Cover image of the review
Colin McCahon, *One*, 1965, synthetic polymer paint and polyvinyl acetate on composition board, 60.9 x 60.9 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Mr Robert Raynor AM, Honorary Life Benefactor, 1999, 1999.324, © Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust.

Colin McCahon: Letters and Numbers
  • Luke Smythe

21 Dec 2019
14 Nov 2019 - 1 Apr 2020

McCahon's centenary began in August, and to mark the occasion curator Jane Devery has mounted Letters and Numbers, a one-room exhibition featuring all six works from the NGV collection and five loans that are promised to the gallery. The show is weighted heavily toward the later years of McCahon's career, which ran from the late 1930s until the early 1980s. The only work to pre-date the 1960s is a facsimile of a book of ink drawings from the early fifties. The drawings have been laid out for inspection in a long vitrine and images of Christ's face feature prominently. Like most of McCahon's early religious works, they are heavily indebted to Georges Rouault. McCahon's style, however, is a touch more naturalistic. His saviour has creases beneath his eyes and there are hints of the landscape behind him, slight departures from Rouault that signal a key difference in McCahon's approach to religious painting. Unlike Rouault's Christ, who is an icon, and is thus shown in a medieval non-space, McCahon's Christ is a man who walks among us. Other drawings in the sketchbook confirm that he is close to us in other ways as well: they show us that his face resembles ours, that he suffers with us, and shares our need for faith amid adversity.

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