Design Review: Volume 3, Issue 3 (November- December 1950)
Craft at the Academy
Craft at the Academy
The top photograph shows part of the pottery section. Typography and bookcraft are shown in the bottom photograph. The illustrations on the wall are by George Woods.
During August of this year the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts staged a Craft Exhibition. Craftsmen throughout New Zealand were invited to exhibit, and so the result might be regarded as presenting a pretty representative indication of the state of Craft in the Dominion. On the whole the effort was successful. The most encouraging features were probably the surprisingly keen interest taken in the Exhibition and the fact that at least some of the work was outstandingly good. Those few outstanding people are very important, for they set the standard. Half a dozen artists of the calibre of Frances Hodgkins working in New Zealand could put us on the map artistically — no matter how many or how few the mediocre following. The trouble is, of course, that the outstanding people are generally attracted abroad and we can offer no inducement to bring them back again.
Passion Flower, wood engraving by Stewart Maclennan.
Mervyn Taylor is one of the very few New Zealand artists who has succeeded in becoming a full-time designercraftsman. How he manages it is a problem, though his exhibits in the Craft Show, while not showing his complete range, did give some indication of a versatility which must help. He is to be congratulated on maintaining his integrity in all that he undertakes. It was a good thing that the rules governing the exhibition enabled him topresent such a comprehensive showing.
Mervyn Taylor, too, was one of the very few who exhibited drawings. The absence of drawings from so many of the painters suggests a weakness that is felt in practically every art exhibition in New Zealand. The brush has become something simply to apply colour over inadequate drawing. So many paintings lack the structure that grows from sound draughtsmanship — not merely academic drawing, but searching and expressive drawing. Bare, George Woods, Stewart Maclennan, H. V. Miller, R. J. Waghorn, Joan Dukes, Guy Ngan and William Newland all showed worthwhile drawings, and the majority of them showed crafts as well. There was so much embroidery which made you think of hours of meticulous work, infinite patience and tired eyes, that it was refreshing to see such varied and inventive stitchery by Joan Dukes. Her delightful embroidery was such good fun with the needle and thread. Margaret Nairn used Maori, motifs as they should be used, adapting them admirably to needlework. The work of her students made a stimulating display.
There were only four printed fabrics. Of course, people just can't buy lengths of cloth and print them for fun. It becomes costly and they take some storing when left on the designer's hands. It must be difficult for would-be purchasers to find an economic use for a piece of material that happens to be of a length and width that seemed to suit the designer. Perhaps designs on paper or on a sample piece of cloth would enable the purchaser to place an order — though the display would be less attractive.
Eurniture design was conspicuous by its absence. It is difficult for the furniture designer to display his wares. Pieces of furniture are bulky and easily damaged in transit. Drawings and photographs are much less impressive than the actual pieces, but at least they give some idea and it's a pity that any opportunity of showing good design should be neglected. If designers like-Robert Lowry, Denis Glover, Leo Bensemann and Dr J. C. Beaglehole had added to the small group of interesting exhibits, typography and lettering really could have been an important section.
Huias, wood engravings by E. Mervyn Taylor.
An exhibition cannot be better than the work sent in, and it does seem a pity that in fields where we know there are designers and craftsmen doing good work there are blanks in such and exhibition. The general standard of the exhibition could be raised and it would enable the selection committee to be more discerning with works of doubtful quality.
I take my hat off to those people who so obviously went to no end of trouble to send in really good things. Their work shone out and their work alone made the exhibition worth while.