Otago Peninsula

Otago Peninsula, 1946, oil on hardboard, 887 mm x 2105 mm. Collection of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, courtesy McCahon Research and Publication Trust

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The Hon Grant Robertson launching New Zealand Festival of the Arts, 2020. Image supplied

Hon Grant Robertson

Minister of Finance, Minister for Sport and Recreation, Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage

Colin McCahon is widely recognised as New Zealand's most important modern artist. For me he is important too because as a 7th former studying Art History for the first time, he was the artist I instantly connected to.  

McCahon’s depiction of our landscape blew my mind. Both in its starkness, and in how he broke it down to its essence. I had not contemplated our natural beauty in anything like that way before.  

Fast forward a few years, and in my final year at University, I found myself living in the home of the then recently deceased Rodney Kennedy.  

Kennedy was a huge figure in our cultural history (and someone I would like to see better recognised).  Rodney was a patron, friend and staunch advocate of artists.  He arrived in New Zealand, from England, in the 1920’s and was a teacher and mentor to McCahon, Wollaston and peers.

Patron and Landfall founder Charles Brasch and Rodney Kennedy collected the artworks of McCahon, Toss Wollaston, Anne Hamblett and Doris Lusk and other New Zealand modernists. When, in 1952 the then new director of the Auckland City Art Gallery, Eric Westbrook saw their collection he proclaimed that this was the art that New Zealand should be collecting.

When I moved into the High St house, my bedroom was previously the living room, and outlined on the hessian wall was where one of the Otago Peninsula paintings had hung. The view of Otago Peninsula from the bay window mirrored the image – not lost on Rodney I am sure. As I sat in the window seat of that room working on my dissertation my thoughts were often drawn to McCahon’s beautiful depiction of the curves and folds of the Peninsula’s hills. The specific hues of greens and blues in the work evoke an autumn day that I grew up with.

McCahon’s influence also extends beyond our shores. His massive 5 x 2m painting Victory over death 2 (1970) caused controversy when it was gifted by our government to Australia in 1978. It was radical and widely derided on both sides of the Tasman. It is now considered one of the cultural taonga of the National Gallery of Australia’s collection, and is equated by some to be Australasia’s version of Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles (1952).  

McCahon’s work continues to inspire, confuse, perplex and change the way we look at ourselves and our country. Long may it be so!   

 

An earlier version of this piece was published by Te Papa Tongarewa on October 31, 2019 that can be read here https://blog.tepapa.govt.nz/2019/10/31/hon-grant-robertson-on-colin-mccahons-landscapes-they-blew-my-mind/

CONNECTING CULTURAL LEGACY WITH CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE

Index
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Megan Tamati-Quennell
Black Landscape
Nick Mitzevich
Victory over Death 2
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Victory over Death 2
The Governor-General, The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy
Gate III
Grant Banbury
I Paul
Sir Bob Harvey
Dark Landscape
Young Old Girls (Christchurch Girls’ High)
North Otago Landscape 19
Sophie Bannan
Van Gogh - poems by John Caselberg
Linda Tyler
Urewera Triptych
Emily Karaka
Tangi. Muriwai
Robert Gardiner
Are there not twelve hours of daylight
Thomas Crow
Are there not twelve hours of daylight
Jude Rae
Victory over death 2
Brent Harris
The Family
Cora-Allan Wickliffe
15 Drawings Dec '51 to May '52
Salome Tanuvasa
Landscape
Yona Lee
Landscape theme and variations (series B)
David Kirk
Kaipara
Priscilla Pitts
Fourteen Stations of the Cross
Ruth Watson
This day a man is
Tessa Laird
Keep New Zealand Green
Nell
East window
Nicola Farquhar
Kauri trees
Hon Grant Robertson
Otago Peninsula
Jane Macknight
Untitled (North Otago Landscape)
Karen Walker
Titirangi
Wystan Curnow
The Green Plain
Philip Clarke
Necessary Protection (IHS)
Mary Kisler
A candle in a dark room
Ayesha Green
I AM
Matthew O'Reilly
Muriwai
Bettina Bradbury and Kararaina Rangihau
A poster for the Urewera no. 2
Al Keating
A Grain of wheat
Cushla Dillon
Entombment (after Titian)
Hamish Coney
Here I give thanks to Mondrian
Stephen Wainwright
As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land
Sue Gardiner
Landscape theme and variations (series A)
Robert Leonard
Numerals
Judy Darragh
Clouds 1
John Coley
AS THERE IS A CONSTANT FLOW OF LIGHT WE ARE BORN INTO THE PURE LAND
Shannon Te Ao
Ka pōraruraru ahau. I am troubled.
Helen Beaglehole
GATE III
Ralph Paine
Jump E9
Judy Millar
Muriwai: Necessary Protection
Fiona Pardington
Waterfall
C.K. Stead
All mortals are like grass
Gretchen Albrecht
As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land
Martin Edmond
Cross (1959)
Lisa Reihana
Urewera mural
Peter Simpson
Jet out to Te Reinga
Christina Barton
Gate III
Dame Jenny Gibbs
I Considered All the Acts of Oppression
Zoe Black
Ruby Bay
Jim Barr and Mary Barr
Oaia and clouds
Vivienne Stone
Tomorrow will be the same but not as this is
Kate Sylvester
Northland Panels