Death of the Art School: From studio to airport-lounge of the Id

Dr. Neill Overton
2013 Conference

The Art School has always been better at clinical dissection than in making good art. Interrogation through intellect has always been its province and limitation. From “the drawing machine” of Albrecht Durer, through successive mediations of technology as a literal grid between artist and subject – the Art School has simultaneously privileged “studio practice” whilst constructing its illegitimacy under the University model. It is a phoney romanticism to think that technology and the University has stifled the creative integrity of the studio-atelier Art School; in truth it has always been a blanket that smothers art and ideas, rather than engendering them. The better artists survived Art School through opposition, rather than acquiescence. The “studio” evolves into the cloud, and realigns the role of the tertiary Art School. It becomes an airport-lounge of the virtual. Regionalism, once all too readily equated with parochialism, dissolves as “geography” disappears, and redefines the potential of the regional University to affirm practice-as-research in higher degree art studies. Wagga Wagga may be seen as nexus rather than boondocks defined “in relation to” Sydney or Melbourne in this dissolving dichotomy of metropolitan and regional “authentic” studio practice. Against this backdrop, the University sector continues to enshrine written research at the expense of practice-as-research modes. Art practice is tolerated as if a magician’s party trick, conducted prior to the serious business of “translating” practice into written thesis – notionally, that art research requires “validation” by text. Concomitant studio art practice at HDR level needs to advocate diverse strategies of opposition.

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About the author

Dr. Neill Overton is Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. His research interests are in contemporary Australian drawing, art prizes, awards and surveys. He was a lecturer at RMIT, Victoria College, and Melbourne University in Art History and Drawing, and worked extensively as a newspaper illustrator, exhibiting artist, art reviewer and novelist. He has curated major exhibitions towards histories of Australian film, theatre and television. His PhD was on Icons and Images in Australian Drawing 1970–2003, and his critical essays address the relationship between contemporary regional and urban art.