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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 6. May 28, 1947

Art and Criticism

Art and Criticism

As it should be, "Landfall" is the meeting-place of the artist and the critic. There is nothing so stultifying as poor criticism; nothing so fatal to a developing art as no criticism at all. Yet one or other of these has been, and is, the customary recognition in New Zealand of any artistic production, whether homegrown or imported. Particularly is this so in regard to films, painting and the theatre, and one feels that the commentaries by Gordon Mirams, R. D. Fairburn and Ngaio Marsh on these three topics do little more than underline what is already painfully obvious. But, one can say cheerfully, if you've got to start it might as well be at the beginning. Let us have no illusions.

Particularly welcome, also in the field of criticism are the reviews of four books which are, in a large proportion, written, printed and reviewed by New Zealanders. I emphasise this merely because I think we are mature enough to be able to do this adequately. The reviews may speak for themselves. The fact that they are there is the Important one in this discussion.

The poets represented in this issue are Allan Curnow and James Baxter. Neither altogether satisfies me. There is a frigidity about the first and an immaturity about the second—despite the facility with words—which make me wish for the warmer humanity of Fairburn and of the editor himself. Is it that they think in terms of themselves rather than of the world? That is how it seems, though none should be sorrier than I to do them an injustice. No serious work of art deserves the fate of a complacent dismissal.

I can find no fault with the prose contributions, "The Heresies of Samuel Butler" and "Reflections on Nikko." Both are the product of a maturity of thought and style which makes for so much more than a mere literary exercise. The second, particularly, is of deep sociological significance. The arts are the interpreters of human life, says Charles Brasch. Above all, they relate . . . through them men come to understand one another.