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Speech

Lindauer Art Award

Issue date: 
Monday, 1 August 1988
Speaker: 
The Hon and the Rt Rev Sir Paul Reeves, GCMG, GCVO, QSO

As the items on the human agenda become increasingly challenging - pollution, economic disarray, social dislocation - so the role of the artist becomes increasingly important.

The arts bring perspective to events. They light up the moment rather than just represent it. Instead of seeing an event, the arts try to understand it.

That is nothing new for the arts. Writers, painters and musicians have always examined how great social change is revolutionising the lives of people. More often than not, art is transitory rather than eternal. It offers us the small insight rather than the Big Explanation.

The New Zealand society is one in which issues keep on getting away from us. Sometimes it is hard to know whether we have our foot on the accelerator or the brake. Yet a new society is here. What does it look like? What are its values? People tend to go passive and let things happen to them. That is no way to learn. The artist must find better ways for us to communicate and share from the depths of the human spirit.

We have to accept personal responsibility: responsibility for our behaviour, our expenditure and our actions. It is no good always supposing society must forgive us because it is not our fault. Art speaks about that too.

So art is concerned with insight and maturity. Art has only one limitation and that is the imagination of the artist. Sadly society sets up other boundaries. We give the painter 3 months to get it done. We work to a budget and bypass an artist either because he is too cheap or too expensive.

Wordsworth said poetry takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity. That may have been the case but most artists now work under the same pressures, tensions and opportunities they seek to portray in their paintings, for instance.

The artist, by calling and circumstance is a noble person. Their work does not depend on recognition but, by God, it helps.

Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man novels. His biographer said "The heroism of his life lay not in his success but in the long years after success when money and gifts were gone. It is the long blank years that prove the spirit."

So I salute the artist who has had to toil and whose works are around us. I am not against material progress. I am against the assumption that material progress will solve our problems. Artists may not solve our problems either but they can nudge us in the right direction.

I make no apology for the philosophic nature of these words and I leave it to others to judge the art exhibition here. We are glad to be present at the launch of the Lindauer Art Award and we thank the sponsors for their generous assistance.

Last updated: 
Monday, 1 August 1988

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