4 Nov 2016

Golden Valleys Turn Green

From Country Life, 9:18 pm on 4 November 2016
Grahame Sydney in his studio

Grahame Sydney in his studio Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Dunedin born artist Grahame Sydney has been living and working in Central Otago for over more than 40 years. He is most well-known for his landscapes of the region.

Over the past several years the golden landscapes depicted in his paintings have been changing. Intensive irrigation is transforming the once semi-arid valleys into lush green pastures that support a growing dairy industry.

"It's turning the same green as everywhere else in the country, sometimes you're driving through what used to be noticeably and beautifully Central Otago character and now it could be Waikato or Taranaki or Southland."

Grahame is concerned that farming practices in the region are increasingly driven by maximising income with no view of the long-term effects or sustainability.

"That intensification, that toxic greenery is artificially sustained and it concerns me hugely about how the rivers are being drained and spoiled everywhere through Central Otago" he says.

In his paintings, Grahame has vowed to stick steadfastly to the colours Central Otago has displayed for hundreds of years.

He is not short of inspiration.

"The older I get the less distance I have to travel to find work that interests me and you just plunder the gold seam deeper and deeper. I don't go much further than the Maniototo and you stumble across things and images simmer away in the back of your head and you realise you have to do something with them."