Art in South Canterbury

By John Wilson

The province of South Canterbury is on the east coast of the Central SouthIsland. I live in Timaru, the main town and port for the area, serving a large rural community. It is the gateway to the Southern Alps, Mt Cook and the Mackenzie country, including the hydro lakes of Tekapo, Pukaki and Benmore.

The area abounds with subject matter for the plein air watercolour artist. Most of my work reflects my reaction to this stimulating environment. Historically, South Canterbury has been home to many famous watercolour artists over the years.

Their works are frequently on display at our local Aigantie Art Gallery. The South Canterbury Arts Society, of which I am a Past President, has a long history of supporting the arts in the area since the late 1800s, only going into recess for a short time during World War II. Meeting once a month it supports many watercolour workshops and two local exhibitions a year in its historic bluestone clubrooms and one national exhibition every October in Timaru’s Aigantie Art Gallery. This is a prestigious exhibition being a juried show.

Timaru also has two private galleries, the Saffron and York Street Gallery where there is always a good range of local and international watercolour works on display. We are also spoilt for choice with numerous other opportunities to exhibit. The Geraldine district is the home of many national and internally renowned watercolour artists, including Richard Bolton, Paul Hanrahan, Ben Woollcombe and the late Austen Deans. Most of the small towns in the district have their own art groups with many people pursuing the watercolour medium.

My interest in art first developed at an early age through watching my father paint. I found I loved to draw and sketch and that I had a natural talent for this. I went on to cartooning which I really enjoyed and still do to this day. After a career in a jewellery business, I furthered my art endeavours at the Aoraki Polytechnic, completing a diploma in Design and Graphics. I dabbled in watercolour while doing my art studies and found it suited my personality. In the early days I gained my inspiration from the old English Masters, Edward Wesson
and Edward Seago etc.

I consider myself an impressionist painter and try to capturethe mood and atmosphere of the people and places I am painting. My motivation comes from all areas, mountains to the sea and the busy metropolis.

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