Alan Crump AKA Compressor Pump – 1983

ArtAlan Crump AKA Compressor Pump – 1983
Alan Crump AKA Compressor Pump – 1983

Alan Crump AKA Compressor Pump – 1983


Oil on canvas – 60 x 75cm
Collection of the Students Representative Council (SRC) University of the Witwatersrand, Johannessburg

Satirical portrait of a tyrannical art professor and Head of the Art School at the University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg. He was at best an ungracious pompous academic, but was also a sadistic and malicious bully.

Obituary 1949 – 2009

The newly appointed young (31) professor Alan Crump was a predatory bully who preyed on students and staff in his relentless quest for self aggrandizement. He abused his powerful position by going out of his way to bring about the downfall of individual students (as well as pressurizing individual staff members to support him in this) to advance his own agenda.

As fourth year senior students in his first year as Professor in 1980, my then wife and I both experienced the full brunt of his ‘powernoic’ capacity to liquidate artistic aspiration. After a grueling year with devastating long term consequences, he failed both of us.

Instead of facilitating our transition from senior students to emerging and practicing artists and being supportive, he consciously and for unknown reasons, chose the opposite pathway and plotted our demise.

For me this was the precise opposite of having a mentor, the need for which is exceptionally great, especially at an art school at a (senior) developmental stage of an artist, where positive reinforcement can and should produce profound results.

He had rat-cunning which was typical of Apartheid apparatchicks of the time. He facistically exploited individuals’ pre-existing fear of authority and then expediently, was later apparently perceived to support the shift to democracy.

Individuals must be held accountable for their actions. The valorization of Alan Crump’s memory and his achievements, should be tempered with the knowledge of the permanent damage he did to many individuals he chose to single out for “sonderbehandlung’ along the way.

That he may well have mellowed in later years is little compensation for his earlier victims.

20th May 2009

Commentary by one of his school mates:

18/09/15 07:05 PM#3    

Bruce McCormack

I have really fond and most rich memories of Alan.  However ……  In the school years he had a strong bullying streak.  He used to bully me often, doing such things as flicking my ear from behind, pulling my hair, coming up silently behind me when I happened to be standing with all my weight on one leg leanging against a door, or something and knocking my leg from behind,  … you get the picture.  On the one occasion when we were sitting next to each other in class behind a long desk he punched me, as usual not based on any provocation from me.  Without thinking I took a big swing at him an punched him at the side of his chest on his ribs.  This was the first time I had ever physically fought back.  The force of my blow pushed him away from me and he caught his legs against the upright of the table leg and he fell backwards onto his head/back on the floor.  I remember very clearly the though that went throgh my mind in the moment this happened … ‘This is the end, I’m a gonner‘.  To my utter amazement he got up and said (these are his exact words) ‘Do you want to wear my blazer?‘  He had honours rugby and I hovered between the 6th and 7th teams.  My immediate response was ‘Yes’.  For the rest of the day I walked around school with an honours rugby blazer on.  I had stood up to a bully and in so doing gained his immediate respect.  Well we became good friends after that and I often went to his house for our regular ‘high brow’ discussions.  We could spend many hours (eg 3 – 5 hours at a stretch) discussing various philosophers works, the meaning of art, the relation between art and society, concepts like justice and equalty etc etc.  They were great exchanges and if you knew Alan even a bit you could appreciate how intense they were.  One occasion I recall very well.  I was at his house one morning and we had been having one of our regular intense sessions when his mother called out that it was lunch time.  Me, like the polite young guy that I was quickly came to the dining area.  However Alan kept pacing between his bedroom and the lounge, there and back, there an back, like a caged lion.  I recall his mother’s calls ‘Alan dear, lunch is ready’ many of which had no effect at all, he kept pacing.  Eventually he came through to the eating area.  I was sitting down at the dining table and so was his mother.  He stood behind the chair next to mine staring down at the table and the food on it.  To my amazement he lent over the chair, picked up a sharp pointed cutting knife and with a piercing SCREAM which could maybe have been heard in the next door house he lent over the chair and stabbed a tomato on the wodden board in the middle of the table on which it was quietly minding its own business.  He then swung one leg over the upright back of the chair and sat down next to me.  The knife of course had gone into the wooden board and he had trouble pulling it out.  After this incredible episode the three of us then proceeded to have a peaceful lunch.  My take on Alan was that he had a burning, flaming, searing rage inside of him, not angre I dont think, but something else, which I dont even begin to understand.  Our friendship continuted when he went off to UCT but over the years faded.  I found him to be most generous. On one occasion he gave me a lino cut which he called ‘Orgaism’, which unfortunately got lost in our move from SA to Ireland in 2001.  I recall it most clearly … a front view of a woman with her legs wide, very wide apart, her vagina staring directly at the viewer, all done in a frenetic, ‘in your face’ style which very clearly shouted out the title of the work, the big O.  I dont mean any of the above to shape a negative picture of Alan, quiite the reverse in fact.  He was a really unique, interesting, creative, exploratory, wonderful person, with nuanced shades of character which one very seldom, if ever come across.  I write this as my small effort to paying homage to a truely amazing,outstanding human being.

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