Art New Zealand No. 95: ‘Grahame Sydney’

Winter 2000. ‘Sydney’s Calm’.  Art New Zealand, Number 95, David Eggleton.   “Sydney paints stillness (‘I’m the long stare, not the quick glimpse.’) He doesn’t paint rain or turbulence; he paints fine, calm days or night silence. But there’s always a tension in his images, a hint of undercurrents. He gives his naturalistic settings the theatrical intensity of surrealist dreamscapes. And in his paintings, simple details are magnified into monumentality… The primitive vernacular buildings he depicts are made from simple timber frames sheathed in plain corrugated iron. These static structures seem to represent the enigma of existence…

In Sydney, the landscape is lifted up and out of itself, and made to stand for the transience of Time. The rural totems: the mailbox, or the railway, or the road, or the fence, are loving, indeed devotional, reconstructions… Sydney’s studies of the female nude are part of his search for the essential form of things, part of his argument about the way things are: unadorned, taut, muscular forms in which he seeks to capture the fleeting moment – the exact point at which a garment being removed starts to pull away from the head, for example.”

Art New Zealand No 95, Winter 2000.   Alex Witherow.  “His scrupulous naturalism only serves to place the strange and impossible components within a persuasive grounding. Viewpoints in many of his pictures are ambiguous and disorientating as are distances and proportions. There are sudden jumps from near to far, foreground to background, and an emphasis on the sometimes eerie discordances and tensions between forms which do not quite balance or connect, the variance between things which should be the same and the similarities between things which should be different…

Sydney’s self-proclaimed definition of an artwork’s best qualities comes to mind in a new light; ‘its capacity to allow us to glimpse what it must be like being someone else, and to plant lingering images in our minds, images which must mean something because we can’t forget them….

It is insufficient to consider Sydney’s works merely in terms of regionalism. Aspects, not just of Surrealism, but Romanticism and many other strains, inform his work, all adding to a far more universal statement than is typically recognised. What is being dealt with is far more ‘regions of the mind’ than ‘regions of the heart’.”

Winter 2000. ‘The Art of Grahame Sydney, by Grahame Sydney and contributors’. Art News, New Zealand, Dan Chappell.  “The texts are well-positioned throughout, ensuring the book is no mere coffee table tome, and serve to create a more reflective ways to visit the works. The reproduction throughout is excellent, as befits the artist’s precise style and brush technique. The long winter shadows, big skies and wind-battered plains almost come off the page and the all-pervading loneliness and solitude so prevalent in his work is well captured.”