‘Teaching Aids 2’ by Colin McCahon

The painting is multilayered in it’s language, concept and meaning.
It consists of 10 chalkboards, on which there are rectangles painted in white on black.
The rectangles can be understood as representing landscapes.
They can also be viewed as crucifixes, hopscotch grids, and windows.
Some of the rectangles contain numerals – some of the numerals have been
rubbed out.

The use of chalkboards situates the painting in a classroom.
It is a universal classroom; one in which we are all students.
Is there a teacher?
Does the artist situate himself as the teacher?
Or is this the work of a student reaching and fumbling toward understanding?

Human attempts at understanding the meaning of life, questions
about the purpose of human existence, the purpose of the universe, the
existence or otherwise of a God – have been represented numerically –
algorithms, columns, and patterns of numbers attempt to encode meaning
and refer to the language of pure mathematics and physics – Why are we
here? What is out there? Is there a God? Does it matter? Why does it
matter? We try to understand, we encode and deconstruct, we make mistakes,
mistaken attempts to understand are important – it is in the act of
trying to understand and trying to create meaning that we humans are at
our best. There is humility, love and anguish in this painting. There is
reason and there is abandonment. It is a deeply authentic work that does
not try to win any prizes – it’s value is in the rigor and flexibility of
it’s creator’s intelligence, in his flexibility of mind, in it’s multiple
frames of reference, in the synthesis of those frames and in the artist’s
love and intent. That it is terribly lonely is part of it’s comfort.

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