There are two most important ways in which we can gain an understanding, a deepened appreciation of the work of a particular painter. We may study his works, analysing and comparing and finding parallels. Or we may go to the painter for his own account of what he is trying to do.
'Artists create, do not talk', the poet Goethe said. But he also declared that all his works, in their great variety, were but 'fragments of a great confession'.
There have been artists who have written as well as painted (two prominent New Zealand painters Colin McCahon and M.T. Woollaston, have also been writers); artists have kept journals, and had their letters collected and published. Some painters are less articulate than others of course (and this has no relationship to how articulate they may be in their paintings): but it is rare to find one who does not have news to communicate that can be found in no other way.
In view of the fact that the text remains to be written that will trace the history of modern painting in New Zealand, sifting out the important from the less important, and bringing the account right up-to-date, it is vital that here and now we carry out this dialogue in a thorough and informed way. Several books doing some of the spadework have been brought out. But we envisage a book that would be both objective and comprehensive, that would include good colour reproductions of the artists' best works, and would be founded on a first-hand knowledge of their oeuvre.
As a modest contribution to such a book we publish in this issue two 'Conversations' with painters of a differing kind and generation. Lois White was born in 1903 and entered the Elam School of Art in Auckland in 1924. Her elaborate and highly decorative figure compositions, on religious or social themes, echo past modes which are now coming up for reappraisal. Jeffrey Harris was born in 1949, grew up in Banks Peninsula, was self-trained, and has worked largely in the south. Harris was the Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the University of Otago in 1977. His work as it has developed over the last few years deals with recurring images of a deeply-felt and autobiographical nature; and his replies here shed a great deal of light on the art historical influences and psychological motivations that have shaped it.
The other main article in the present issue is a short study of the painter/sculptor Don Driver, an exhibition of whose work has been touring throughout New Zealand this year. An illustrated catalogue of the complete exhibition is still obtainable from the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, P.O. Box 647, New Plymouth.