As the 2013 academic year comes to a close so too does the teaching career of one of Whitecliffe’s founding and most respected lecturers. John Horner retires this month after 30 years with Whitecliffe. As a farewell, Whitecliffe hosted a Retrospective Exhibition, celebrating his work from 1962 to the present. His wife Jeanette, two daughters Rosalind and Jane, and many people with significant links to the College and John’s career attended the evening. Whitecliffe President Michele Whitecliffe acknowledged John’s immense contribution to both staff and students. She shared fond memories of the early years of Whitecliffe noting, with nostalgia, that John’s departure sees the “last of the first” tutors moving on. Whitecliffe gifted John a piece of work by, colleague, friend and mentor, Henry Symonds.
John’s association with Whitecliffe began in the late 1970s when he began exhibiting at Whitecliffe Gallery in Parnell, where John took part in annual exhibitions. In 1982 Greg and Michele took over more rooms above the gallery and started offering workshops and part-time art classes. John was employed to teach some evening and weekend classes. At this time he was a fulltime teacher at Westlake Boys High School. It took a few years of growth and convincing by Greg before John took up a fulltime role at Whitecliffe in 1985. John saw the school grow from the gallery studio spaces in Parnell to the iconic Grafton campus – he notes this move was a “big thrill” and one of the highlights of his time here.
John attended Elam in the 1960s, followed by Teacher’s College (now University of Auckland). After graduating he moved to Hamilton where he taught for a few years before moving back to Auckland to teach at Westlake Boys High School. He taught there for 14 years before taking a role at Whitecliffe. John taught drawing and painting in the early years, before finding a niche in the printing room as demand for the discipline grew, though he always considers himself to be a painter.
John continued to exhibit whilst teaching and in 2001 he began the Master of Fine Arts programme at Whitecliffe. He graduated with Honours in 2003 and credits the course with giving him new strategies for painting and teaching saying “I learnt useful new approaches” that he has continued to develop since then. In his time at Whitecliffe John’s contribution to art has been recognised in a number of ways. In 1989 he was made a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts (RSA: Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, London) and in 1997 John was made a Samoan High Chief and holds the official title Muliagatele.
With a love of the architecture of Italy, France and Spain, John says he and Jeanette “endeavour to travel, and also paint more”. Recently John took up a studio with his daughter Ros to enable him to continue to paint. Of his time at Whitecliffe, John considers his most proud moments to be “the school growing and moving to the Grafton campus; completing his Masters; and having Ros come to study at Whitecliffe”. He also very much enjoyed the teaching at Whitecliffe saying “[compared to high school students] teaching is a lot less stressful, students are more motivated and it is so inspiring for an artist to be so involved with other students and faculty”.
Whitecliffe wishes to warmly thank John for his invaluable contribution to the development and success of the College. His presence will be sorely missed. The Whitecliffe family wish John, Jeanette, Jane and Ros all the best!