effective relationships; it has never been concerned with abnormal psychological behaviors that preoccupy clinical psychologists. ‘Bell curve’ trait theory on which deviations from normality are calibrated (abnormal – normal - subnormal), is not part of the M.B.T.I. lexicon. Rather M.B.T.I. uses a non-judgmental splitting system focused on determining ‘type’ preferences; much like determining left or right-handedness.

Whilst the Extravert/Introvert – Sensing/Intuition – Thinking/Feeling – Judging/Perceiving divisions sound neat, there remains a question regarding whether the mind actually sorts experience in this way.

Many are skeptical. Neural pathways prove more complex and charged than the simple binary sorting systems simulated by 20th century computing.  Neuropeptides pulse through our bodies binding, or not, into a field of receptors, filtering, storing, learning, remembering and repressing complex responses. As the late Dr. Candace Pert, the research professor of Physiology and Biophysics, known for her discovery of opiate receptors in the brain puts it;

‘Emotions are constantly regulating what we experience as “reality.” The decision about what sensory information travels to your brain, and what gets filtered out, depends on what signals the receptors are receiving from the peptides.’[5]


Neuropeptides are chains of amino acids, which bind to receptors inside our cell structures generating complex circuits of response in our mind/body.


Whilst it is impossible to model individual brain function with a simple pattern, Dario Nardi (Ph.D), research fellow at University of California, Los Angeles, working on the Neuroscience of Personality, has been mapping ways in which different brains respond to similar stimulus. Tabulating which areas of the brain are activated in response to processing challenges, as well as the specific levels of response, recorded in color codes.[6]

Dr. Dario Nardi - sample

Working with his students, Dr. Nardi has recognized certain patterns of response, which he gives names such as the ‘Christmas Tree brain’ - the ‘Blue Zen brain’, etc., as different types respond to predetermined challenges. For example, what he refers to as the ‘Christmas Tree brain’ activates as brisk cross-firing backwards and forth across multiple regions of the brain, generating fast and sometimes contradictory responses as the brain networks for rapid response. This is what Nardi calls ‘trans-contextual thinking processes’ commonly noted in ENTP & ENFP types.

By contrast consider what he calls the ‘Blue Zen brain’, which activates as a low-level and even hum across all areas of the brain associated with internal processing, in consideration of unfamiliar, complex or novel problems such as envisioning the future. This ‘Blue Zen brain’ is often observed in INFJ & INTJ types as they engage their characteristically visionary style of creative problem solving.


ENFP Christmas Tree brainINFP - Blue Zen brain


Dr. Nardi’s research is, as yet, developmental and far from conclusive. His sample subjects have been predominantly drawn from his student base; largely twenty something’s. Nardi’s recent research evidences the mind is capable of change, re-routing neural patterns in response to the work we do and further, that the mind develops over time. Then there are the differences between left and right-hander responses; evidence suggests left-handed people have not simply developed reverse pattern responses to the right-handers, but often developed profoundly different response patterns.

All this raises the perennial question of reliability, consistency. How consistent are our preferences? At origin, the M.B.T.I. preference system is based on the analogy that although we have two hands – left and right – from an early age we tend to have made an instinctive choice about which hand is dominant and continue to preference this choice, left or right-handedness, for the rest of our lives. This does not mean that we are lop-sided or that we are incapable of using the other hand, or even that being, say left-handed, means we use our left hand well.  It just means we have developed an instinctive preference for using our left hand. So begins the division of our Extraversion/Introversion – Sensing/Intuition – Thinking/Feeling – Judging/Perceiving preferences.

