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Indepth Arts News:

"Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith"
2002-12-08 until 2003-03-09
City Gallery Wellington, 360-Michael Hirschfeld Gallery
Wellington, , NZ

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 internationally."

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."

Colin McCahon
A Question of Faith, 1970

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