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Colin McCahon

Colin McCahon (Timaru 1919 - Auckland 1987, New Zealand) is the most extraordinary artist in the Southern Hemisphere and certainly the most ambitious and radical of his time. New Zealand's first painter of major importance, his impact on the arts in that country is such that it is impossible to be an artist there without taking his work into account. Since his death in 1987 his work and life as a painter, teacher and museum curator have become the subject of much discussion and research.

Organised by Dr Marja Bloem of the Stedelijk Museum in Holland, the exhibition Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith presents more than 70 works by this major modernist painter and concludes its international tour in Sydney. The exhibition will be on view at The Art Gallery of New South Wales from 15 November 2003 to 18 January 2004. Central to McCahon's oeuvre is the investigation of the true nature of faith and his own spiritual experience and development. Covering all periods of his career from the late 1930s to the early 1980s, the included works are on loan from public and private collections in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

This retrospective, organised by such a respected European museum, is an important step in the worldwide recognition of this influential painter, so little known outside New Zealand and Australia.

McCahon's work includes the exploration of the nature of spiritual belief and experience. The issues of identity and spirituality through the New Zealand landscape, an attempt to engage with the challenges of "modernism" and abstraction, and an exploration of Maori and environmental concerns are also central to his work. All are inextricably linked and developed in response to each other and to the changing world around him (both on a personal and universal level).

Integral to all these concerns was his journey of spiritual discovery. And thus faith, being the critical issue in his work and life, forced itself as the theme of the exhibition: McCahon's faith in God, in his fellow man, in himself as a human being, and in his vision as an artist. Over the course of time - and during the span of his oeuvre - McCahon's attitude evolved from a positive outlook, through a period of doubt, to a feeling of utter despair.

His work is not only about death and resurrection. It also expresses his increasing doubt and despair. Thus, what may at first seem to be the naf artwork of a religious believer is revealed to be the explorations of a questioner whose concerns have a much wider meaning.

A fully illustrated catalogue edited by Dr Marja Bloem and Martin Browne accompanies the exhibition. The authors of the catalogue are William McCahon, the artist's son; Dr Marja Bloem, curator of the exhibition and Senior Curator at the Stedelijke Museum; Murray Bail; and Francis Pound. An extensive chronology and bibliography has been compiled by Martin Browne and Steven Miller of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.


ONE DAY SEMINAR - A Question of Faith
Saturday 15 November 2003, 10.30am - 4.45pm
Cost $40/$30 members
Bookings: (02) 9225 1878
Speakers include: Dr Marja Bloem, Anthony Bond, Imants Tillers, Bernice Murphy and Wystan Curnow

3pm Free Admission
Tuesday 2 December 2003. Anthony Bond, curator, Art Gallery of New South Wales
Tuesday 9 December 2003. Peter Hill, Sydney Morning Herald art critic
Tuesday 6 January 2004. Dr Marja Bloem, exhibition curator, Stedelijk Museum

FRIDAY LUNCHTIME LECTURES  - Pathways through McCahon
1pm Free, Centenary Auditorium
14 November 2003. Kendal Heyes, New Zealand born artist
21 November 2003. Steven Miller, archivist
28 November 2003. Nick Waterlow, curator
5 December 2003. Tony Schwensen, artist

Free in the Domain Theatre
Wednesdays 2.30pm & 7.15pm and Sundays 2.30pm
19 & 23 November 2003. The Piano dir. Jane Campion 1992
26 & 30 November 2003. Vigil dir. Vincent Ward 1984 
(+ special extra screening, at 1.30pm of In Spring One Plants Alone dir. Vincent Ward 1980)
3 & 7 December 2003. Whale Rider dir. Niki Caro 2002


On view:Saturday 15 November 2003 to Sunday 18 January 2004
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney
Telephone:(02) 9225 1744 or recorded information (02) 9225 1790 National Toll Free 1800 679 278
Hours:10am to 5pm, 7 days a week
Art After Hours Wednesday nights until 9pm
Admission:Free of Charge
Media Information and Interviews:Claire Martin, Press Office
Telephone 61 2 9225 1734 or 0414 437 588
Images available on request

IMAGE CREDIT: Colin McCahon, The Promised Land 1948.
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, New Zealand.
Reproduced with permission of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust