The poem Paradise Diptych (download here) from my first poetry collection DREAM HOUSES was inspired by this mural by New Zealand artist Colin McCahon. Painted directly on the interior wall of the artist’s kitchen, circa 1952, it was acquired directly from McCahon’s French Bay home (now the McCahon House museum) by my father in the early 1960s.
As the painting formed the inside cladding of the McCahon family’s kitchen wall it had to be literally cut out of the existing house. My Dad and his friend Frank, then architecture students at Auckland University, drove out to the lush, green west coast of Auckland one afternoon and removed the work in two pieces, lashing them securely on top of their car with ropes, then plugging up the space left by the wiring and light switch with a slap of brown paint, which you can see in the photo above. I don’t know if it was raining on the day they drove out to get the painting, but I like to imagine it was.
I grew up staring at this picture as we ate our dinners, and I always thought it was my Mum and Dad in their garden in Auckland, which was a kind of paradise for us four kids (the four little birds from the poem). The original painting still hangs over my parents’ dining room table, a facsimile has been installed in the museum.