My name is Harry and I am the Arts editor of this magazine. This is an extremely prestigious position and I do not take it lightly. It is a privilege to explore and inform on the varied aesthetic rarities at UWA.

Recently, I took a brave charge into the grey student guild offices in the name of excavating culture. Here, I examine the pieces found, and rank them according to lack of spirit or splendour.

8. Landscape painting

This painting is at the top of my list because truth be told I like it a lot. It has a nice gold frame, and the soft colours remind me of nature. It looks like where Nick Cave might write his songs. It was probably painted by a stoic European settler, or at least the descendent of one. I don’t know  I feel landscape painting shouldn’t be criticised. The painting is on the list because it has a certain melancholy and emptiness to it which does tune into the vibe of the student guild. Still, it is my favourite one, and withered my soul the least. 

7. Cat poster

This cat poster really tickled me. However, the unassuming feline does bear a soul-consuming message. Lonely rhythms of bureaucracy breed stiffness. While I like the cat, its theme is stagnation, and it did whither me to some extent.

6. Colourful painting

I didn’t mind this painting initially, thinking it looked like a stimulating Matisse or Jasper Johns canvas. However, its shortcomings were pointed out to me by a friend. There are irregular spots of thick paint which look to be accidental, and the working in of the colours is not at all well-done.

Above all, it is an imitation of happiness. The artist has been taught how to work with emotions, but when we engage with them it seems learned.  There’s something troublingly inauthentic about the way they speak to you, even in a jovial manner. Mechanical recitals of a social zeitgeist that never quite existed. It hurts my soul.

5. Strange Egyptian Work

I’ll be honest, I don’t entirely understand what this work means or where it is coming from. But I certainly don’t care for it. It looks a bit like Bolshevik constructivism, but seems to centre around Egypt. I don’t have to work it out. It is not out of place among the nonsensical argle-bargle of the guild offices. It withered my soul.

4. Conceptual Sculpture (?)

This looks like a sculpture by Robert Rauschenberg or maybe Marcel Duchamp. It might not be ‘art’ strictly, but then what is, and who are you to say so?

The soft blues spell malaise, and passivity. The brazen pointlessness of this piece withers my soul in itself. Money was paid for it to be here, and it serves no conceivable purpose.

3. Stair Work

This installation piece is on the top floor of the guild offices. It looks like those redundant Stephane Vigny sculptures, but maybe less transparent. Aesthetically it is unquestionable, but things do feel quite exhausting. There is a metaphor somewhere. It withered my soul to a reasonable extent.

2. Sad Painting of person

Oh boy. This one really did take something from me. I believe it is a perspective on the modern student. Greying pallor, destitute, and entirely without humour. Afraid.

This painting seems to me to suggest that there will be no future and has been no past. A comforting thought until you realise where we are standing.

1. UWA Student Guild

The final piece of art in the guild is the guild in its entirety. In the style of Francis Akÿs’ When Faith Moves Mountains or Warhol’s Supermarket, here we have a medium-scale installation piece of performative self-reflexivity.

Several issues are raised. Is there friction between unions and institutions? Can drabness be aestheticised? Does the modern student have a grasp on irony? Is there an art of political platitudes? Can people even be made to care about art anymore? Have we moved on from high-school?

The piece doesn’t pretend to answer these questions (how could it, being entirely mimetic) but it raises them with gusto. It is confronting, but shouldn’t good art frighten us? At University, the soul will fly if it is not first withered. Here, the soul cannot fly.


Words by Harry Peter Sanderson

Pelican reached out to the Guild for comment – no one knew who the artists were, or how or when the various pieces of artwork were acquired, but we did find out that they are collectively insured for $7,000,000.

By Pelican Magazine

Pelican is one of the oldest student publications in Australia and the only independent paper at UWA. If you enjoy writing, then Pelican is the place for you! We print six themed issues a year, and run a stream of online content.

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