There was the mystery of uncovering the contents, there was the opportunity to gain a special insight into Cleavin’s career, and there was the chance to broaden my understanding of both printmaking and New Zealand artists—in particular, Cleavin’s contemporaries during the late 1960s to 1980s.
It is interesting how absorbing oneself in an individual’s archive can give you the feeling that you know them (or at least, a little part of them). Were you to meet them, would you feel like you had a secret? Or perhaps feel uncomfortable about having spent so much time looking at what was, originally, private property? I am hoping that those feelings will fade.
However, what I won’t forget, is my belief that Cleavin is a seriously talented individual, a master of the printmaking medium and supremely witty. I would constantly find myself smiling at titles such as Designed to Drive You up the Wall, Just One of a Number of Allegations Flying Around a Room and M. Duchamp Gives Cubism a Passing Thought (The Necker Cube). On the basis of the archive contents, it was clear that others thought so too. I would also find myself smirking at Cleavin’s letters to the editor, as I quickly discovered that he is the master of a well-reasoned, thoughtful and articulate opinion. Indeed, whilst writing this, I must admit to fleeting moments of panic, afraid that I will write something factually incorrect and find myself the subject of a letter to the editor, courtesy of Barry V. Cleavin himself. So just in case:
Dear Mr Cleavin,
I am forever in your debt.
Alice M. Barclay