2019 marks the centenary of the birth of Colin McCahon (1919-1987). Widely regarded as the most influential New Zealand artist of the 20th century, McCahon developed a singular vision over a career of more than four decades. His unique contribution to twentieth-century art is distinguished by his characteristic use of painted text, relentless exploration of religious ideas and integration of aspects of international modernism to the local regional context. McCahon’s inventive and deeply personal visual language traversed a complex territory addressing themes and subjects including Christian and Māori spirituality, emotional and symbolic journeys, the landscape, environmental concerns and the expressive potential of numbers and words.
Colin McCahon: Letters and Numbers explores McCahon’s significance through a close examination of works in the collection of the NGV. The exhibition also provides insights into the artist’s early connection with the NGV. McCahon’s first trip outside New Zealand was to Melbourne in 1951 to study paintings in the NGV collection, a pivotal moment in his career.
The exhibition includes all works by Colin McCahon in the NGV Collection.
Image: Installation view of A11, A12, A13 from the Beach Walk (Series A) series 1973 on display for Colin McCahon: Letters and Numbers at NGV International, Melbourne 14 November 19 – April 2020. Photo © Tom Ross