Colin McCahon: A Question of Faithis a survey exhibition which follows the development of McCahon's works from 1946 to the beginning of the 1980s. It focuses on the artist's spiritual quest, demonstrating how he explored questions of faith, doubt, hope and eventually despair.
The selection shows how McCahon sought to give visual representation to these existential issues of the human condition by using and modernising the Western Judeo-Christian artistic tradition.
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, former 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."
The Promised Land 1948
Oil on canvas
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o TaŻmaki
Gift of the McCahon Family, 1988
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Colin McCahon
Research and Publication Trust