South Pacific Television and Patronage of the Arts in New Zealand


The realisation is growing in New Zealand industry and in the media that they have some sort of moral obligation to put a modicum of profits back into the community. Subsidies have long been made to sporting activities: now, some individual companies and corporate bodies are leading the way in sponsorship of the arts in this country.

A number of leading companies are making known their willingness to help the arts to survive here. An example is the company W.D. and H.O. Wills whose contribution in the shape of The Benson and Hedges Art Award has been a part of the art scene for the last few years.

In this warming climate of industrial patronage for the arts, it is encouraging to see the Chairman of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Ian Cross, stating a few weeks ago that 'Broadcasting should be putting more money and resources into non-revenue-earning activities to improve the quality and range of what it is offering the public'. Such thinking should surely lead to a closer association between radio and television and practitioners of the arts in New Zealand - with all the arts, now only music and drama, areas where there may seem to be an obvious affinity. The visual arts, in particular, are vividly communicable by the medium of television. And a certain education of the public in the arts, even though it should be non-revenue-producing, has been prominent in the activities of many of the world's leading broadcasting bodies. It is implicit in their brief from the state.

Moeraki Beach Scene
(collection of the Auckland City Art Gallery)

With our small country's admittedly more slender resources, there are some signs that television is aware of its responsibilities. The 'second' channel, South Pacific Television, strove to establish an atmosphere of community awareness from the day it went on air. The use of children's paintings in association with the presentation of the weather report for instance was a small touch perhaps, but a nice one and in 1976 the channel joined with the Arts and Crafts branch of the Education Department in Auckland to put its promotional weight. behind the South Pacific Television Intermediate Schools Art Exhibition.

In 1977 South Pacific Television was a sponsor of the Auckland City Art Gallery's Van Gogh exhibition - a runaway popular success. And the channel has mounted its own exhibitions relating to its design for drama: such as the display of a diorama and costumes from the production Hunter's Gold, toured through the main centres; and the showing of props from the series The Mackenzie Affair, done with the aim of giving the public some idea of the kind of detail that goes into the preparation of a set for television. As well, the channel sponsored the exhibition throughout New Zealand of the costumes from the Henry the Eighth drama series. Their arts programme Kaleidoscope, too, and some of the Access segments, have made a contribution.

The latest move from South Pacific Television is the establishment of an annual art award for New Zealanders currently working in the visual arts here. The stated aim is to award an annual grant of $8,000 to enable an artist to concentrate full-time, for, say, one year, on developing his or her art projects - probably, to travel.

To facilitate the award, the channel is publishing this year and marketing over television six facsimiles of works by established New Zealand artists. The award will be financed by profits from sales of the prints. The first reproductions available will be: Hay Paddock, by E. Mervyn Taylor; Snow on the Tops near Bealey, by William Sutton; Moeraki Beach Scene, by William Reed; Farm Scene, Nelson Area, by Rita Angus; Sunset, by T .A. McCormack, and Landscape with Church, by Eric Lee Johnson.


The original idea for some sort of art award came from South Pacific Television's Head of Design, Anthony Stones. He developed it with Sales and Marketing, and Maggie Squires suggested putting-out a set of prints to finance the scheme. Director General Allen Martin and Director of Sales and Marketing Maurice Urlich both proved enthusiastic. George Fraser, Chairman of South Pacific Television, suggested that they look at New Zealand artists of the 'forties and 'fifties for their initial selection of works. The project has already stimulated something of a rediscovery, in the person of the painter William J. Reed. Future choices will include works of different periods.

A series of ten minute programmes on each of the six artists will be shown over the second channel through July and August (the Sundays of July 2, 9, 16, 23, and August 6 and 13 - after the late news about 10.10 p.m.). Produced by Marcia Russell, they will take the form of profiles on the six interviews with artists still living, and conversations with friends or relatives of those no longer living; including an interview with Mrs Teddy Henderson-Taylor, the widow of E. Mervyn Taylor; and with Betty Curnow, who was a close friend of Rita Angus (see Art New Zealand 3, 1976).

Any or all of the first six prints listed above may be ordered through Art New Zealand and the New Zealand Listener, from August 5, 1978; or direct from: Fine Art Prints, South Pacific Television, P.O. Box 3819, Auckland.

Paintings from this year's Benson and Hedges Art Award, judged by James Mollison, Director of The National Gallery of Australia, are currently touring the country. The exhibition will be reviewed in the next issue of Art New Zealand.

The Second International Symposium on the Art of Oceania Victoria University, February 1 to 8, 1978


I do not know anything about Oceanic art. I'm here at this Symposium for that reason. Whereas the others, they're here because they do know a great deal about it. I'm ready to believe no other seventy people anywhere know more. They're all (almost all) anthropologists and they're here from all (almost) over: Salem, Mass., Canberra, Leiden, Tokyo, Suva, Budapest, Port Moresby, Paris, New York, Kumeu, Honolulu, Stockholm, Honiara etc. - to exchange ideas and information among themselves and to tell me everything they know in so far as they can do both at once.

