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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25. No. 12. 1962

Around the Arts: — New Light on Mr. Day

page 4

Around the Arts:

New Light on Mr. Day

Well, in the last few weeks we've had a plethora of exhibitions in the fine arts world. We've had work ranging in scope from the feeble-footed (but nevertheless healthy) amateurism of the Hutt Art Society, the Upper Hutt Art Society and the Wellington Art Club, to the full-blooded scream of the contemporary English sculptor.

There's been an extremely interesting, and fine display of sculpture, pottery and lithographs at the Academy Rooms, and there has been on display at the National An Gallery a tapestry recently bought by the N.Z. Government. This tapestry is a fine work but not, I fear, wholly satisfactory.

We have also had a one-man showing by Melvin Day, in the Centre Gallery. Mr Day's work will be given over to my critical knife this issue.

From our Art Critic Gary Evans

The big event, of course, was the exhibition of Recent British Sculpture which land I hope the back-slapping Aucklanders of "Craccum" are listening) was not shown solely at that God-forsaken(culture-wise) Auckland Art Gallery, but is touring N.Z.'s four main centres. I must admit that much of this work gives the lie to my anti-abstract art campaign, but then this is expected from sculptors of such calibre and recognition as Moore, Hepworth and Armitage.

Melvin Day

If this exhibition gives the lie to that campaign then the recent work of Melvin Day must egg me on, for it was a singularly distasteful display of ultra-abstract ostentation.

Don't get me wrong.

Day is a serious painter and has integrity; but the truth is he just hasn't the requisite ability to say his say by means of pure abstraction.

To make it worse, his picture titles bear no correlation whatever to his subject, and his preoccupation with texture far outweighs the time given to communication. In fact, there's none.

This anti-academic work must bear for many viewers the leprous taint of its author's self-inflicted stigma of incoherence and incommunicability. To speak, as did Russell Bond, of Day's "mounting stature" is to talk nonsense.

Reputation Not Enhanced

This recent showing of some 26 works, following hard on the heels of Day's last one-man showing does little if anything, to enhance Day's reputation.

It was significant, as I remarked elsewhere, that this painter scores, as it were, the bull's-eye, with his "Figure Studies." in these beautiful little pieces one can see the ideas Day struggling to reach the fruition denied them in the oils.


Day's Triptych, "Bastions of City" is, in my opinion, a failure We all know of that confession made by Kadinsky: "one evening lit Munich I stood speechless before a picture in which I could only distinguish form and colours, its purport remaining incomprehensible."

It was, of course, his own work hung upside-down, (I wonder, by the way, if that maestro of the Bela Siki Master-classes, Mr Maconie, could enlighten us as to whether there was any likelihood of the straining downwards" process being involved?).

However be that as it may with Mr Kidinsky, I had a somewhat similar experience before Mr Day's without the "straining downwards", I might add, and hung the right way up (or so I presume).


Mr Day's exhibition degenerated because of this communication blockage into an essay in cartographical relief; and, far be it for me to deny, some delightful effects were achieved.




Day's portraits were notable for their suggestive effect and were competently-enough executed. I found strange incongruities within each canvas, though. The Girl with a Mona Lisa background was a bit hard to take, you know. In "Ross O'Rourke" the composite features—particularly the hands and the body—seemed strangely at odds with each other.

It is to be hoped that Mr Day and his supporters will not take dire offence at this criticism or, at least if they do, that they wield their critical cudgels in a rather more expert way than did that carousing, roistering hand of Andre Brooke supporters.

Even so, cudgel-play is hardly conducive to critical analysis and I feel that the delicate surgery I have tried to perform on the corpus of Day should be offset by equally delicate surgery upon myself—and not with the butcher's knife, either, thank you.

Footnote: It's good to see NZBC "Arts Review" giving over some space to the Fine Arts at last; but there's still far too much extraneous matter broadcast.