Small oil (30.5 cm x 66.2cm) recently sold at Art + Object’s Important Photographs and Contemporary Art Auction 10 August 2017. Catalogue Description by Hamish Coney. Grahame Sydney is a supreme articulator of the specificity of place. So many of his widescreen landscapes are not only topographically accurate but also contains resonances and moods that correspond to the evocative lighting effects and seasonal variations that add up to a unique record of the visual and textural DNA of his chosen landscapes. Continue reading
Grahame rarely paints more than five or six images a year. Look under Galleries/Recent Paintings for a selection of his most recent work.
Mossgreen-Webb Catalogue Description 29th November 2016.
There is good reason to believe that Grahame Sydney placed a special importance on this painting since in at least two early survey exhibitions, at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in 1981 and at the Robert McDougall Gallery in 1982, he placed it as Number 1 in the catalogue. It had already been shown at the McDougall Gallery in 1977 when it was on the cover of his Paintings & Drawings catalogue. It has also been reproduced in several books, including Elizabeth Caughey and John Gow’s Contemporary New Zealand Art 2 (1999) and in Timeless Land by Grahame Sydney, Owen Marshall and Brian Turner, a book that has been reprinted five times.
All this attention and recognition signifies a major work by an important painter and it thoroughly deserves its status. It is a knock-out work, a classic example of Grahame Sydney at his best.
What makes it so memorable? Partly it is the monumentalizing of something so ordinary – an old railway sign wrapped in a ragged piece of cloth which obscures the words presumably written on its dirty white surface; probably SLOW, given the title of the work, though the title is deliberately ambiguous and multiple in its connotations (Sydney didn’t study literature at university level for nothing).
Then there is the tremendous Central Otago land-and-skyscape against which the sign stands (the low point of perspective emphasizing its height) – a featureless brown plain, vast and empty, through which railway tracks, probably disused, run from the bottom right corner into the middle of the picture, the point where sign, hills and sky coincide. And what a sky – huge, moody, subdued in colour, folded like a grey blanket and feathered at the edges – a remarkable act of observation and recording. The whole painting is a symphony in quiet and muted tones, ineffably melancholy in its sense of abandonment and decay, but majestic, too.
It is tempting to try to unpick some of the connotations of the image and title. It is a painting of a sign, but a sign whose meaning is covered up, obscured. A sign which in one sense does not signify, but in another sense is eloquent in its ramifications. The old sign dominates the painting as the cross does in a Crucifixion scene. Is this resemblance intended or not? ‘Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee’ (Matthew 12, 37). And Jesus replied, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it‘(12. 39). Is Sydney’s poetic image that of a world abandoned by God and man, a world in which no sign is given? Whether or not such metaphysical speculations are relevant the painting stands apart from them wholly satisfying in its conception and execution, fully justifying the slow, painstaking process of working with multiple layers of tempera pigment, stiffened with egg-yolk, just as used by the old masters.
Grahame has recently joined up with respected photographer and designer Reuben Price of 100%NZ to produce a small range of Grahame’s works as high quality, contemporary prints. Continue reading
The publisher’s have reprinted Grahame Sydney’s Central Otago – a photographic book focusing on Central Otago. Penguin New Zealand describes it as a ‘classic for years to come’.
Bowerbank Ninow, 26 July 2016. On August 3 Auckland-based auction house Bowerbank Ninow will sell the painting titled Dog Champs at Charlie’s Bar or Three Dogs at Charlies Bar (egg tempera on gesso 797 mm W x 402 mm H).
It has an interesting history. In 1982, the current owner commissioned Dog Champs after meeting with Sydney at his Mt. Pisa studio in Otago. It was paid for at that date, in order to assist the artist in his move to Dunedin.
However, it took a further 19 years before Sydney delivered the artwork. The current owner was 41 when the painting was started, shortly after the artist had settled in Dunedin. He received it in time for his 60th birthday. He had, of course, followed up to check on the painting’s progress over the course of the 19-year interval, but was repeatedly told by Sydney that he wasn’t doing egg tempera work at that time, but would in the future.
When the painting finally arrived, it was accompanied by a card from the artist wishing the owner happy birthday. In it, Sydney also wrote: “As it says in the Mainland cheese ad, ‘good things take time’ so this must be bloody good.” The scene depicted is the Lowburn dog trial site, just out of Cromwell on the road to Wanaka, prior to the dam being filled.
Grahame Sydney first began working as a full-time artist in 1974. In the decades since, he has built a reputation as one of New Zealand’s most successful and highly sought-after living artists. The demand for his paintings is so high that he no longer sells through exhibitions, as is the traditional model in the art world. Rather, he paints exclusively for a long list of collectors [both domestic and international] who are waiting to acquire his works privately.
As a result of their popularity, paintings by Sydney are very hard to come by. The prices that they achieve at auction have been rising steadily in recent years. Even so, major paintings are very seldom offered to the public. It has been two years since the last major landscape painting surfaced, so Dog Champs at Charlie’s Bar has already drawn the attention of collectors, both within New Zealand and overseas.
Grahame Sydney’s paintings are held in many of New Zealand’s pre-eminent collections including the Fletcher Trust, Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki, Christchurch Art Gallery and Te Papa Tongarewa. He was the 1978 Frances Hodgkins Fellow and is a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. He lives and works in Central Otago.
