'The Rangitata at Mesopotamia'

Oil painting on linen by Grant McSherry. 1500 mm x 700 mm.

Mesopotamia Rangitata River painting by Grant McSherry

I arranged to take a week in August 2010 to find inspiration for paintings from around the Rakaia and Rangitata Rivers...as it turned out the weather for the entire week was appalling. I took some solace in the fact that overall I have been really fortunate in coinciding field trips with good weather and thought that if I persevered I may still find a silver lining in all the low cloud. My first outing during my week off was to the end of Double Hill Run Road, where everything was so grey and bleak that all of the photos I took in the hope of finding a painting may have well as been shot in black and white.Mesopotamia, New Zealand

I had promised to take Alan, my Father - in - law with me to Mesopotamia during the week and having studied the weather forecast we locked in the Thursday for the trip. I had visited Mesopotamia the year prior and had been totally captivated by the place …the stunning river completely surrounded by ranges and huge craggy snow covered mountains...an awesome panoramic vista.

When we left home, the day was again bleak and grey, just like the Rakaia trip. Driving through Peel Forest the thought of turning back crossed my mind more than once, but as we had come most of the way we pressed on. As we wound through the hills I tried to explain to Alan the marvels he would see on a good day, when there was no ultra low ceiling of cloud obscuring all but the bottoms of the foot hills.

We eventually made the bridge with the sign proclaiming that we had arrived at Mesopotamia. I suggested that we go and find Dr Sinclair’s grave at the historic cemetery. Once we found the grave, set back from the other more recent resting places, it took us several moments to make out the inscription, worn away by the alpine elements since 1861.

We thought we would have a bite of lunch by the Rangitata River before returning home so we made the short drive from the cemetery to the braided shores of the Rangitata, where we walked around a little in the chilly grey environment. As we did, we noticed that the low grey cloud was beginning to burn off and as this progressed the day warmed markedly. Within an hour or so the mountains began to reveal themselves one by one in spectacular fashion like some sort of choreographed production as the grey blanket dissolved to reveal a sky of bright blue.

We were now surrounded by a panorama of awesome mountains and ranges and the Rangitata was beginning to sparkle in the constantly energising sunlight. Although we were at the very bottom of a great valley, we were, 495 metres above sea level (according to Google Earth).

I shot plenty of photos, but within a very short time the light was too bright from most angles. I took the shot that I worked from for my painting ‘The Rangitata at Mesopotamia’ looking back downstream toward the Harper Range just as the last of the cloud was lifting from the first range to become visible.

Interestingly, as we cleared Peel Forest on the way home we found the day outside of Mesopotamia was just as it was when we had arrived…cold, and very grey with no mountain vistas visible.

I hope to revisit and paint Mesopotamia many times yet. To my mind there’s something very special and maybe even slightly eerie around its peacefulness. I have been very fortunate that on my visits to date the elements have chosen to work with me.

Original painting 'The Rangitata at Mesopotamia': Oil on linen
Original painting size:1500mm x 700mm.

Private collection, Christchurch, N.Z.