Dunn retrospective exhibition

2008-09-09 00:00

WHAT better place to have a retrospective exhibition of an artist’s work than in a gallery that bears his name? At The Witness Hilton Arts Festival next weekend, the Normand Dunn Gallery — off the main theatre foyer — will host an exhibition of Normand Dunn’s work.

Dunn set up the art department at Hilton College in 1947 and taught art there for 30 years. He also drew cartoons for the then Natal Witness under the name of Falk, and wrote a light-hearted column for the Saturday edition.

Dunn was born in Scotland in 1917 and showed early promise as an artist, having work included in an exhibition of Scottish watercolourists in Edinburgh when he was only 16. But art was not his only interest — he also played violin and piano and was a scratch golfer by the time he was 20.

In 1937 Dunn went to the Edinburgh College of Art but his studies were interrupted by World War 2 where he fought in the Burmese jungle against the Japanese. It was the war that eventually brought him to South Africa. On the way to India his troopship called in at Durban and Dunn went to a gallery where he saw the work of Mary Vaughan Williams. He wrote to her to say how much he liked the exhibition and the two stayed in touch.

In 1947 she wrote to him — by then back in Scotland — to say there was a job available at Hilton for an art teacher, and Dunn made the move to South Africa.

Besides his teaching, writing and cartooning, Dunn played in the Pietermaritzburg Philharmonic orchestra and a string quartet, set up the first school orchestra at Hilton and coached the boys in shooting. And he also found time to paint, exhibiting regularly both in Cape Town and Johannesburg. His work is represented in the National Gallery in Cape Town and in collections in this country, the United States, Italy, Greece and Scotland. After his retirement from Hilton, he lived in the Cape — where he continued to paint — until his death in 1988.

The exhibition will be opened by its curator, Christopher Till, Director of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and formerly of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, and who was taught at Hilton by Dunn. “I owe him a great deal,” said Till, talking of Dunn. “That my career has followed art is due to his encouragement and it is wonderful to have an opportunity to bring his work back. And when I look at the paintings, I always have the feeling of what a humane person he was. The way he observed the life around him was charming.”

Till will open the exhibition on Wednesday at 6 pm and it will run for the duration of the festival. For more information, phone Dee Bedingfield at 033 383 0100 or e-mail dab@hiltoncollege.com

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