Colin McCahon

Journey into a dark Landscape (I)

Journey into a dark Landscape (I) by Colin McCahon

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The theme of journeying in the New Zealand landscape was one that McCahon returned to throughout his career. As his practice evolved, the representation of the landscape was increasingly abstracted and the location of the journey more ambiguous and its specificities harder to locate.

In a discussion of the function of art, McCahon wrote: ‘In this present time it is very difficult to paint for other people – to paint beyond your own ends and point directions as painters once did. Once the painter was making signs and symbols for people to live by: now he makes things to hang on walls at exhibitions’. (1972: Colin McCahon survey exhibition)

In Journey into a dark Landscape (I), McCahon presents a vision of a primeval and unpopulated landscape, which conveys a sense of quietude as the softly curving hills emerge through a field of darkness. The painting reveals McCahon’s concern for the basic underlying structure of the landforms and their ability to be interpreted symbolically. The white line can be interpreted in multiple ways as a ridgeline, a cascade of water, or perhaps a pathway or firebreak. McCahon first introduced white arcs of water into his landscapes with the waterfall series, which he began in 1964. Of the waterfalls, McCahon wrote in 1964: ‘Waterfalls fell and raged and became as still silent falls of light for a long time. I look back with joy on taking a brush of white paint and curving through the darkness with a line of white’.

Journey into a dark Landscape (I)
Production date
sawdust, synthetic polymer paint
1213 x 915 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, on loan from a private collection
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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