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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31 Number 15, July 9, 1968

Art: Critic unstimulated

Art: Critic unstimulated

The Wellington art coterie did not distinguish itself last week when visiting American critic Clement Greenberg spoke at a "discussion" on art. Snobbish cultist attitudes predominated in reaction to some flippant comments and failed to stimulate Mr Greenberg into giving us an insight to his special and intimate knowledge of the American art scene, especially that centred in New York. Although he said he felt "embarrassed" as a kind of roving consultant for the world outside America, I felt that more could have been said in a less apologetic surrounding.

A theme did emerge during the evening's all-too-short discussion was that the major problem of criticism in the visual arts, as indeed in most of the arts, was not subjectivity but objectivity. A competent critic must impart his understanding; a bad one is not necessarily a bad judge, in terms of his own honesty, he is only bad at explaining his understanding. There is no special criteria for criticism. Experience is the only basis, no matter how elusive and enigmatic the expression of that experience may be. A critic must not possess the power, nor even assume that he has power, to influence the continuing development of art.

Mr Greenberg spoke strongly against the momentary success of certain artists, although never denying their right to exist or be successful. Of contemporary modern art, especially that of Pop, Op or Minimal, he was dismissive. The conflict between successful and genuine art is its relation to prevailing tastes. Art which is concessional must inevitably fade into obscurity. That which challenges predominant taste, that which is resistant or inexplicable in conventional terms, is the art which is permanent and truly revolutionary.

Helen Kedgley adds

Clement Greenberg's brief discussion of the contemporary art scene pointed to the inevitable limitations to which art in New Zealand is subjected. Though we may strive to create a significant art scene our aspirations must be necessarily modest.

For, as Mr Greenberg emphasised, all great art is produced and is intimately connected with a major art centre: Paris for the last generation, New York today. Such a centre provides the pressure and stimulation of the most ambitious artists of the day.

It offers the opportunity to see the actual creations of the contemporary movement, as compared to the crude reproductions available elsewhere. And so New Zealanders rarely get a chance to view great works of art. Consequentially all our important artists must seek inspiration overseas—an unforunate situation to which no satisfactory solution seems possible.