Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 1. 1969.

I.J. Reid and D. G. Fountain ask — Is McCahon justified?

I.J. Reid and D. G. Fountain ask

Is McCahon justified?

I.J. Reid and D. G. Fountain ask

Colin McCahon is a New 'Zealand painter of some promise—at least that is the impression we gained from those of his works owned by the University, His painting Otago Landscape April 1950 (which is displayed near the entrance to the Reference Room) is a simple and aesthetically planning work. His other painting owned by the university is Beech Forest, which was displayed with his exhibition, We feel that this is a work of considerable technical skill and artistic sensitivity

Compare these earlier paintings with those in the exhibition, What do the more recent works communicate? Are they positive attempts to express a view of life? If so it must be a naive view! They lack any intellectual, emotional, aesthetic or technical challenge. Their only appeal is to the curiosity, and surely this is an inadequate criterion by which to judge whether or not an object is a work of art.

Look at the leaflet given out about the paintings. The titles look suggestive-provided you don't consider them in relation to the words they represent. For example, there are the Still Life With Altar paintings. Each contains two rather nondescript blotches, one of which could be a heart. Is the "heart" the altar? Perhaps the whole Works is the "still life" and the altar comes as a free extra like the cartoon cards in Kornies packets, Why are there three Still Life's—is there a different subjective experience to be gained from each—or is it just that the painter ran out of "originality"?

But the most saddening feature of the exhibition was the commercialism it demonstrates. We realise that an artist requires money the same as anvone else—but does Mr McCahon honestly believe he is offering value for money? What right does a person have 'o present us with a piece of hard-board covered with PVA, coloured with three or four patches of housepaint. and framed with unformed pine or rimu, and say "This is a work of art worth $325"? Is the only perfection being striven for; perfection in the art of making money?

We are not against modern art. however we feel that the time has come when praise should no longer be automatically bestowed on everyone who puts paint on some form of material, frames it, the gives it a price in excess of $100. We are reaching the place where a painter's works are judged more on the price he is asking than on what he has painted. Painters their works onto a gullible public who think because they look "modern" or unconventional and because they can't "understand" them,that they must be art works of real merit