An upgraded Knight

Known for his lonely-yet-inviting Central Otago landscapes, Sir Grahame Charles Sydney has been promoted from Officer to Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to art.


Moonrise at the Shearer's Kitchen. Oil on Linen. 840 x 1215 mm. 2014. Private Collection, New Zealand. [Source: https://www.grahamesydney.co.nz/gallery/]

Painted in a rural Otago studio, Sir Grahame Sydney’s work has attracted record crowds over the years. His Regions of the Heart: 25-year retrospective toured New Zealand’s public galleries from 1999 to 2001. Ninety-thousand people attended Down South – Recent Paintings, a major exhibition of his new work at Porirua’s Pātaka Art and Museum. Sydney is the current chair of the Henderson Arts Trust, and was the driving force behind Alexandra’s Henderson House Artists in Residence programme. He’s represented in the collections of the major New Zealand galleries and in many private collections here and overseas.


His work immerses the viewer in the scene. “You don’t just see the land here, you feel it” says art critic Keith Stewart. Sydney represents the physical details of light, texture, and temperature in his paintings so precisely that a first viewing might trick you into thinking you’re looking at a photograph.


Sydney’s realism seems to invite viewers to step into the images he creates. “I find other people’s worlds very fascinating – you know, that eternal curiosity of what it’s like being someone else,” Sydney said in an interview in March.


Sydney completed a BA in English and Geography at Otago University. He was mentored and inspired most notably by Ralph Hotere and Michael Smither. His skill in oil painting, watercolour, egg tempera, lithography, etching, and photography has been honed over five decades. He works meticulously and slowly, completing around six pieces a year for private collections.


By Ellie Franco Williams