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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 (September 1, 1936)

The Aim Of Art

page 56

The Aim Of Art

(Continued on p. 53.)

All-in Art.

We, poor puling picture-peerers, imagine that pictures should be painted with paint. Bah! It is this sort of thing which has kept our pictures so disgustingly intelligible. News comes from Old England that the latest batch of demented delineasts whose correlated contortions are pursued under the pseudonym “surrealism,” stop at nothing, from socks to sausages, to capture the soul of sublimity in deleterious depiction. Hearken, oh ye simple souls who imagine that a picture is a picture, to this description of their principles—or lack of them.

“Logis is set at defiance. Fantasy is completely unbridled. Stress is laid on the inconsequential and the irrational.”

And this:

“Free use (is made) of sand, feathers, string and nails in order to make a picture.”

And also this:

“One particularly daring exhibit consists of half-a-dozen buttons—real buttons—sewn on a canvas across which is sewn a diagonal band of colour.”

And here we strike the high-spots of delirium:

“In one you press a button and a primitive eye revolves like a catherine wheel.”

“One picture is made with scraps of glass and scissor blades.”

“Another picture is made with an imperfect torso under a cage of wire and is labelled ‘Last Voyage of Captain Cook.”’

And finally, as if to prove that onehalf of the world is mad and the other is only half sane, it is seriously suggested that “—it is perhaps as well that we should not expend all our energy on ridicule but should try to understand what these surrealists are seeking after.”

“Whether Art is to make the ‘common man’ feel bigger, better and brighter.”

“Whether Art is to make the ‘common man’ feel bigger, better and brighter.”

Whatever they are seeking after, we haven't got it. We aren't holding out on them.

The Importance of Paint in Painting.

All we want to know is whether the object of art is to make the “common man” feel bigger and better and brighter or to provide giddly gadgets to satisfy the mordant mummeries of mental minikins.

We, in our ignorance, prefer even the old masters to the new disasters. We still cling pathetically to the belief that art is imagination under control and not something looking as if it were done by R.A.'s with D.T.'s, or “G” men with gatlins.

We still cherish the illusion that a painting should have a dab or two of paint on it. Of course,

We're old-fashioned—out-of-date,
Archaic, second-rate,
Unprogressive—simply stagnant,
Haven't gone ahead a fragment;
Narrow-minded, antiquated,
Fossilised and feeble-gaited,
Lacking pep, imagination—
Intellect and inspiration;
No invention, weak of blood,
Sticking staidly in the mud.
We admit it, and repeat,
“Art is art and meat is meat;
Scissor-blades and eggs and buttons
Don't paint pictures—that's our ‘muttons,”’
We maintain—though moderns faint—
That you need a little paint.

If the surrealists are right our next academy masterpiece shall consist of our hen canary in its cage, labelled “Whistler's Mother.”

The one thing that marks the true artist is a clear perception and a firm, bold hand, in distinction from that imperfect mental vision and uncertain touch which give us the feeble pictures and the lumpy statues of the mere artisans on canvas or in stone. —O. W. Holmes.