Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 3. 1962.
A Culture in Art
A Culture in Art
It is said that today, geographical isolation counts for nohting in terms of the exclusiveness of cultural Art; that there are no longer any traditional mainstream cultures. Man is, more than ever before, deemed a product of society; and society in itself, a product of further societal influences. We may note, it is a seldom held opinion nowadays, that Man may mature in resolve from any social and environmental forces. Man is a part of culture—Art is an integral part of Man and culture. It is moreover, often postulated that whereas, two hundred years ago, people could demarcate Art into elements of tradition, origin, influence and so on; this today, has become an impossibility—Art and culture has become too homogeneous; the individuality in Art is all but lost, and the socalled modification of Art by culture is a dated concept.
True, certain peoples have maintained a fairly rigid cultural heredity; nor need these peoples necessarily be of "primitive" societies. The music, literature and painting of the Soviet is distinctive in that it follows a straight pattern, guided by definite (non-individual) rules. Soviet culture is now in its forty-fifth year of existence. Again, certain facets of American art have been developing strictly within the culture for many years. The American short story and poetry are two such distinctive, peculiar facets. We may observe, social maturity is prerequisite for artistic individuality; as are similarly, standards and criteria, and cultural appreciation. The formative aspect of Art is achieved through the Culture, the flavouring through the individual.
We, in New Zealand, are at a disadvantage (in this respect) in that we are a young and isolated culture. Young, because we are now, only in our fourth generation; isolated, on two counts—firstly, through our social immaturity, and secondly, through our geographical isolation. Our Art has taken the violent strain—and suffered accordingly—of having no set pattern from and through which to work; of being without standards of evaluation and judgment (standards, that is, applicable to our own culture); of struggling for existence in a society generally apathetic towards Art. We have consequently few claims to distinction. Our artists have done nought but parrot the vogues of other cultural patterns; our critics parrot the attitudes and ideas of others, unsuccessfully attempting to transpose criticism from one situation into another. Explicitly, we have little; little prose and painting, no music, no sculpture, no architecture, no poetry. It is the sad failing of our artistically isolated community, that we should attempt to carbon-copy foreign imports. We should realise our obligations and our latent assets; it is the fault of the culture and hence of the individual, of the critic and thus the artist, that we stand where we do—in danger of aesthetic sterility.