Thanks to everyone who came along on a beautiful summers afternoon to the Zoomed in on Paul Dibble, Garden Party and sculpture walk at the Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Gardens on Waiheke Island.
This was a fundraising event in support of the 2017 Education Programme.
Many thanks to Tantalus Estate, guest speaker Elisabeth Grierson (see her notes below), Paul Dibble, Gow Langsford galleries, Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Gardens and all the volunteers and committee who helped make the event a success!
ART AS EXPERIENCE
Elizabeth M Grierson
Zoomed In on Paul Dibble
Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Gardens Waiheke
Waiheke Community Art Gallery
Sunday 5 February 2017
"...Thank you Linda for your generous introduction.
I was delighted to accept your invitation as Guest Speaker in this beautiful location.
My plan is to speak for about 10--‐12 minutes to focus our attention on experiencing Paul Dibble’s artworks in situ in the environment and then we can all take time to enjoy the artworks, the garden and each other’s company.
I would like to acknowledge the Owner Joy, and Crew Arthur and Allan and Jenny of Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Gardens developed collaboratively as a NZ Country Garden, Linda Chalmers Director of Waiheke Community Art Gallery, the Waiheke Community Art Gallery Committee and Events Team, Gow Langsford Gallery, Sponsors Tantalus Estate, the artist Paul Dibble. All of you for attending today and thereby contributing to the life of art and art education – specifically the Gallery’s education program.
The mention of Art Education is appropriate here as it takes me into a story to focus my talk.
It is a story at the core of art education.
Story: Many years ago I taught art and art history at Manurewa High School, then Epsom Girls Grammar, before returning to university to study further and to lecture in art history and theory at Auckland University and set up art degrees at ASA, AUT, then RMIT in Melbourne. But I was always troubled by this question – What are we teaching when we teach this subject called ART?
Is it skills?
A way of thinking?
An aesthetic perception?
Is it epistemological – about knowledge itself, or ontological – about one’s being,
Or is it aesthetic, or technological? So compelling was this question it led me into research for a PhD. And after 4 years of researching the question what did I come up with? I ended up with the Doctor of Philosophy, which was called The Politics of Knowledge in visual arts, with the words – “Rigorous scrutiny is required”.
Scrutiny about what?
So let us turn our mind to some rigorous scrutiny
The Question of what is art has perplexed philosophical thinkers for centuries.
And we will all be familiar with those theories
– art as beauty
– art as aesthetic object
– art as mere imitation – as Plato said, banishing artists from his Ideal Republic,
– art as representation of the world
– art as taste
– as culture embodying cultural meanings
– art as expression
– art as consumer product with a difference
– art as business with the gallery as hinge between artist and market
– art as institution
– a work of art is a work of art if the institution of art says it is
– remember the famous story of a brick in an art gallery
– is it a brick or a work of art?
And so it goes on. Many theories, many questions, and we cannot assume the answers.
In 1996 there was a play in London called ART.
The play centred around a large expensive completely white painting.
A comedy, 3 people of differing opinions argued on that stage for 8 years about what
constitutes "Art". And audiences loved it. The question is asked over and over again.
When Rodin sculpted the human form by removing the formalized pedestal base people asked “Is this art?” When Henry Moore interrupted the human form they said “it is not art!” When Duchamp produced his ready--‐made with a urinal they said, “Quelle horreur!” and threw it out of the window.
Conceptualism, Assemblage, they said “Junk! – certainly not sculpture!”
Then Minimalism “Emptying the form to the point of the ridiculous,” said many.
And Environmental art – using bulldozers as the tools to sculpt the land!
And as for Jeff Koons with his Michael Jackson and Bubbles…
Like most things in life, we get the sort of art we deserve.
So what do we deserve?
Today we deserve this! We deserve to be here in this beautiful Waiheke Garden, We deserve to see the best of New Zealand art in situ in this environment.
Thank you to Paul Dibble for giving us this. But what is this artist actually giving us? And how do we know when we’ve got it? There lies another question.
Let’s turn to the artist. Maybe he will assist us.
Paul Dibble, Who is the man?
We can google these answers – a New Zealand sculptor, lived in a small NZ farming community on the Hauraki Plains, trained at Elam School of Fine Art, awarded the NZ Order of Merit in 2004, has had many exhibitions, and was chosen for the permanent sculpture Memorial “Southern Stand” in Hyde Park London, dedicated to the NZ people and
And his art? We can read words like “accomplished”, “accessible”, and few would disagree with that. “I work from things I know” said Dibble of his work – the human form, life around, Pacific and NZ icons, narratives that speak to us of something familiar through the cast forms and bronze surfaces. In the Garden we discover 8 sculptural works. We begin with the stunning form and colour of The Gold of the Kowhai from a poem of the same name, and don’t miss the Tui waiting to drink the nectar. Then into the quiet shaded woodland garden you will meet Into Another Realm from Dibble’s Paradise Collection, a figure moving from past to present and
beyond. We will meet these figures and more… But what we cannot yet know is our experience of these works. So let’s focus our attention on a way of discovering them through art as experience.
John Dewey Art as Experience
Recently I have been re--‐reading the works of early 20th century writer John Dewey, in
Art as Experience from 1934. He writes about the process of discovering art and what we learn from it. Dewey sees art as having a crucial role in our actual life experience. He talks about “the live creature”–(the fox, the dog, the thrush) being alive to perceptions of everything around.
For us it’s the fantail, the tui, heron, and rabbit.
As we walk along the paths we will meet the Huia works, each a tribute to this bird, hunted to extinction, but here alive again thanks to Dibble. Then further on the witty
Rabbit Fights Back, gun in hand, alert to his environment. Then the forest guardians, I am a Heron and I am a Tui, the birds holding human masks before them, asking for an unveiling so we may see the environment through the birds’ eyes.
And to the Fantail on Ring, keeping us company here, of Corten steel combined with cast bronze form, alive to our world. ‘What the live creature retains from the past and what it expects from the future operate as directions in the
present’ (Dewey, 1934, p. 18).
And we too can be The “live creature” when we experience Dibble’s art, through
What Dewey calls “that delightful perception which is aesthetic experience.”
The experience takes us as learners beyond the artwork as a discrete form or object
… beyond the mere contemplation of a work of art as a static object… beyond any philosophical investigations of aesthetic properties in and of an object… and into the living worlds of the artist, viewer, artwork and environment. It is a living expression, an experience in process… For Dewey, art exists as a physical entity insofar as the artwork does something within a person’s experience.
The Challenge In a sense Dewey throws us a challenge today. To see, to experience what the artwork does for us. The challenge as we walk around the gardens is to be truly part of this art as experience vitality. To be fully alive as Dibble’s “live creature” ‘fully present, and fully aware of the ever--‐changing environment. Then we may discover not only the beauty of the environment in these gardens, not only the
Wonder of Paul Dibble’s sculpture, but also ‘the promise of that delightful perception which is esthetic experience’ (Dewey, 1934, pp. 18--‐19).
Thank you to you all for this opportunity to share this story of art as experience with you today." - Elisabeth Grierson