Monday, July 07, 2014


One of the advantages of having an artist like Colin McCahon embedded in your culture is the way he can give you a jolt that reminds you how connected he was to the spirit of European art and how you have some of those connections too. He might have come to them by actually seeing the works in question or from magazine illustrations or books or perhaps some mystic process that he boiled up in the back room but those connections can often stop you in your tracks. 

A friend described it as the way McCahon ‘collected and processed so greedily and brilliantly with the weird peripheral details that get you’. And so you turn from walls packed with staggering moments of art history and look up at the ceiling for some visual respite and there they are - rocks in the sky. Could McCahon have seen these works? We know he never went to Paris so no, he didn't twist his neck to look at them in the extraordinary house that's now the Jacquemart AndrĂ© museum . As to whether he could have seen them reproduced in an old art book, probably now well hidden in the stacks, that’s a job to be sent off to PhD land. But he sure saw them in his mind and then, more remarkably, knew what to do with them.

Images: panels by Girolamo da Santa Croce on the ceiling of the Jacquemart André museum in Paris