‘Perfectionist’ Grahame Sydney on Show in Parnell, Auckland

By Deb Haworth.  April 16, 2013.  AUT online magazine.

An exhibition of Grahame Sydney’s photography and lithography can be viewed at Jonathon Grant Gallery in Parnell until April 25.  Sydney is considered one of New Zealand’s most important artists and was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit for services to painting in 2003. Gallery owner Jonathon Gooderham says he is such an important artist because, “no one else can paint the atmosphere of an Otago landscape like he can”. “He is instantly recognisable.

“He is a total perfectionist . . . absolutely in tune with his landscape. He is an Otago man – he lives amongst it, sees it, appreciates it and tries to preserve it.” His meticulous paintings may also be viewed at the Auckland Art Gallery, Te Papa Tongarewa and Christchurch Art Gallery. Sydney says he chooses what to paint or photograph by “trusting instinct”.

“It is an endless process of being aware . . . some things linger longer than others and those images that hover in the memory bank, that keep knocking on the brain . . . it’s just trusting that instinct. “Over a career you develop a style or flavour in your work which becomes accentuated over time.

“What you never think about is your own style. It just comes naturally. It’s what you can’t help. It’s built into you and eventually you find ways of delivering it to your own satisfaction,” he says. Grahame Sydney doesn’t “do commission work and I never let anyone commit me to a particular subject.

“I do what I want to do and then try and find a good home for it.

“I’ve always got more ideas than I’ve got time for.”

As well as being an immensely talented artist across three mediums, painting, lithography and photography, Sydney has written several books on his art and is “very keen” on creating film documentaries about New Zealand artists. “In an ideal world, if I was a man of independent means, I would be making arts documentaries.

“There are many wonderful stories to be told about artists in New Zealand. I think I can tell these stories and I think I know how to film them.” Sydney cares deeply about the Otago countryside and is an active conservationist.

He is opposes the Government’s “cavalier attitude toward the conservation department and national parks.”

He is gravely concerned about “the unchecked invasion of the wilding pine threatening the Southern landscape.”

Also on his radar is the probable approval of a waterfront hotel planned for Dunedin, which, if granted consent, “abuses” Dunedin’s Victorian and Edwardian building heritage.