Colin McCahon

Six days in Nelson and Canterbury

Six days in Nelson and Canterbury by Colin McCahon

Artwork Detail

'This painting I never explain but am often asked to. To me it explains itself. It was, I suppose, reconciling gains and losses, stating differences, hills and horizons. Simple. A bit of blood shed in the middle'. Colin McCahon is an outstanding figure in New Zealand art of the twentieth century. He was a great painter and a profound thinker as well as a teacher, critic and curator for ten years at this Gallery. In the 1940s the hills of Nelson and Canterbury were a familiar environment for McCahon, travelling to and from fruit-picking work. The fragmentary landscapes suggest glimpses flashing past the window of a bus or train, essentially similar, yet with varying moods. In response to a comment that New Zealand's hills were monotonous, McCahon replied, 'Monotonous yes, but with a cumulative grandeur, like Bach'. The 'six days' in the title echoes the Old Testament six days of creation, before the arrival of humanity. McCahon extracts an austere beauty from these low hills, and at the centre of the painting he places water and the 'bit of blood' spilt - symbols of grace and redemption. A beautiful, contemplative work, and one of the outstanding achievements of his early career, this is an example of McCahon's intense exploration of landscape as metaphor for the human condition, for the journey of life. (from The Guide, 2001)

Six days in Nelson and Canterbury
Colin McCahon
Production date
oil on canvas on hardboard
885 x 1165 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Colin McCahon through the Friends of the Auckland Art Gallery, 1978
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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