"Sydney is a clever magician who plies his craft with great skill and subtlety, making paintings that are seemingly simple, but their plain reality tenders deeper emotions than simple recognition. You don't just see the land here, you feel it... These hills, these skies give us a voice that is unique, a voice that is evoked by the art of Grahame Sydney. It is the voice of us all."
Keith Stewart, Art Critic.
Grahame Sydney has become one of New Zealand’s most significant and enduring artists, anchored firmly in the heartland of Central Otago.
Born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1948 he graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1969 and Secondary Teachers College in 1970. Following his first solo exhibition at the Moray Gallery (Dunedin) in 1972, he spent a period overseas in the United Kingdom and Europe before returning to Dunedin in 1974 to begin life as a full-time artist.
His work now spans over four decades and encompasses oils, watercolours, egg tempera, lithographs, etching, photography and film. Rarely exhibiting, Grahame’s works are held in private collections through-out the world and represented in the collections of New Zealand’s major galleries and museums. The iconic ‘Rozzie at Pisa’ hangs in Wellington at Te Papa Tongarewa, and his ‘Self-Portrait at Fifty’ is held by the Christchurch Art Gallery.
Painting now for a private client list and always a meticulously slow worker, he generally produces no more than six works a year. His paintings are rarely exhibited for public sale. However his lithographs and photographs are also highly sought-after and the reproduced art prints of his work have sold in their thousands.
He was awarded an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for his services to painting in 2003.
In 2003 and 2006 Grahame travelled to Antarctica as guest of Antarctica New Zealand. Unable to use his usual media due to the extreme temperatures he turned to the camera, which has resulted in a resurgence of his long-standing love of photography. He is an Ambassador for Canon.
Always a willing writer, Sydney is the author or significant contributor to several books including: ‘Grahame Sydney Paintings: 1974 – 2014’, Grahame Sydney’s Central Otago (photographs, 2011) ‘Promised Land’ (2009), ‘White Silence’ (Antarctic photographs, 2008) and the much loved Timeless Land (1995 [now in its fifth reprint]).
To learn more about the artist and his work we recommend reading ‘Grahame Sydney Paintings: 1974 – 2014’ and ‘The Art of Grahame Sydney’, both of which include a selection of paintings and detailed essays.
Grahame is well known for his environmental views and played a significant role in the ‘Save Central’ campaign to prevent large scale wind farms dominating the Central Otago landscape. He is currently active in wilding pine control in the region.
1948: Born Dunedin, New Zealand
1953–66: Corstorphine Primary, Macandrew Intermediate and King's High School
1967–69: University of Otago, graduating BA (English and Geography)
1970: Secondary Teacher’s College, Christchurch
1971–72: Taught Cromwell District High School, Central Otago
1973–74: Travelled to United Kingdom and Europe
1974: Returned to Dunedin, commencing full time art career
1976–83: Lived at Mount Pisa Station, Central Otago
1978: Frances Hodgkins Fellow, University of Otago, Dunedin
1979: Birth of daughter, Melissa
1981: Birth of son, Nicholas
1983: Returned to live in Dunedin
2000: Built a house and studio near St Bathans in Central Otago.
2003: Travelled to Antarctica as guest of New Zealand Government (and again in 2006)
2003: Made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM)
2003: Moved to Central Otago house permanently.