Cultural Icons

Conversations with iconic people

Episode52

Quentin MacFarlane & John Coley

“We were privileged to be part of that time”

Preview / 00.00.59

Full Episode / 00.55.05

In This Episode

"I still maintain we had something going on during those Armagh Street years, we were in a most interesting sociological space in the mid century, after a bad 30 years, facing a future...we were privileged to be part of that time and that place with those people”

Quentin MacFarlane & John Coley - School of Fine Arts, University of Christchurch, 1954 – 1957

(image:  Hamish Keith, John Coley, Quentin MacFarlane)

This Cultural Icons programme is a wonderfully rich reminiscence of the years Quentin MacFarlane and John Coley spent at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Christchurch from 1954 – 1957.  

The two flatted together at 22 Armagh Street’s ‘little Bohemia’ – a community of artists who were ‘experimenting and forcing changes’ - and attended art school along with other mid-century modernists and creatives including Hamish Keith, Murray Miller, Bev Hipkins, Pam Sheppard, Anna Thorpe, Monday Tua, Bill Culbert, Bill Main, Pat Hanly, Gil Hanly (nee Taverner), , Gordon Brown, Trevor Moffitt and Ted Bullmore.

"We must have been terrible people to teach...we were born into the Depression, grew up during the second World war, often without fathers...by the time we became ready to go to university we were a pretty wild bunch"  MacFarlane.

They discuss the rapidly changing social climate of New Zealand during this time which included the beginning of coffee houses where students were able to exhibit work, the emergence of foreign films in cinemas, the establishment of The Group artists, and the new idea of co-habiting - ‘flatting’ - with other students:

"It was the done thing for young students to decry the Society of Arts (in Christchurch), we didn't want to be part of the blue rinse, pearls and twinset brunch...we were thrusting, adventurous young artists who had our own ideas"  Coley.

"You get this sort of welling up of talent.... When I started teaching at the art school in 1975 it was fairly quiet...there were isolated examples, we had some very capable people...I said, I wonder when it's going to be our turn to have this 'flowering' again?" MacFarlane.

After graduating in 1958, Coley went on to join the art department at the Christchurch Teachers’ College and in 1980 he was appointed Director of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery – later renamed the Christchurch Art Gallery, a position he held until 1996.  He has maintained activity as a painter from graduation, exhibiting with the Christchurch Group and founding the 20/20 Vision group of artists as well as holding numerous one-man shows. 

His next solo show, 'Double Vision' is at The Depot, 14 April - 3 May 2012 http://www.depotartspace.co.nz/

 Quentin MacFarlane is a painter and teacher. An early exponent of abstraction in New Zealand, Quentin Macfarlane is recognised for his formalist marine paintings and also his influence as an advocate for modernism in the 1960s. Macfarlane graduated Hons in painting from Canterbury College in 1957 and has work in the collection of the Christchurch Art Gallery.  http://ocula.com/artists/quentin-macfarlane/