Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Number 2. 11th March 1976]
Bromhead Top of the Cartoonist Pile?
The exhibition of political cartoons and drawings by Peter Bromhead at the Wellington Settlement is the best show in town graphically and politically, and definitely the funniest thing to have surfaced in this gully for a long time.
Erstwhile Salient scribbler (as is Tom Scott might I add), and for sometime, resident editorial cartoonist on the Auckland Star, Bromhead is a devastating satirist, streets ahead of any competition in this country, and very much up with the game internationally. Guardian cartoonist and expatriate N.Z.'er Les Gibbard, who drew for the Evening Post for a few weeks recently, to pay, no doubt, for his holiday in Godzone is a pedestrian bore by comparison, with a line like a strand of soggy spaghetti, only less interesting. Perhaps he was out of his depth in the subtle intrigue of N.Z. politics.
The local mutual admiration society of Nevile Lodge and Eric Heath are about as funny and as predictable as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, although Heath is capable of the occasional surprise. His op art tie on the quite large dark blue expanse of the shirt he wore to take in the Bromhead show certainly surprise me. He looked as if he'd fallen out of one of Bromhead's colour drawings, one of which (exhibited here) was runner up at the slightly reputable Tokoroa Competition last year.
Bromhead is a splended cartoonist, he best we've got. His colour drawings however lack the bite and incisiveness, the economy of line and the pointedness of the cartoons. Although they are quite whimsically charming, they come across as doodles, which, I am sure he'd agree, is precisely what they are. Not in my opinion, prize-winning or even runner-up material, they are hardly to be compared with 'Dubuffet and Matta and that tribe' as Ernest Smith (director of the Auckland City Gallery and incidentally, judge of the Tokoroa show) does in an unbelievably pretentious Star review (which smacked not a little of backscratching or worse) of Bromhead's recent Barry Lett show.
I wonder how Mr Muldoon feels when he sees himself caricatured on The Star's leader page. Oddly, his striking physiognomy seems to elude Bromhead who depicts him as a slit-eyed toad, or as some kind of malevolent Humpty Dumpty. Perhaps when our broadcasting and TV news are on a more 'responsible' and manageable basis, the screws on editorial pages (and cartoonists) will be tightened even further.
With other personalities, Bromhead is more adept at getting to the essence. The unforgetable cartoons of Arthur Faulkner playing High Noon at Kawerau, Hugh Watt peering myopically at an optician's chart which reads 'go home Hugh' and Whetu yoked to Rowling in a helpless three legged race. These are classics, as is the superb Marshall knighthood cartoon. Perhaps when the Prime Minister learns that this and several others have been irresponsibly purchased by the Turnbull Library he will call for the resignation of the National Librarian.
Bromhead's line lives and breathes. His mature style, which this work represents, is highly articulate. His sense of the macabre and the ridiculous, prerequisites for a political cartoonist in this day and age, is impecabble and his acute intelligence and acerbic wit are I hope irrepressible. Don't miss this show, you'll kick yourself if you do. I predict there won't be too much to laugh at in the near future.
As an afterthought, portraying Muldoon as an egg may not be so inapropriate. The Oxford Dictionary defines a humpty dumpty as a person who makes words mean what he chooses. Did you know that Bromhead?
— Neil Rowe
Chinese Crafts Exhibition
My overall impression of the exhibition is that old techniques of media are being used to say new things. Tapestry, carving, lacquer work, sculpture, silverware, basketry, painting and textile work are among the crafts exhibited. All are traditional, yet many are being used in entirely new ways that speak vividly of China today.
One of the most arresting pieces was a traditional painting of mountains with very non-traditional railway in the foreground, while another - one of my favourites - was a large tapestry called 'New Barefoot Doctors' which conveyed a strength and vigour that was really startling. Strenth and vigour seem to be key words to describe what is happening with crafts in China today (all the exhibites are under five years old), where craft is used to speak of the experience of the people. This is illustrated by the statuette of the barefoot doctor (or any of the other 'barefoot doctor' exhibits), the paintings of bridges, construction works and railways, the sculpture entitled 'A Graduate Leaving for the Countryside'.
All these seem to show that crafts are being used to express meaningfully the experience of the craftsman in the new China.
All this tends to emphasize what is only one aspect of the exhibition. Other exhibits - jade carvings, silk screens - sewed entirely traditionally, a witness that the old crafts are not forgotten, and that the degree of skill is still as high as ever. That level of skill is certainly rarely seen in New Zealand. I recall the 32 concentric ivory balls that took two people a year to carve.
Finally, then, one thing at least is clear from the exhibition that the arts are flourishing in China today.
Folk Concert Review
This time the Folk Club excelled themselves. Towards 8pm, in preparation for the 7.30 concert, over 200 people had filtered into the Union Hall and were waiting expectantly.
Lights dimmed - and Margaret Leighton kicked off with a Milissa Cotton song ideally suited to her strong, rich, deep voice. A good strong beginning to a great concert. Margaret has a voice strikingly different from anything produced at a VUW folk concert recently, and it is to be hoped we'll hear more of it.
It was good of course to see Jean McAllister back. Jean's is an act one never tires of, and despite rumours that she slept through the first half of the concert, her performance suffered nothing from this apparent exhaustion.
Jade, now with two television performances behind them (imagine how long they took to tune up before all that!), were of their usual high standard and were well received. They seem much more at home now and the audience responds accordingly.
One of the highlights (if not the highlight) was Hollis (i.e. Dave Hollis of Chez Paree fame), plus friends. I could almost write a whole review on them alone (but I won't). Dave played guitar (boy, did he ever) and sang - and his two friends sang and harmonised.
I've got to hand it to these people - some of their arrangements were very ambitious with excitingly unusual harmonies - and never did they falter. They maintained throughout a professional air, and yet a friendly sort of freshness which created an immediate rapport. And the crowd went wild They sang a satirical song about television which (so I am reliably informed) is part of a 40 minute satirical rock opera they wrote themselves and which they will be performing soon at varsity. We must see more of Hollis - they are good.
Another new face well worth a mention is Colin Speir. Apparently this guy was sprung upon an [unclear: unsespecting] folk world little more than 3 months ago and they haven't let him out of their sight since. He is really something on guitar and banjo and plays incredibly difficult stuff with the apparent ease of - well - of whatever one does with that sort of apparent ease. A real cool brilliance.
Steve Ashby also has a very pleasant relaxing sound, his voice is soft and melodic.
Gilbert Egdell was really mellow and easy to listen to too, but rather lacked the sort of vitality necessary to match him with the preceding acts.
And as for the Last Chance (said with strong American accent) string Band with the old American Toons - enough said. Every folk concert should have one.
I enjoyed this concert more than any other I have seen the Folk Club put on, and they have set themselves a high standard to match for the rest of the year. It was good to see so many enthusiastic new faces both in the audience and on stage, and the whole atmosphere was one of envigorating newness. I look forward with expectation to anything the Folk Club have to offer in the future, hoping Monday night was in fact a sign of things to come.