Academic conferences seem to work if they are about this size and have a specific subject. I left before it was over, as people were making friends and it seemed to be a success for them. As for me, an art person, it was just great. Anthropologists don't pretend to be art critics: there's no chatter about aesthetics. They show slides and describe the art objects and their contexts in matter of fact terms. But those descriptions will bend and stretch the mind. What more did I want?

There are similarities between modern Western notions of art and those of Oceanic societies. In many, the entire community makes art, but in all there are master art-makers distinguished by their special knowledge, skill and invention, and by the status derived from these. There are notions of originality and copyright:
. . . the inventor or discoverer makes a trial mask and takes it on a tour of the villages. If the viewers say both that is it new to them and that it is a good (handsome, striking) design, the maker proceeds with plans to kill a pig to ratify his possession of the mask, . . .
(Inspiration and Conventionalisation in Lakalai Paintings, Ann Chowning.) The carver Bernadino has for some time been involved in legal actions against certain carvers who have used his style and motifs without paying him. When questioned about this he replied, 'It is an old Palauan law that each man has his own style and no man may use it without paying for it. . .each man by law must be himself and not steal another's soul'.
(The Decoration Motifs of Palauan Clubhouses
, David Robinson)

What about the Kilenge (New Britain) art market? It works like this: an art-maker is commissioned to make a drum, which, nearing completion, receives praise from villagers. The artist must then pay them for their praise: the greater their status, the more they get. These payments fix the price of the drum, for the purchaser then recompenses the artist for the praise he's paid for plus something for his time. The artist's prestige is reckoned not in terms of payment but praise. When you come to think of it, it makes much sense. And how different, really, is it from the way we do things? If we were Kilenge, Muldoon's praise for McCahon's Victory over Death would be worth the most. Well, it is, and it isn't, isn't it? What the Kilenge do appear to lack are art critics.

More often, though what's hard to get over is the sense that modern western and tribal art systems have nothing in common at all. For the European it's always been as if, yes, there is life on other planets. Tell your local Arts Festival committee that the Ablam of New Guinea, every man woman and child, knock off work for three months of the year to do ritual. There's an affluent society! Suggest they build studios and call them wombs in which Pat Hanly, Michael Smither, Barry Brickell and so on can bleed their penes, stay chaste, and prepare their shows. Women who venture close to the wombs will have to be physically punished. Certainly, no women may be allowed to paint or sculpt, although pottery or weaving would be OK - although even these must be avoided during menstruation.

Jehanne Teilhet's paper, The Role of Women Artists in Polynesia and Melanesia, was one of the best. In Oceania the distinction between 'art' and 'craft' is perfectly clear, the first is men's, the second women's work. The first is religious, the second, secular work. It comes about, Dr. Teilhet suggests, because 'women are believed to have greater innate powers than men. Women were given the natural power to create and control life. .. To balance that power men took as their prerogative the right to create supernatural life in the form of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic images.' The public's not going to like this, they protest. An Art Festival should be fun for the whole family.

Anthony Forge's keynote address was on the impact of European culture on Sepik art. In fact, one way or another most of the papers at the Symposium dealt with relations between the two cultures, western and tribal. Oceanic art has been disappearing well over a century now and these anthropologists have their work cut out documenting what are now its death throes. led by the vandals of Christianity, Europeans brought about the collapse of tribal belief and social structures, and with that the decline of the arts. The tourist industry is mopping up what remains. Forge displayed an 'authentic' Australian aborigine boomerang he had bought in Los Angeles, 'handcrafted by cherokee Indians'. His main point was that Sepik art consisted of a highly complex network of relations between simple symbols - so deeply embedded in the social structure it was thereby unable to adapt to the kind of changes demanded by European influence. Forge viewed with horror the homogenisation of world culture, but saw no middle ground - tribal and western art are inherently inimical.

The Polynesians at the Symposium took different tacks. But, said one Maori woman, passing the ball back to Forge, I am Maori. Albert Wendt took a detacted, a jaundiced but not dim, view of the Symposium:
Their (the scholars') commitment to us, the objects, of their research, remains scholarly. At times, I can't help feeling that they (and some of them are friends) are part and parcel of the process of cultural imperialism which has affected our region for the last 200 years or so. Much has been published about the art of our region. Usually, these are glossy-paged books inhabited by technicolour photographys of our art objects which, for most of our countries, are now mainly housed in overseas museums, overseas art galleries, and overseas private collections, and which we cannot afford to buy back.
Contemporary Arts in Oceania: Trying to Stay Alive in Paradise as an Artist.

