Colin McCahon (1919-1987) Gate III 1970 acrylic on canvas 305 x 1067cm Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection

Colin McCahon’s Gate III is an epic painting made for an exhibition of ten large paintings at Auckland Art Gallery. It evidences the artist’s continued search for a way to combine a concern for the contemporary world as it was played out in New Zealand with biblical messages. McCahon inscribes texts from the Old Testament against a simplified horizon of hill forms across which a storm passes. The tenor of the painting literally shifts from an atmosphere of gloom to luminosity, metaphorically from darkness to light, damnation to redemption, death to life, ignorance to knowledge.

McCahon famously said of his work:

My painting is almost entirely autobiographical – it tells you where I am at any given point, where I am living and the direction I am pointing in.” (1972)

I AM’ is an assertion of the self and a declaration of humanity both characteristic preoccupations for McCahon. The ‘I’ is also God, the artist and ‘you’ the viewer. Gate III was made at a time of threat of nuclear disaster, and McCahon offsets his despair at the evils of western civilisation with the strength of his belief. ‘I AM’ is a statement connecting God, the artist and his environment.

Reproduced with the permission of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust. Copyright 2000.