Tūrangawaewae: Art in New Zealand: Colin McCahon

Exhibition date:
August 2019 to 2019
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

The first group of paintings in this gallery, The Angel of the Annunciation, Christ taken from the Cross, and The King of the Jews, all date from 1947 and depict biblical scenes in a New Zealand landscape. When these works were exhibited at the Wellington Public Library in 1948, they shocked viewers with their flat surfaces, bold black outlines, and use of speech bubbles and text. The second group of works in the gallery were mostly painted in the 1960s and include Waioneke, Gate: Waioneke, Upper corners off, the second large gate, and Mondrian’s last chrysanthemum. Although these four paintings are abstract, they also respond to the landscape and places in which McCahon lived. These works demonstrate the artist’s reaction to an increasingly urgent nuclear threat of the 1960s and 1970s. The last work in the gallery, Walk (Series C), depicts Muriwai Beach. This large, multi-part canvas was painted in 1973 in memory of the poet James K. Baxter. The painting engages the viewer physically, encouraging its audience to walk along the length of the work and experience McCahon’s view of the beach.

Text extracted from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa website.