Hi Gregory, congratulations on passing your viva! How does it feel?!

Thank you, it feels lovely.  Even though I have work (minor amendments) to complete, it’s great to have gotten this far and fulfilled the promise that I made to my family, friends and to myself.

What was your PhD title?

Touching Topography: Negotiating Landscape Encounters with ‘Several Parts’ of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Can you explain in a couple of sentences what your PhD was about?

The project was a fully-funded (AHRC) collaborative PhD, carried out in conjunction with the Wye Valley AONB Management Team (based in Monmouth, Gwent).  The investigative project developed from my position as an artist, concerned with emotional materiality, and the fact the research location has been popular with the visually literate for nearly two hundred and fifty years.  My enquiries aimed to physically broaden the perceived visual parameters of the ‘Picturesque’ movement, an art category established in the Wye Valley, and considered the role of living artists as sensorially attuned arbiters for a new era of landscape interactions.

Can you sum up your PhD experience in three words?

Challenging

Emotional

Transformative

What was the viva like?

It was a really positive experience. The panel were benevolent and challenging in equal measure and by the end of it I was convinced they were on my side.

What are your top tips to someone preparing for their viva?

Know the main project aims of your thesis and your contribution to knowledge.  Instead of re-reading your thesis in the morning before the event, do something active; maybe go for a walk, bicycle ride or a run.  Treat yourself to some food you like before the Viva, and try not to talk about the occasion too much on the day; in my experience, this can only wind up the anxiety!  In the Viva itself, take your time in answering the questions and don’t be afraid to verbally disagree with the panel – this is your chance to fight for change!

Any advice you’d tell your earlier PhD self now you’ve made it to the other side?

Good question but I wouldn’t say anything.  I’m here now and exist as a result of the experience I have been through. I am more resilient and tenacious as a result of the time spent doing the PhD and I will always be able to draw upon the fact that I completed something that at times I thought I would never finish.

What are you up to now and any exciting plans for the future?

I am going to start making again. Re-connect with the wider (academic and social) world and pro-actively search out exhibition opportunities.  I have enjoyed speaking about my work all over the UK, so I would like to continue writing, meeting people through attending symposia and conferences and present abroad at some point.  Finally, I want to return to Japan, I haven’t been there since 2012; I miss the people and place so much but I have plans to work there in a collaborative capacity, sometime soon.

Please add anything else if you’d like:

It has been rewarding to know that becoming a Dr has made some of my friends and family really happy.  Doing a PhD is the hardest thing that I have ever done and only they know the full extent of how far the process has stretched me.  I have been touched by their support and understanding but feel thrilled when they have told me that, as a result of my example, they now feel inspired to do something they fear.

Thanks so much for your time Gregory, we wish you all the best for the future!

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