A recent article ‘Have we all been duped by the Myer’s Briggs test?’ published in Fortune magazine by Roman Krznaric puts the test-retest reliability factor at 50%, as if our conceptual preferences either mutually exclusive or for that matter, arbitrary. By analogy that our left or right-handedness is undifferentiated, that we all switch backwards and forth between our left and right hands with equal dexterity.[7] Dr. Rich Thompson, challenges Krznaric’s statistics arguing that although the M.B.T.I. is not without its critics, ‘it has withstood 50 years of scientific scrutiny’. The Myers-Briggs ‘has been cited and reviewed thousands of times’. Thompson puts the test-retest correlations in the range of 57% - 81%, which he argues ‘is considered quite good for psychometric assessments’.[8]

MBTI Reliability Retest Stats

Most importantly the ‘preference clarity index’ (P.C.I.) will tell you whether your preference is equivocal. For those interested in the detail, below are C.P.P.’s statistics.[9]

MBTI PCI index

Dr. David Pittenger, Dean of Liberal Arts at Marshall University, Virginia U.S.A., in his ‘Cautionary Comments Regarding the Myers-Briggs Inventory’ shares Krznaric’s concern for the reliability of the re-test rate, a criticism, which C.P.P. claims is misinformation.[10] Pittenger’s other concern is that Myers-Briggs is now popular for being so popular, that its early success has bred further success, but it might not be relevant to contemporary culture.

Dr. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist hailed as one of the world’s top 40 business professors under the age of 40, is the first to acknowledge business success is dependent on how we interact with others. However in his article in Psychology Today, ‘Goodbye MBTI; The Fad That Won’t Die’, Grant publically terminated his relationship with the M.B.T.I. declaiming it as ‘about as useful as a polygraph for detecting lies’.[11]

In his article Grant introduces himself as an INTJ; that is Introverted rather than Extraverted, iNtuitive rather than Sensing, Thinking rather than Feeling, Judging(decisive) rather than Perceiving. He digresses to revel in his reading for a moment, before declaring that a couple of months later he took the test again only to find he came out ESFP, which completely reverses every single one of his preferences.

Having worked with the instrument myself for the last couple of years and guided some 50 - 60 clients through their M.B.T.I. assessments, I must confess I find such a complete about-turn of type somewhat surprising. It suggests to me, a flippant relationship to the process or a sign that the subject could be trying to second guess outcomes. The M.B.T.I. handbook would put this down to answering questions randomly, maybe immature or lacking self-knowledge or more likely - the test had not been conducted with due diligence.

Completing the questionnaire and receiving the M.B.T.I. report is just the beginning of the process. Having answered the questionnaire the subject has in effect entered blind through the front end of a maze. The subject still has to complete the verification process where they are introduced, wide-eyed to the implications of their preference choices from the back-end of the system.  Finally, the subject is encouraged to self-verify on the basis of their overview of the process. I personally cannot imagine any psychometric instrument could ever be capable of accurately tabulating emotional intelligence (E.I.). That having been said, random ‘whatever’ preferences have nothing to do with the M.B.T.I. that I know.

Dr. Grant admits if the work is not data-driven, he’s skeptical, that he never put much stock in psychoanalysis, Jungian or Freudian. ‘Freud would always say that whatever is going on with you can be traced back to something that happened early in childhood with your mother’, which Grant explained to the New York Times Magazine, ‘You can either accept that or be in denial. You can’t win!’ Psychotherapy, psychometrics and neuroscience can no longer be conflated into one single discipline as they might have been in Jung’s time but rather have all expanded into independent disciplines; each with its own merit and function. The function of the M.B.T.I. is to illuminate self-awareness and understanding of difference in the interactive process of working toward optimum outcomes.

Dr. Grant goes onto extol the virtues of two other psychometric instruments; Big Five and HEXACO, which he explains have evolved out of neuroscience research and brain mapping. One of the critical differences between these instruments is that they both plot ‘trait’ on a scaled continuum whereas M.B.T.I. defines ‘type’ in terms of a splitting division, a dichotomous preference. Contravening preference theory, Dr. Grant locates himself centrally as an ‘ambivert’, neither an extravert nor an introvert and goes onto collapse the idea of preference, arguing that thinking and reasoning skills enhance emotional recognition and human understanding.

