Gow Langsford Gallery is proud to present a survey of seminal works by New Zealand’s pre-eminent twentieth-century artist, Colin McCahon (1919-1987), at Art Basel Hong Kong 2018. This event will mark the first major exhibition of the artist’s work in Asia.
Paintings from several of McCahon’s most formative stages will reflect the significance of a home-grown artist, whose stature in Australasia can only be compared to the influence that artists such as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Mark Rothko had on American art. Spanning two decades of his career - from 1958 to 1977 - the show documents the scope of the artist’s evolving concerns: the relationship between the native Maori and the New Zealand landscape, as well as the influence of early settlers and their beliefs on this revered land.
Colin McCahon’s exposure to American modernism in 1958 marked a watershed moment in his career. Experimenting with the New Zealand landscape in Untitled, 1958, a move to almost pure abstraction announced his evolution from a landscape and figurative painter into a pioneering Australasian modernist. Returning to New Zealand, McCahon’s new international perspective motivated another shift, this time with respect to scale. McCahon began to work on large scale, un-stretched canvases, shown in A Handkerchief for St Veronica, 1973 and B1, 1973.
A questioning of spirituality and faith was a central theme of McCahon’s practice between 1958 – 1977. He frequently juxtaposed Christianity alongside native Maori myths and legends. Never far from McCahon’s own life, we see personal elements in works like Angels and Bed, 1977: where a religious subject has been adopted to tell the story of three bed-ridden friends of the artist; and in Handkerchief for St Veronica, 1975; painted from McCahon’s studio in coastal West Auckland, New Zealand. In this work, formal elements depict Stations of the Cross, with a bright rectangle representing Veronica’s handkerchief, yet to be imprinted with the visage of Jesus.
Central to the exhibition is an epic 3-panelled painting on un-stretched canvas depicting the majesty of the Urewera land in the North Island of New Zealand, and the ancient bond between the people of Tuhoe, an indigenous Maori tribe with a reputation for their continued strong adherence to Maori identity and their struggle for Maori sovereignty. The Urewera Triptych, 1975 is the most important work by McCahon in private ownership and arguably one of the most important artworks produced in New Zealand in the last century.
Colin McCahon’s work is held in numerous New Zealand and International collections, including the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, New Zealand; Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, New Zealand; Hocken Collections, University of Otago, New Zealand; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia; National Gallery of Australia, Australia; National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Coinciding with this exhibition, Gow Langsford Gallery will present an accompanying illustrated catalogue.