According to Forge, tribal art which survived Europeanisation stagnated. Symbols were progressively drained of their meaning' until they signified little more than nostalgia and a badge of identity. Wendt rejects efforts to revive tribal art as dangerously sentimental. On the other hand, his praise for Cliff Whiting and Para Machitt's mural (then on display at the National Gallery) suggests he's prey to other sentimentalities. Their mural . . . was an attempt to revitalise the community through group art and participation. This is of extreme importance if art is to help us strengthen the community spirit which is vital to the development of our group-oriented cultures and identities.

Katerina Mataira sees 'no reason whatever why new art forms should not exist alongside the traditional. Each could in fact have positive effects on the other.' (Positive and Negative Influences in the Development of Oceanic Art) I want to agree with her, but she ends up smothering the issues in Art Education platitudes. Maybe we should attend less to Forge's conclusions and more to the horror with which he contemplates them.

The problem of the contemporary Oceanic artist is not too hard to describe. Those Western artists of the last century who've most had at heart the uses to which tribal art might be put in Western culture have consistently been avant-garde. From Gauguin through Pollock to Robert Morris, say. From Colin McCahon to Philip Dadson, say. For example: Forge sought to distinguish tribal from Western art by insisting that the former consists of 'first order statements', i.e. non-representational or illustrative in any sense, designed as traps to capture spiritual power. Yet how else, in shorthand, would you describe Abstract Expressionist painting? The problem is this: in so far as he identifies with his group-oriented culture the Oceanic artist will be reluctant to opt for an avant-garde stance. It's a predicament shot through with ironies.

For me - European, pakeha, elitist art critic - to talk of the use of tribal art is to lay myself open. Missionaries were high-minded too. So I'm open. I'm asking: what is in store for any of us here in Birkenhead, in Auckland, in New Zealand, Oceania, the 'Free World', the Whole World?

Having learnt the human is a notion more narrow than I am ready to accept, I want to teach myself about what's peripheral to it. What's in store in museums, memories on the marae, in books. I'm interested in what and where I stand to know. The Symposium fed that interest more than I can tell in these few paragraphs.

William Boyle and 'Sculpture Today'

In Auckland last April to co-ordinate New Zealand representation in Sculpture Today, which was held in Toronto in May and early June, William Boyle had some interesting sidelights to cast on relationships and differences between Canada and New Zealand, particularly in the funding of the arts. William Boyle is Executive Director of Visual Arts Ontario in Toronto - a federation of seven Canadian professional art societies. Visual Arts Ontario exists to help member groups with their exhibitions and programmes, as well as to initiate joint projects. By co-ordinating the efforts of the art societies, the federation seeks to increase public understanding of the visual arts.

Mr Boyle told us that there is considerable interest, and indeed curiosity, in Canada about the arts in New Zealand. He found information available abroad was meagre. Funding of the arts in Canada is generous: and this includes funding of publications on the arts. Arts Canada, perhaps the best-established magazine of the visual arts in Canada, last year received approximately $200,000 from The Canada Council. The other main art periodicals in Canada, Vie Des Arts and Art Magazine, also received generous assistance from both federal and provincial government. Visual Arts Ontario publishes its own newsletter - artviews.

Barrier 2 1976
steel and bronze, 3002 x 355 x 228 mm.

Sculpture Today, the sculpture conference on behalf of which Mr Boyle travelled to New Zealand and Australia, claims the participation of more than 150 of the world's leading sculptors. Involved were talks, panels, workshops exploring a variety of concerns - supplemented by several major exhibitions, films and displays and a large sculpture commission already underway. Taking part from New Zealand were Peter Nicholls, Greer Twiss, Wystan Curnow, Rodney Kirk Smith and Bronwyn Cornish. (Art New Zealand will publish a report on the conference in its next issue.) After the Toronto conference Peter Nicholls will be going on to Edmonton to represent New Zealand at an arts festival arranged to complement the Commonwealth Games.

The Fletcher Brownbuilt Pottery Award

Shigo Shigeo, a well-known Japanese potter who has lived and worked in Australia for the past twelve years, was the judge of this year's Fletcher Brownbuilt Pottery Award, which was presented in the Auckland Museum on June 3. Auckland potter Rick Rudd won the award with his raku bowl.

Paintings from the Reign of Victoria

The Auckland City Art Gallery is preparing an exhibition of paintings from the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), to be shown next October. The Director, Ernest Smith, would appreciate hearing from readers who may have suitable paintings, either in oils or watercolour, and who would be willing to make them available on loan to the Gallery for the duration of the exhibition. The Gallery is interested in works in the following categories: nudes and still life; neo-classical; marine; sport; portraits; animal portraits; landscape and genre; Pre-Raphaelites. Please address information to:
The Director, Auckland City Art Gallery,Private Bag, Wellesley Street, Auckland.