Victory over Death: The Paintings of Colin McCahon

The Essence of a Young Culture

From the 1930s onward, a kind of cultural nationalism grew up and strengthened in New Zealand: a desire to cut the umbilical cord that joined her to Mother England and to establish an independent identity and culture of her own. The visionary painter Colin McCahon was a major representative of this movement. When he began painting in the 1930s, he sought to express in his work the essence of a young culture. New Zealand, he said, was 'a landscape with too few lovers,' and he wanted its people to lay hold of it imaginatively as well as physically. But he was a cultural pioneer in other ways as well: one of the generation of painters who first made it possible to pursue a professional career in his own country, and New Zealand's first and greatest Modernist. Today he has the beginnings of an international reputation - he has been called 'the greatest Australasian artist of all time' (as well as 'a brave man in a provincial culture') - but for most of his career his works (Victory over Death is the title of one of the most famous) were often derided and misunderstood: 'They might pass as graffiti on the walls of some celestial lavatory'; 'a bucket of whitewash and a tin of tar.'

The director of this documentary, Judy Rymer, has enormous admiration for McCahon which grew during the months of filming. 'When you look at the years and years and years he kept painting when his work was rejected, the personal certainty he had about his work is fantastic. It became a fascination of mine to examine McCahon's work in relation to international painting and to the environment it came from. It is also a way of looking at the young and still developing cultural nexus of New Zealand.' Filming took place in eight public galleries in New Zealand, numerous private collections and in the landscapes McCahon loved, from Cape Reinga to the Otago Peninsula.


'It deals with an unfamiliar subject carefully and exhaustively, fostering in the viewer a good appreciation of McCahon's contributions and a good understanding of his aims and influences. Recommended.' Video Rating Guide for Libraries, USA


Gold Plaque, Chicago
Finalist Award, New York
Best Film Contemporary
Art, Montreal


Director: Judy Rymer
Scenario: Francis Pound: Judy Rymer
Original music: Jan Preston

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Catalog number #603

52 minutes Color

Age Range: 14 to Adult

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