In his rebuttal of Dr. Grant’s critique, Dr. Rich Thompson restates the statistics on validity and reliability reports available in peer reviewed journals before going on to remind us that a ‘T’ thinking preference does not exempt a ‘F’ feeling response or vice versa, nor does it indicate ‘good thinking’ or ‘balanced feeling’ response, only that we are predisposed to make our considerations inline with our natural preferences. He also points out that the lower the preference clarity index (P.C.I.) the more unstable the preference: conversely, the higher the P.C.I. the greater the likelihood of preference stability in a retest.[12]

Quite significantly Thompson highlight the challenge, which faces leadership in any field, namely the competition, the ‘knock-off’ and the fake. Of course, many organizational psychologists develop their own products and why wouldn’t you; even a small percentage of those 2 million assessments could add up to an awful lot of business. Even Dr. Nardi has developed the Nardi Personality Indicator (N.P.I.) based on the M.B.T.I. There are many psychometric diagnostics on the market some more comprehensive than others;

Activity vector analysis (A.V.A.); Belbin Team Role – Self Perception Inventory (B.T.R. – S.P.I.); Bem Sex Role Inventory (B.S.R.I.); Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scales (D.A.S.S.); Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, & Conscientiousness (D.I.S.C.); Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (E.R.Q.); Five Factor Model (F.F.M. - Big Five); Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO-B); Herman Brain Dominance Instrument (H.B.D.I.); Hare Psychopathy Checklist (P.C.L. -R.); HEXACO P.I. –R.; Hogan Personality Inventory (H.P.I.); Jackson Personality Inventory (J.P.I. – R.); Life Status Questionnaire L.S.Q.; Motive, Values, Preferences Inventory; Nardi Personality Indicator (N.P.I.); Newcastle Personality Assessor (N.P.A.); N.E.O. Personality Inventory; Ravens’ Progressive Matrices; Robin Hood Morality Test; Rorschach Inkblot Test; Sales Preference Questionnaire S.P.Q.-Gold; Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales (S.B.I.S.); Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (T.E.I.Q.); Taylor & Johnson Temperament Analysis;16 Personality Factors (16 P.F.); 15 Factor Questionnaire Plus (15F.Q.+); etc. the list goes on.

Clearly there is a need for such instruments, however, although many argue psychometric instruments can produce both valid and reliable outcomes, as far as I am concerned the measurement of psychological response is far from an exact science. Man is not a machine. Individuals process information and experience in profoundly different ways and evolve complex neurological responses. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) might well belong to science but Emotional Intelligence (E.I.) is perhaps better understood as an art.

Trisha Avery, the director of ‘Business Performance Coaching Australia’ (B.P.C.A.) came to coaching from a background in Psychotherapy and Counseling and has been working with the M.B.T.I. since the end of last century. Avery argues the Step II process enables her client’s an opportunity for an articulate dialogue around their decision-making processes and some self-reflectivity around decision making and interactive behaviors with colleagues and partners. In coaching there is no such thing as a ‘silver-bullet’ solution, and B.P.C.A. programs eventually move into the existential interface of ‘one-on-one’ coaching. Avery values the M.B.T.I.® instrument for its ability to open-up sensitive issues and establish a platform of language to address broader business and performance perspectives.

Dr. Naomi Quenck, also in Shanghai to celebrate the 70th year of the M.B.T.I., pointed out in her paper that we all possess complex sensibilities but in order to function effectively it is to our advantage to work with our preferences. At a certain point you might have become a scientist, an artist or an athlete, but in order to succeed as a brain surgeon it is to your advantage to commit to its discipline. Dr. Quenck argues it is the same with personality preferences; for example we have both thinking and feeling sensibilities but equivocation does not always serve us well. We can use a thinking model to assess the implications of feeling options and vice versa – but it is to our advantage to develop the strength of our natural preferences.

Needless to say many of the speakers at the M.B.T.I. conference in Shanghai were concerned with business performance issues which stem from self-awareness; intra-personal intelligence, the development of personal & corporate potential and global perspectives.

