Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith, the major survey exhibition which has
seen our leading artist described controversially as the 'Van Gogh of
Australasia', opens at City Gallery Wellington on Sunday 8 December.
Wellingtonians and visitors to the capital will be the first to see this
exhibition, which is the largest touring exhibition ever of McCahon's work.
A Question of Faith arrives in Wellington direct from the prestigious
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, where large audiences experienced the New
Zealand artist's work, often for the first time. "We are very proud that
City Gallery Wellington is the first venue on the exhibition's Australasian
tour," says Paula Savage, Director of the Gallery. "The Stedelijk Museum
presented Colin McCahon as a major 20th century painter on the international
scene. He was compared in Europe to visionary artists such as Jackson
Pollock and Edvard Munch." The principal sponsor of the New Zealand
presentation of Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith is Ernst & Young.
Ms Savage describes the exhibition as the most important visual arts event
of the summer, and a drawcard for visitors from throughout New Zealand.
"There will only be one other chance to see A Question of Faith in New
Zealand at Auckland Art Gallery from 29 March to 15 June 2003 before it is
toured to Australia. Colin McCahon was born in Timaru, and visitors from the
South Island will see the influence of the land and colours of this region
in his work."
"Although most New Zealanders have heard of Colin McCahon, many are not
really familiar with his work," she says. "This exhibition, which spans four
decades of his work, is therefore an ideal opportunity to understand why he
is now considered such an important artist, not just in New Zealand but
The exhibition, which is free to the public, features 78 works from
throughout Colin McCahon's (1919-1987) career. It was curated and organised
by the Stedelijk Museum with the organisational support of the Auckland Art
Gallery Toi o Tamaki. Set out chronologically, it enables visitors to follow
McCahon's development from the early figurative styles of the 1940s to the
later abstract works. Works have been drawn from public and private
collections in Europe and Australasia. A number have particular resonance
for New Zealand audiences, for example, the imposing Victory over Death 2
(1970), which was gifted to the Australian government, and Storm Warning
(1980-1981), which was originally part of Victoria University of
Wellington's collection. Other major works include Here I give thanks to
Mondrian (1961); Numerals (1965); The Lark's Song (a poem by Matire Kereama)
(1969); Necessary Protection (1972); and significant series such as Elias,
Gate and Scared.
Curated by Marja Bloem, Senior Curator at the Stedelijk Museum, the
exhibition focuses on a central aspect of McCahon's practice the artist's
spiritual quest, demonstrating how he explored questions of faith, doubt,
hope and eventually despair. In this way Ms Bloem has brought a fresh new
dimension to the understanding of the artist's work.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 270 page publication of the same name,
the first major book about McCahon published for many years. Described by
Parson's Bookshop in Auckland as "the most important New Zealand art book
for over 12 years", it contains essays by writers and experts on McCahon,
including his son William. Also featured are colour plates of all the
paintings in the exhibition, along with many other photographs and paintings
of his life and career, some never before published.
Writing in Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith, Stedelijk Museum Director
Rudi Fuchs' says: "McCahon was the artist who gave New Zealand a powerful
visual identity and for that he is revered in his homeland. That he went
further, to explore and communicate through the medium of painting the
universal questions and concerns of humanity, is why we, in other parts of
the world, must recognise him as a great modern master."
A Question of Faith, 1970