About Bowerbank Ninow:
Bowerbank Ninow opened its doors in August 2015 and specialises in selling artworks by modern and contemporary New Zealand artists. The firm has received widespread acclaim for voluntarily opting to pay a royalty to living artists whose works are re-sold privately or at auction. Living artists receive 2.5% of the hammer price, which is funded by Bowerbank Ninow’s commission and does not result in any additional cost for either the buyer or seller.
+64 21 045 1464
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Andrew Clark, Bowerbank Ninow, Auckland. Auction 03 August 2016.
Egg Tempera on board. 1982 – 2001. 797 mm W x 402 mm H.
It is easy to see why Grahame Sydney’s paintings have enjoyed such long-standing acclaim, both from the general public and from critics and collectors of New Zealand art. His immaculate landscapes in particular immediately command attention, drawing in the eye with their smooth, seamless surfaces and delicately observed details.
Morning, Castiglion. Oil on Linen. 2016. Private Collection.
Grahame is guest speaker at the Christchurch Art Gallery on Sunday 10th April at 5pm. Organised by Friends of Christchurch Art Gallery proceeds from the talk will go towards an acquisition for the gallery. Friends of the Gallery $30, non-members $40 (includes a complimentary glass of wine). Bookings to zn.gro.yrellagtrahcruhctsirhcnull@sdneirf or (03) 941 7356.
Grahame will be guest speaker at the launch of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery’s latest publication ‘Jeffrey Harris: Renaissance Days’ 5.30pm, Wed 24th Feb. Jeffrey is one of NZ’s senior art figures and an exhibition of his work is on display at the gallery until 28 March 2016.
Heartfelt sympathies go out to Imagevault, the supplier of our and other artists’ reproductions – they were recently targeted by arsonists, resulting in loss of all their stock. We do have limited supplies of Grahame’s work in so please do make contact as soon as possible if you wish to order for Christmas.
Otago Daily Times, 13 November 2015. David Loughrey: A Dunedin charity that redistributes unused fresh food to the city’s hungry is being helped out by members of the arts, rugby and cricket communities as it prepares for a major fundraiser. Continue reading
November, 2015: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is presented with a copy of ‘Grahame Sydney Paintings: 1974 – 2014’ when she attended a reception at Otago University to celebrate Dunedin’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature.
Extract from Webbs’ Auction Catalogue, 09 April 2015. Written by Elizabeth Rankin.
[The painting] Homestead with Mt Ida is an excellent example of Grahame Sydney’s landscape art, the genre for which he is best known, although his oeuvre encompasses many other subjects, notably figure studies and portraits. Continue reading
We are thrilled to learn ‘Grahame Sydney Paintings” 1974 – 2014’ has been shortlisted for the ‘Best Illustrated Book’ category in the Publishers Association of New Zealand Book Design Awards.
Wither Hills, Blenheim. 2015. Oil on Canvas. 760 x 1530 mm.
Grahame’s latest oil ‘Hawk’ now forms part of Bistro Gentil’s permanent art collection and sits alongside work by other New Zealand artists including Shane Cotton and John Pule. Bistro Gentil is located at 76 Golfcourse Road, Wanaka.
Grahame will be guest speaker at both the Auckland and Dunedin Writers’ Festival in May 2015. Continue reading
A new book on Grahame Sydney is far beyond what any public gallery could mount. The Sunday Star Times. 01 February 2015. Written by Hamish Keith. Continue reading
Empty and silent are not negatives for Central Otago painter Grahame Sydney, who past four decades of work have been collected in a new book. Continue reading
Grahame’s new book covering his 40 year career as an artist is now out. Featuring over 200 paintings it includes many unseen works as well as his most loved landscapes and figurative paintings. Grahame writes about his childhood and obsession with art while Vincent O’Sullivan (NZ’s Poet Laureate) writes insightfully about his work.
A small oil (40.5cm x 40.5cm) painted in 2003 titled ‘Trough’ sold at Webb’s auction house for $52,500 in late November 2014.
The Press, Mike Crean. 15 November 2014.
He may be New Zealand’s greatest living painter. Many people say he is. But Grahame Sydney claims his work is disdained by the nobs of the art world. Public and critical acclaim means little against what Sydney calls art’s “elite curatorial and institutional set”. The Central Otago painter is a fulltime professional, renowned by critics for his intricate craftsmanship and revered by masses who stare at his work and mutter in awe that “he has got it exactly right”. Continue reading
Beattie’s Book Blog. Graham Beattie. 19 November 2015.
Grahame Sydney is one of New Zealand’s major artists, famous for his quintessential and exquisitely rendered paintings of Central Otago and the South. Underpinned by a conviction that artists should look first to their own place, his work over the past four decades has become known to large numbers of New Zealanders who recognise and cherish Sydney’s deeply felt response to this country’s southern landscapes.
This book contains over 200 paintings from Sydney’s 40-year career, including all of his best-known landscapes, his figure paintings, and his highly distinctive paintings of buildings and their interiors. The book opens with a perceptive and finely turned account by the artist of his childhood in Dunedin and the beginnings of his obsession with art, and an essay from New Zealand’s Poet Laureate and man of letters, Vincent O’Sullivan, who writes insightfully and lyrically about Sydney’s work.
A landmark publication, this book captures magnificently the scale and significance of Grahame Sydney’s contribution to New Zealand art and culture.