Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 3. March 19 1968
Sir—I would like to add some comments to the review which appeared in Salient last week. New Zealand's first art magazine "comparable with overseas art magazines" predictably enough called Ascent" it was I felt, despite the high quality art paper tediously unimaginative in layout and solemn in tone. To me it is an art magazine for the sake of having an art magazine.
The editorial aim is not apparently to stimulate, not to proselytize, but simply to erect a memorial to our small and in any case dubious art establishment. Your reviewer Mary Everett thought it a pity that that there is no biographical information on the artists, or notes on the contributors. This was merely a symptom of the general attitude of the magazine. Anyone vaguely interested in "The Arts" is assumed to know this sort of thing: a graphic "Landfall" has been published.
Why must the New Zealand "art lover" take his arts and himself so seriously? I suspect that these people despite their incessant bemoaning of the cultural wasteland in which they find themselves secretly enjoy, and seek in ways like this to preserve their role of pearls among swine or something.
Anyone would of course have to be obsessed with art to the point of idiocy to pay $1.50 for a copy and plough through articles like "What is Art Supposed to Do?". "The New Zealand Print Council" (fascinating) and "The Trapdoor Spider and the Great Leap Outwards", the original version of which I, for one, had heard before anyway—to see Patrick Hanley's magnificent painting "New Order 29" and some remarkable Barry; Cleavin etchings.
I personally admire the work of Rita Angus, McCahon and Moffit, but reproduced as they were, in black and white. Without comment, the paintings were worthless. They were not published necessarily because they are for sale at the moment, but simply because they are there.
The whole business is so academic, so detached. And yet, precisely what is needed for art in New Zealand is some sort of commercial stimulus. There were no details of current or forthcoming exhibitions, as your reviewer rightly pointed out, let alone anything as nasty as details of recent sales, with the sort of prices being paid for paintings in New Zealand. There was only one advertisement by a commercial art gallery. (Other owners probably felt that sales and readership of so sterile a journal would not make it worth their while.)
There was no mention of the sort of work being done by our young painters in the art Schools.
Ascent cannot be expected to survive a second edition without a radical change in outlook and policy.