Are there not twelve hours of daylight

Are there not twelve hours of daylight

  • Artist

    Colin McCahon

  • Production Date


  • Medium

    synthetic polymer paint on unstretched canvas

  • Size

    2070 x 2600 mm

  • Credit

    Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 1985, in memory of Evelyn W. Gardiner, 1932-2023

  • Accession Number


  • Accession Date

    Apr 1985

  • Department

    New Zealand Art

  • Classification


  • Collection


  • Subjects

    Christianity, religious art, text, handwriting, belief & doubt, faith

  • Description

    To a question from his bewildered disciples about why he wanted to go back to Judea, where he was almost stoned to death, Jesus answered with another question and followed it with a cryptic assertion about walking in the light of the world. This paradoxical text forms the subject of McCahon's painting; it comes from the story of Lazarus as recorded in the Gospel of St John. The artist had been prompted to reread the Lazarus story and other passages in the New Testament, which touched on anguished questions of death, resurrection, faith and doubt, when his wife gave him a copy of the New English Bible as a gift. McCahon found the recent translation brought the stark immediacy of these passages to life. Freshness and immediacy of communication was something which had held the artist spellbound even as a young boy, when he recalled watching a signwriter laying down gold-leaf letters on a shop window in Dunedin. In numerous works after this McCahon's own paint-laden brush set down words as scripted light, as disputational voice, prophetic declamation, lament, song and haunted recitation. McCahon's written paintings somehow fuse the wonder of angelic utterance with the simple language of a roadside chalkboard, advertising kumara for sale. (from The Guide, 2001)

Exhibition history