John Selway

John Selway honorary 2017

John Selway (1938-2017) was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters for his contribution to art, particularly painting and printmaking.

"To reflect on the future of art, and art education, we must assume that there will still be museums, which is by no means certain. The pace of change is extraordinary; it’s not unlikely that we could all be living in a society that is more like the 18th century. Society changes art, not the other way around.

So what of the future of art in general? It's already beginning to be seen that there has become a kind of new academy of acceptable public face of “contemporary art”. This takes its form mainly from curator-led activities, in which the curators of museums and art galleries are greatly affecting the nature of the art which is being produced.

Then, underneath all that, you have practitioners who are not exactly fitting into that in the same way as they used to. You have a kind of two-tier hierarchy; rather like writing, with poetry and prose.

That’s not to say that the non-public face is like poetry in its character, but in its position. Collections at the Tate Modern could be determined by vast spaces like the turbine hall, whereas a small gallery in Truro could be putting on highly effective, highly creative small-scale work, from someone who is not really exhibited at all. I think those kind of splits are happening.

As for University-led art education – apart from some notable exceptions such as UAL, RCA Slade and Goldsmiths – I cannot think of any other examples that are contributing any meaningful contributions. For this to happen would require the return to separate art institutions at undergraduate and postgraduate level – a return to an earlier, more anarchic culture."