A student of the Sydney College of the Arts, speaking on the condition of anonymity, has said that the Sydney College of Arts Painting Studio suffers from an “anti-aesthetic” orthodoxy that stifles the development of its students.
Describing his place of learning as a “fortress”, he said that the thinking of teaching staff was uniform in that they all assumed that any “technically, well done” work was automatically “shallow” or “conceptually weak”.
The great “paradox” about this, in his eyes, is that the ideas they preach, that art is about the idea rather than the execution, originated out of the pursuit of artistic freedom. These ideas were a reaction to the dogmatism of modernistic realism, but have themselves become orthodoxy among a certain strand ofthe artistic community. This is something he thinks is more widespread than just the SCA (he attributesit to the cultural dominance of the Baby-Boomers and their sense that his generation is an apathetic aftershock to the world-wind social and cultural changes their generation pioneered) but the studio, he says, is firmly in the grip of this strand.
As a result, when the students at SCA disagree with, or are simply disinterested in the concepts that guide their Tutors, it is assumed they just don’t get it. Worse, he said, was that any display of studio skills seemed to remind teaching staff of these “old battles” which were not relevant to a new generation of painters.
Sources close to the school also said that staff in other sections had described the painting departmentas “weak”. Staff from the SCA denied the claims, saying that a wide variety of styles were practised at the school, but when asked for images of tutors and undergrad work showing this variety said that it would not be possible for “copyright restrictions”.
I wonder how art magazines function….