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When McCahon declared, ‘I will need words,’ in a 1961 letter to poet John Caselberg, he was saying he needed them for something. He wanted his paintings to speak: to cut through, to communicate, to be clear in a new way about human fears and hopes and about how to love authentically. And he saw that painted words were a way to approach spiritual realities and urgencies that resisted conventional picturing.

Justin Paton, McCahon Country