Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 14. 1967.
Art scope needed
Art scope needed
In Considering fine arts activities around the university it is interesting and disappointing to note that in the last four years there have been three exhibitions of University painters held on the campus 'excluding Arts Festival)—two of them this year.
The first exhibition this year was held in the Library Exhibition Area just after study week and was of paintings and drawings by Angela Behrens, Peter Wichman and myself (therefore no comment). It was interesting to note however, that this was the first time that this "area" had been used for the purpose for which it was designed three years ago. (There had been an earlier showing of photographs by the Greek Department).
The second "exhibition" this year was held shortly after in the Activities Room and put on by the combined Literary and Pooh Clubs, The purpose of this exhibition appears to have been to arouse humour but backed by several serious contributions. The overall result was successful in attracting attention to itself but artistically a flop.
Certain forms of "art" require a peculiar sense of humour and the contributions of Denis List attempted this. Unfortunately there are still two further requisites for the success of this media—first, originality and, secondly, some artistic ability. Mr. List failed on account of these; his ideas were on tile whole unoriginal, copying the French "gimmickest" Marcel Duchamp, and lacked even amateur finesse. One of his works however that does deserve mention is his Madonna with Julius Caesar.
The more serious works came from the Polytech School of Design and were commercial designs—designed to please but lack any serious content. They were screen prints, fabric prints, lithographs, monographs and other types of graphs. One serious painting entry was a watercolour, Wellington Harbour By Night by Rex Jones. Although the work had some interesting and well executed parts, as a whole ft lacked a sophisticated technique which could be due to its hurried execution.
Preceding this exhibition in the Activities Room were two exhibitions of prints (reproductions). The first was of French Impressionists and the second of Contemporary Czech painters. Although, owing to our artistic isolation, prints can often be interesting and useful, their merit in exhibition is doubtful. Art books almost always contain several and. moreover, the artist and his work are not represented fairly.
One exhibition which attracts very little attention is that comprising the University's permanent collection, most of which hangs in the library, There is no point in reviewing them for it is permanently on display but it is perhaps interesting to note a few points regarding the selection and the works themselves.
The works are purchased by a committee which consists of a representative of the teaching staff, a council member, and the Director of the National Gallery. Although the staff member of the committee is interested in promoting such cultural activity around the University, the rest of the committee are extremely uninterested and this has been transferred into the works purchased. "Safe names" have been bought with little regard to the works. Another limiting factor is probably the finance available but why have they paid $200 each for a Binney, Bird and a McCahon, Tennis Ladder. On the other hand a few very pleasing and interesting works have been purchased, Don Peebles, Louise Henderson and Eric LeeJohnson figuring among these.
On the whole, however, it appears to have been names that have influenced purchase. Not that these artists are not worth having but if finance is a limiting factor then choice is reduced to the artists' lesser works as appears to be the case. Names that appear are Bare, T. A. McCormack, Lee-Johnson, Helen Stewart, McCahon, Binney, Olds, Drawbridge, Woolaston, Evelyn Page, Susan Goldberg, Freda Simmons, McDiarmid and Louise Henderson. All are well established artists and mainly from the Auckland International School. Not all are displayed in the library but they are also in the Hunter Building, the Music Room and Weir House.
Other activity in the fine arts around the campus is non-existent. On inquiry it was found that there are several painters and students interested in painting but unsure of how to go about it. Why then has there been no club established to cater for these students? No encouragement has been received from the "top officials"—the cultural affairs officer forgot to ask if any painters were interested in Arts Festival!
One attempt was made earlier this year by a group of enthusiasts. Future plans were discussed but lapsed due to no strong incentives or objectives. They were undecided as to whether it (a club) should incorporate all fine arts activities or Just the practical side. It is the tendency of people, and students in particular, to say they "don't understand modern art" which stems from apprehension at being proved wrong over the "meaning" of an abstract painting. If a club were formed students could be helped to forget such ridiculous notions.
Personally I think that a club should be formed and take as its objectives the furthering of the fine arts in the University, and specially an understanding of painting (this helps avoid potters' unions). A committee (unfortunately) would need to be arranged which could encourage discussions and lectures on points, periods and artists of interest. They should also encourage practical activities by finding a studio where studentartists could work together and hire models and tutors. However it should remain primarily a student organ and keep in touch with student needs and not be autonomous and aloof.
M. J. R. Gaffikin.