Colin McCahon

[Still Life with lamps]

[Still Life with lamps] by Colin McCahon

Artwork Detail

Traditionally, the objects that composed still lifes were loaded with symbolism, reflecting the belief that everything had both an everyday and a religious meaning. Thus a candle was a symbol of the transient nature of life, a book represented piety, cherries stood for paradise and so on.

McCahon’s use of candles and lamps throughout his work, and the symbolism he attributes to them, influence our readings of these objects when they appear in other works by him. As art historian Norman Bryson writes: ‘The meaning of a picture is never inscribed on its surface as brushstrokes are; meaning arises in collaboration between signs (visual or verbal) and interpreters.’ (McCahon's Visible Mysteries, 2004)

[Still Life with lamps]
Colin McCahon
Production date
ink, watercolour on paper
200 x 258 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1974
Accession no
Other ID
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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