Over the years a number of astonishingly artistic young men have emerged from Westlake’s Art Department sharing a common denominator; they were taught by highly respected, iconic teacher and artist, Westlaker Dugald Page.
Dugald taught at Westlake from 1961-1970 and then again from 1998-2009 and the breadth and depth of his talents reach far beyond the classroom. As an art teacher he would take his students on a journey into a wide range of activities and media; sometimes exploring areas with no prior knowledge or experience, going with blind faith to discover some exciting outcome. Dugald’s philosophy was that all subjects meet in the art room and he believed that art is a visual language and a different way of thinking and looking at the world. To him art history was an international language like music, dance and theatre and he believed that all schools should cover the range of mental, physical and psychological activities of drawing (thinking) and expressing through the disciplines of media, with the intrinsic nature of processes.
Dugald’s legacy to the school is very much in the lives he touched, especially at Westlake in the 1960s where art was a vibrant point of difference for the school alongside its strong rugby and rowing culture. Some of the artists that sprang from the art department in these years include London architect Julian Feary, artists Bruce Barber and Ron Left, Mambo designer Chris O’Doherty (better known as Reg Mombassa), Ralph Davies (film), Peter McCully (visual effects) and art consultant Rob Garrett (formerly Head of Dunedin’s School of Art). Iconic Kiwi painter Dean Buchanan was also a student of Dugald and remembers that his art teacher had a profound influence on his life. “He was an amazing teacher who was always honest in his critique, encouraging a strong work ethic and passion to paint. He taught us to do what we love, finding what was within us and not to worry about trends. In my opinion, Dugald is an unsung hero and I can’t say enough about how much he inspired me. I am only doing what I am now because of him.”
Outside the classroom Dugald was very much responsible for the early days internal landscaping of Westlake Boys and later on established the PTA Art funding group which purchased the art works for the school. It was only befitting that Dugald was commissioned to design the eight Commemorative Stained Glass windows for the new Westlake Boys’ Auditorium; a task he tackled head on by establishing unifying elements that weave through all eight panels: the seasons, biological cycles and prismatic colour which commemorate the Westlake community. Since his retirement in 2009, Dugald still holds a passionate link to Westlake and he is currently involved with the realisation of another exciting Westlake Boys’ heritage project which will be unveiled near the end of this year.
In his time away from Westlake, Dugald was a lecturer at various Teachers’ Colleges; he produced books for the Auckland Museum and MOTAT; he was a long-time art critic for the New Zealand Herald and has been the recipient of various scholarships and fellowships, including being made a fellow of the New Zealand Design Institute.
Dugald started painting at the age of 18 and continues to create new work today. Therefore Westlake Boys’ High School and Westlakers were very excited to hear that The Depot Artspace in Devonport will hold an exhibition of Dugald’s work spanning 60 years. The exhibition, A Retrospective of an Arts Educator, includes painted reliefs, sculpture, electronic paintings focused on light and movement, kinetic work and samples of ceramics, glass, print-making and photographs of his famous stained glass windows. The exhibition opens on Saturday 12th of July until the 31st of July.