Colin McCahon was New Zealand’s greatest modern painter. He is also one of the most radical and challenging painters to emerge from Australasia in the 20th century.
Faith, doubt and the power of art were McCahon’s constant concerns. Beginning in the 1940s with religious scenes set in the New Zealand landscape, McCahon evolved an increasingly distinctive visual language for the life and trials of the spirit. In 'Teaching aids 2 (July)', this spiritual sign language is at its most stark and mysterious.
As the title suggests, this is a painting about art’s power as a guide – an aid to understanding matters of life and death. On a series of what look like humble school blackboards, a lesson plays out. Numbers accumulate up to 14, evoking the Christian stations of the cross, while the white lines, floating in the blackness, become luminous crucifixions.
acrylic on paper, 10 panels
10 panels: each sheet 109.2 x 72.8 cm
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l. no.1, white paint "... C. McC JULY 75".
Signed and dated l.r. no.2, white paint "C. McC JULY 75".
Signed and dated l.r. no.3, white paint "C. McC July 75".
Signed and dated l.c. no.4, white paint "... C. McC July 75".
Signed and dated l.r. no.5, white paint "C. McC July 75".
Signed and dated l.c. no.6, white paint "... C. McC July 75".
Signed and dated l.c. no.7, white paint "C. McC July 75".
Signed and dated l.l. no.8, white paint "... C. McC July 75".
Signed and dated l.c. no.9, white paint "C. McC JULY 75".
Signed and dated l.r. no.10, white paint "C. McC July 75".
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Purchase 2014
Not on display
© Estate of Colin McCahon, Courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust
Shown in 8 exhibitions
Colin McCahon - New Paintings 1975, Barry Lett Galleries, Auckland, 18 Aug 1975–29 Aug 1975
An Exhibition of Paintings by Colin McCahon, Ray Hughes Gallery, Brisbane, Brisbane, 29 Nov 1975–24 Dec 1975
McCahon's "necessary protection":
Teaching aids: Colin McCahon, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland, 01 Oct 1995–Jan 1996
Toi toi toi: drei kunstlergenerationen aus Neuseeland = three generations of artists from New Zealand:
Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith:
- Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands 30 Aug 2002–10 Nov 2002
- City Gallery Wellington, Wellington 08 Dec 2002–09 Mar 2003
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland 29 Mar 2003–15 Jun 2003
- NGV: International, Melbourne 04 Jul 2003–07 Sep 2003
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 15 Nov 2003–18 Jan 2004
Signs and symbols to live by, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 16 Jun 2016–19 Mar 2017
Some mysterious process, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 01 Jun 2020–13 Sep 2020
Referenced in 6 publications
Mary Barr, Headlands: thinking through New Zealand art, Sydney, 1992, 55, 56. not illustrated
Marja Bloem, Colin McCahon: a question of faith, Amsterdam, 2002, 239, 260. not illustrated
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, McCahon's "necessary protection": the catalogue of a travelling exhibition of paintings from Colin McCahon's various series from 1971 to 1976, New Plymouth, 1977, 8, 9, 10. fig 17
Alexa Johnston (Curator), Teaching aids: the Colin McCahon Room, Auckland, 1995, (illus.).
Justin Paton, Look, 'Kiwi Karma', pg.22-6, Sydney, Mar 2016, 22-3 (illus.), 24.
The Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust, The Colin McCahon online catalogue, Auckland, (colour illus.). cm001514