Changdeng Qin, the president of BaoSteel’s ‘Training Development Institute’, has ushered well over 1,000 staff through M.B.T.I. programs, including; team building, conflict management and leadership development. For Changdang the objective of the M.B.T.I. program is to motivate and inspire best performance from his teams, although for BaoSteel the evaluation process is integral to their promotional system. Following graduation from university and three years working with BaoSteel, ‘high-potential talent’ is ushered through their ‘Green Apple’ program. After a further three years the best are selected for the ‘Golden Apple’ teams - ten teams in all.  In this way Baosteel develop core values within their leadership; global perspectives, strategic thinking, entrepreneurial skills, creativity, comprehensive moral & cultural values as well as what they call ‘influence’, by which they mean ‘mentoring and coaching skills’. Baosteel’s talent evaluation program includes employee satisfaction reports. As Qin puts it ‘No evaluation – no motivation|No assessment – No management’.

The C.E.O. of Ernst and Young, Mark Weinberger, will tell you the world is becoming more competitive and for many companies this has justified staffing cuts. However the recent Ernst & Young report on new strategies for growth within globalized markets, predict a significant shortage of competent senior managers in the near future.[13] Whilst many companies are shedding staff to retain their competitive edge, despite high unemployment E&Y predict a talent gap at a senior management level, as rapid growth markets open up.

"It's the same problem whether you are in India, Belgium or Japan: a shortage and mismatch of key skills," says Jeff Joerres, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ManpowerGroup. "According to our research, one in three employers globally is currently experiencing difficulties filling positions due to a lack of available talent - good people are hard to find. These findings resonate with our survey respondents. They say that they are much more likely to find difficulties with recruiting and retaining senior managers in rapid-growth markets than they are in developed ones."

Different companies are taking different approaches to deal with the challenges of global business, but whichever way you look at it globalization is re-shaping the world in which we work and global business need to attract, develop and retain their talent. Some companies are relocating executives into fast-growth markets whilst others are decentralizing decision-making authority to managers on the ground. Increasingly, executive leaders are working with cross-cultural staff and this raises issues for both team development and individual performance.

As companies move into new and rapidly developing markets, leadership is faced with changing conditions. Where once leadership was a matter of effective teaching, instruction, training, today the emphasis has shifted from the development of the known to the challenge of growth within the unknown. It is within the spectrum of the unknown, that managers can find themselves confused about their roles and responsibilities.

Rosy Pang, Senior Manger of Organization and Management Development at Hutchison Port Holdings (H.P.H.), opened her paper at the M.B.T.I. Conference in Shanghai with a tale of failure. Before H.P.H. introduced the M.B.T.I. coaching programs, management had been focused on what she called the management-centered directives of ‘tell and sell’. What the M.B.T.I. program opened up was a profoundly different approach to the responsibilities of management: essentially management as a recipient-centered enabling process to facilitate and draw out ‘solution-driven’ practice.  In this model management is better positioned to work with and even anticipate the needs and reactions of their colleagues; shaping and developing coachee’s approaches to problem solving working with their own motivational styles.

As I sat under my headset at the M.B.T.I. Conference in Shanghai, listening to the interpreters translating the various papers into English, I was given to reflect on how the M.B.T.I. was already functioning as a cross-cultural tool, enabling participants from all over the globe to discuss and develop ideas about better business performance from a globalized perspective.

At the M.B.T.I. conference held in Miami in July 2013 Betsy Kendall, Chief Operating Officer at O.P.P. referencing Philippe Rosinski’s ‘Cultural Orientations Framework’ questionnaire and his book ‘Coaching across Cultures’, reported that from a data sample of almost 1,000 cross-cultural participants, the M.B.T.I. is a more accurate indicator of cultural orientation than the cultural orientation from country of residence.[14]

Although cultural stereotypes might suggest, for example, the Germans tend to be more direct in their communications, preferencing precision and clarity, whilst the Japanese might prefer an indirect approach to negotiations, for reasons of tact and subtlety, Kendall argues Myers-Briggs type preferences offer a more accurate gauge of cultural response, ‘ENFP is likely to have more in common with another ENFP from a different country than they do with, say, an ISTJ in their own culture’.  Operating, as we do, within an increasingly globalized world, we begin to understand the value of the M.B.T.I. as a comprehensive instrument capable of bridging national differences and opening up communications across cultures.  Where global leadership is increasingly faced with complex cross-cultural challenges, Rosinski’s research challenges cultural assumptions and offers solutions, which enable management to bridge cultural gaps.

