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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 4. 1962.

An Apology: For Art

An Apology: For Art

It is generally conceded that art critics and newspaper editors are an uncultural lot. Most of them are only too happy to admit it: rational, natural men all. Amongst them, the editor of this paper (I will not name him, in order not to give offence) has ventured some discreditable opinions on film and culture—the appearance of erudition occasioned by a ripe fart at contemporary aesthetics is considered essential by some to the editorial image of conservative restraint. Others foster the untutored, practical approach. This is O.K. enough, but as far as I can see practicality has yet to be allied with common sense.

Wouldn't it be a pleasant surprise if they undertook their critical assignments from a love of the arts? Would it not be a pleasant surprise if they went to an exhibition of contemporary art to learn instead of instruct? Alas, that Welfare State democracy makes us all pretenders to common sense, gives us all pretentions to rational judgement: the pretenders think they find art in the Tourist and Publicity Poster and Calendar Pretty Picture Prize sponsored by Mr. K...h..r. Or perhaps they imagine art in the Manners Street Bank's mural's Maori with two left legs. Or the new St. Paul's, or in the design of the S.U.B.

Look what happens when these puffed-up colons are fronted with a significant artistic event like the Hays Contest or the Exhibition of Paintings from the Pacific. The former has through the past years aroused so much hatred in the newspapers that this year a judge of inferior standards, whose opinions coincided more or less with the mob's, had to be appointed. Sic transact.

For those who imagine modern art is not naturalistic or that contemporary N.Z. artists parrot overseas abstractionists, just take a look at the University's collection of N.Z. works. Without exception, the works of Colin McCahon, Don Peebles, M. WoolIaston, Paul Olds, Evelyn Page, Douglas MacDiarmid, and Julian Royds that I have seen there are taken from the N.Z. scene; towns, hills, back-country sheepland, Wellington at night and by day. The adverse critics themselves are the only unnatural elements.

No, art needs no apology. Tips to understanding: a knowledge of French (i.e., a realisation that people think and speak sensibly in a language other than one's own), and an awareness of form, line, colour and texture. One makes an apology for a cause which is won anyhow.

The statue of a Maori youth holding a child is, for example, a work of art. An Aucklander did it. It seems to have lost part of one foot.