Top Artist Exhibits in Porirua

The Dominion Post.  23 September 2011.  Bronwyn Torrie.

One of the country’s major artists Grahame Sydney is exhibiting his work for the first time in a decade.

His exhibition Down South – Recent Paintings opened at Porirua’s Pataka Museum last night with 26 paintings borrowed from owners until the show ends in February.

“It’s quite a big gesture to give your children away like that,” he said of the paintings’ owners.  He is best known for his luminous, transcendent paintings of Central Otago.

Sydney was ”extremely pleased” to be approached by Pataka’s contemporary art curator Helen Kedgley, who asked him to exhibit his works in Porirua.  “Well it’s the first public show for me for 10 years.  “No one else has ever approached me on that matter so I was delighted.”

The 63-year-old’s works in the exhibition include landscape paintings inspired by two trips to Antarctica in 2003 and 2006.  He described being in awe of the barren ”alien other worldly” landscape during his first trip where he spent his time gazing at the landscape to gain a sense of understanding.  “I never like the idea of a tourist view of looking out the window and turning it into art without understanding and experiencing it.”  His second trip was much more productive, he explains.  “I wasn’t quite so much the tourist and was a little more familiar.”  Because it was too cold to actually paint he took photographs and produced his works when he returned to his home in the depths of Central Otago in the little-known Cambrian Valley. “I’ve never been one for travelling and bringing back a suitcase full of paintings I’m very much a homeboy and a regional painter.  “But I hope that they still fit in some how, they’ve still got to look like me.”

He has become “more minimalist” after working with the reduced colour, texture and narrow tones of the basic landscape consisting of ice rock and sky – a drastic contrast from rich landscapes depicting seasonal change. His trip to Antarctica also sparked a passion for photography.  A collection of 25 photographs will be on display at Pataka from October 15 to coincide with the release of his his book of photographs, Graham Sydney: Central Otago.

Ms Kedgley said Sydney’s exhibition at Pataka 10 years ago was extremely popular.  “He has a very big following.”   Sydney will hold a floortalk tomorrow (24 September) at 1pm at Pataka.