Gross neglect of neglect of visual arts claim

'In primary and secondary schools, teachers tend to impart students with art craft rather than art creativeness' - Roger Lai Yat-fong, vice-chairman of the Visual Arts Society ABLATANT neglect of visual arts development is evident in the Governent's recently released Art Policy Review, two representatives of the local art community claimed.

Mr Aser But, a well-known graphic designer and former senior lecturer at the Hongkong Polytechnic's Swire School of Design, described the review as ''discriminating against the visual arts''.

His view was echoed by Mr Roger Lai Yat-fong, local sculptor and vice-chairman of the Visual Arts Society, who felt that the Government had not taken local art bodies seriously.

According to Mr But, the review deliberately avoided mentioning a proposed art academy, an idea raised as far back in a 1989 draft paper by the Government Secretariat's Culture Division, about which Mr But was consulted.

Mr But had been a proponent of an academy to train visual artists even as early as 1980. He felt that the Government should pour resources into art training rather than just provide more exhibition venues as it had done in the past few years.

''Hongkong is underdeveloped in visual arts. We don't have a unique art culture on a national level,'' he said.

He pointed out that even Macau funded its own academy of visual arts of which he is a visiting lecturer.

He welcomed the recommendation of the review to reorganise the existing Council for Performing Arts into an Arts Council but found it inadequate.

Such a body would comprehensively address the development of performing, visual and literary arts. But it would only have advisory function, lacking the power to determine policy or allocate resources.

''I am disappointed at the paper, it fails completely to devise a long-term policy to foster the growth of visual artists,'' said Mr But.

Mr Lai lamented that there were now less than 10 professional visual artists in Hongkong, some of whom would be retiring. He related this to poor government funding and a faulty approach in local art education.

''In primary and secondary schools, teachers tend to impart students with art craft rather than art creativeness,'' he said. He felt the reason was that the teachers were themselves provided with inadequate training at the tertiary-level or at teachers'training colleges.

Mr Lai was critical of the review's observation that ''there is no one major organisation . . . where the Government could channel its support and seek advice and maintain liaison''.

''The Government has always ignored representative art bodies like the Visual Arts Society, Hongkong Sculptors Association and the Hongkong Artists' Guild,'' he said.

Mr Lee Yun-woon, chairman of the Chinese University's (CU) Department of Fine Arts, also said the review was one-sided in emphasising the performing arts over other art forms.

In addition, he pointed out that the paper provided wrong information by labelling CU's BA degree courses in Fine Arts as ''less academic'' in approach compared with those of the University of Hongkong.

''We do not just train students in studio work. In fact, we had a master's degree in art history way back in 1983. And we are offering a master's in Fine Arts this September,'' he said.

Mr But feels that to encourage the growth of local artists, the Government should assist individual artists with endowment and help art societies with exhibition funding.

Consultation of the review is scheduled to finish by the end of June.