In response to Te Uru’s exhibition ‘A way through’ Colin McCahon’s Gate III, distinguished New Zealand art critic, poet, academic and curator Wystan Curnow will share his experiences with and thoughts on Colin McCahon.
Curnow first knew McCahon as a family friend, and in the 1950s, while at secondary school, he was selected to join painting classes led by Michael Feather and McCahon at the Auckland City Art Gallery. McCahon was also a mentor when Curnow started out as an art critic. Some of his first art writings include reviews of dealer shows by McCahon in the early 1960s.
He has continued to be a champion of his work and has curated, or helped curate four exhibitions of his work between 1984 and 2017 and has written numerous essays and reviews. In particular, he was curator of I Will Need Words, an exhibition of McCahon’s word and number paintings for the 1984 Biennale of Sydney, and as part of Under Capricorn: The World Over at the Stedelijk in Amsterdam in 1996.
For many years Curnow has written about McCahon in the context of 20th-century Euro-American modernism especially alongside international figures such as Barnett Newman and Jasper Johns, as well as in the context of his remoteness from it.
He is currently working on a book about McCahon, which will be the focus of this talk. He will share his reasons for writing and some of the discoveries he has made so far, as well as exploring what McCahon’s work means to him and to contemporary audiences.
*Colin McCahon to Ron O’Reilly, 10 February 1977
Saturday 19 October, 2pm