This page is not a current Christchurch City Council document. Please read our disclaimer.
Media Releases
  Media Releases


Grahame Sydney: Photographs of Antarctica

17 October 2007

Freezing temperatures in Antarctica forced New Zealand realist painter Grahame Sydney to abandon his preferred medium of painting for photography.

Using pencils and watercolours in the harsh frozen conditions of Antarctica was impossible. Instead, he used photography during his 2003 and 2006 visits to Antarctica to capture the frozen landscape’s endless horizons and the spectacular light of dusk and dawn on the continent.

Grahame Sydney: Photographs of Antarctica opens at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu this Friday, 19 October. The exhibition runs till 2 December.

A collection of eight images, Grahame Sydney: Photographs of Antarctica portray Sydney’s unmistakable interpretation of the landscape, capturing the vast horizon, barren environment and the sense of human impermanence.

Sydney says since a young boy, he had always wanted to visit Antarctica. "The Antarctic was the theatre of so much famous drama; it was a place adventure boys tended to know about , having sat in school and listened to readings from Scott’s diary."

"New Zealand has such strong connections with Antarctica because of the marvellous expeditions at the start of last century."

Yet, for Sydney going to look at the landscape was "more strange and magnificent" than he thought.

With his love of the extremes, whether heat or cold, he says the Antarctic was a "fundamental experience of basic elements: weather, snow, ice and rock".

"As a result, the landscape is very minimal. Everything is so reduced that the luxury of different textures, different colours and the whole range of visual elements is completely minimal and therefore subtle. It is a love of these glorious absences that you are most aware of."

It wasn’t until part way through his second trip that Sydney started thinking of his photography as standalone images and began to work at creating images which reflected his distinctive style. "I will never swap the paintbrush or pencil but now do see photography as a legitimate art form for me."

Sydney is also using his hundreds of photos as the basis to create a series of paintings on the Antarctic. "I do not like the imitation of photographic realism but rather borrow imagery to rebuild landscapes."

He says the Antarctic landscape is literally infinite. He marvels at the "compellingly, hellish stories" of men walking on foot or taking horses and heading off towards the vast horizon and not knowing what is on the other side.

"Nature has no room for humans in the Antarctic; you do feel like an intruder. This is a place where human life is sustained but only artificially."

Grahame Sydney: Photographs of Antarctica is at the Christchurch Art Gallery from 19 October to 2 December 2007.

Top of Page ~ Media Release index

This page is not a current Christchurch City Council document. Please read our disclaimer.
© Christchurch City Council, Christchurch, New Zealand | Contact the Council