Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 6. 1962.
The gloss in the dross
The gloss in the dross
The 1962 Autumn Exhibition of the N.Z. Academy of Fine Arts has finished. There are several important exhibitions to look forward to later on this year. Before looking too far forward, however, an assessment of the 1962 Autumn Showing would be in order.
To begin with, the exhibition was a pleasing one; pleasing because there was, hidden amongst the dross, work of some quality. There was little evidence, however, of new vistas, new ideas, and this is not altogether unexpected. The preoccupation of our painters with topography is something we have come to accept; after all, the very remoteness of N.Z. reinforces the dominance of this constant phenomenon of the painter's visual environment. This is well analysed, by the way, by Peter Tomory in his chapter on "The Visual Arts" in Auckland University's "Distance Looks Our Way."
One has to use relative criteria in the criticism of work one finds, in the Academy or else a ridlculous result would be apparent. Yet there are. in this year's show, a very few works of art which, far from being what Clive Bell calls "Descriptive Painting" and not therefore, strictly speaking, good painting— make their form significant and have by any standards, the ever elusive qualities which make up a "work of art."
Particularly I think of Stewart Maclennan's "Road to a Deserled House". This painter is one who, I have no doubt, will contribute much to the betterment of New Zealand painting. This canvas is the finest in the show: the finest water-colour at the very least. Maclennan has been mentioned before as the winner of two recent watercolour awards the Hays and B.N.Z. Mural competitions and he will be mentioned again. One feels certain that those who saw the Exhibition could not but be impressed with the consummate skill and delicacy with which the subject matter—a tunnel of macrocarpa trees leading to a green sward—was handled.
The writer is quite certain this work has "significant form."; it is not an initiative work; it is an original and sustained interpretation of a common N.Z. scene, yet a scene bristling with difficulties masterly handled.
Evelyn Page of Wellington set herself—and very pleasing it was to see her do so—a difficult study. "Nude with Fruit." The painting was a lush, voluptuous and almost Bacchanalian study and perhaps the most difficult canvas in the Gallery.
Portrait painting, as usual, showed a singular lack of promise. Speaking personally, it is always a great pity we see so very few if any—attempts at domestic interior painting. The reason is, perhaps, obliquely obvious.
Colin Wheeler disappointed a little this year but we have certainly not heard his final note by any means and possibly his style will change yet. Paul Olds is a painter who causes me a little pain when remembering George Bernard Shaw's dictum: "The critic's first duty is to admit with absolute respect. the right of every man to his own style." One finds it genuinely difficult to formulate a just criticism of Old's work. He is. undoubtedly, a painter of considerable talent and his two canvasses his year though similar in treatment, were different in effect, There is almost an impressionist handling of light by Olds, yet his distinctive style of painting is not akin to Impressionism.
David Barker's work this year was not at all—to my mind at least—worth commenting on. Peter McIntyre, on the other hand, showed in his oil "The Para Para", an almost new face, and a very welcome one. The "Rangitikei River" effort seen at a recent James Smith's Gallery showing was poles apart from the Academy effort. One can see in Mclntyre untapped talent.
Gary L. Evans