In this light I began to glean some insight into how the M.B.T.I. functions to both open up issues around personal performance preferences as well as team discussion around communication, conflict and creativity issues. The M.B.T.I. models and challenges the blind spots facing team intra-relationship in terms of type preferences.

Now 100 years since Sigmund Freud collapsed on hearing Jung’s theory of ‘type differences’; 90 years since Carl Jung’s ‘Theory of Psychological Type’ was first published in English; 70 years since Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers took out their patent on the M.B.T.I. instrument, the Myers-Briggs proves to be still one of the most coherent psychometric instruments on the market for organizational psychology.

In an increasingly globalized world, where cultural differences and conflicting management styles can present significant challenges for organizational structures, perhaps Katherine and Isabel’s offering for ‘world peace’ might be worthy of review.

Gary Willis (Ph.D) – Melbourne 2013.

[1] It is interesting to note some of the other ‘artists’ selected for the Venice Biennale this year; Rudolph Steiner with the blackboards he used to illustrate his lectures on spirituality – a big influence on Joseph Beuys’s blackboards; Marino Auriti whose patented ‘Palazzo Encyclopedico’ a model for a museum designed to contain a complete history of world knowledge; Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, whose his card systems of ‘World Knowledge’ are derived from the oral folklore and visionary experience of Bété knowledge; Robert Crumb of ‘Zap Comix’ fame, with his graphic interpretation of ‘The Bible’; Alistair Crowley the Satanist, with Frieda Harris and their ‘Thoth Tarot’. At issue is art as an alternative approach to the production of knowledge.

[2] Lillian Cunningham, “Does it pay to know your own type?” Washington Post, December 14th 2012, (accessed November 13, 2013)

[3] Rev. Ed Hird, (Past National Chair of the ARM Canada) ‘Carl Jung, Neo Gnosticism and the M.B.T.I.’ - (accessed November 13, 2013).

[4] Thomas Kirsch, “Reflections on the word Jungian” chapter 17 in ‘Cultures and Identities in Transition; Jungian Perspectives’ Ed. Murray Stein & Raya A. Jones, (New York; Routledge 2010) P 193.

[5]  Candace B. Pert, ‘Biochemical of Emotion: A Continued Lecture’ chapter 7 “Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body” (New York, N.Y.; Scribner, 1997)

[6] Dario Nardi, “Neuroscience of Personality: Brain Savvy Insights for All Types of People”,(Radiance House,  L.A. 2011)

[7] Roman Krznaric, “Have we all been duped by the Myers-Brigs test?”,Fortune magazine May 15, 2013. (accessed November 14, 2013)

[8] Dr. Rich Thompson “No we have not been duped by the world’s most popular personality instrument” May 17 2013 (accessed November 13, 2013)

[9]  Isabel Briggs Myers, Mary H. McCauley, Naomi Quenck, Allen Hammer, ‘Reliability and Measurement Precision’ chapter 8 “M.B.T.I. Manual” (Mountain View, California, CPP, 2009) Pp 159 – 169.

[10] David J. Pittenger, Consulting Psychology Journal; Practice and Research Vol 57 (3) 2005 Pp 210-221. American Psychological Association, (accessed November 14, 2013)

[11] Adam Grant, “Goodbye to the MBTI; The fad that won’t die” Psychology Today September 18, 2013. (accessed November 14, 2013)

[12] Rich Thompson, “The Myers-Briggs Assessment is No Fad – It’s a Research-Based Instrument That Delivers Results” C.P.P. Blog. September 192013; (accessed November 15, 2013)

[13] Ernst & Young online magazine, Business Environment; “Globalization and new strategies for growth - The world is bumpy” (accessed November 15 , 2013)

[14]  Philippe Rosinski & Co ‘Cultural Orientation Framework’ questionnaire available online (accessed Nov 15, 2013)

Philippe Rosinski ‘Coaching Across Cultures’ (London, Nicholas Brealy 2003.) (accessed Nov 15, 2013)


Current painting - work in progress