'Beach Front'

Oil painting on linen by Grant McSherry. 1300 mm x 804 mm.

Ohope Beach painting by Grant McSherry

The art of painting is sometimes similar to the art of life…given the same few colours on your palette you can choose to create either a bright blue day or brooding weather...

Ohope Beach is a place that I would normally describe using summer tones and colours; however, to capture the autumn of 2011 at Ohope beach as I experienced it, I needed to use my colours differently. Perhaps the brooding mood and subdued colour of this oil painting of West End, Ohope Beach is a commentary of the time, as much as a different perspective on a favourite place.

I captured the imagery for ‘Beach Front’ during a family get together to celebrate Dad’s birthday at Ohope Beach in April 2011. We stayed at the same place we had gathered three years earlier, the same spot we used to holiday as a young family. On this visit no day passed without heavy rain. Ohope Beach looked quite different to how it did three years earlier; the sand at West End had turned an amazing golden colour, quite possibly a result of the slip activity that had been plaguing the Whakatane community over recent years. (Evidence of slip activity is visible in ‘Beach Front’ as it also is in ‘Craig’s Chair’ and ‘West End, Ohope Beach’.)

The inclement weather offered me an opportunity to portray a new perspective on our old holiday place and as I wandered the familiar beach with my camera, I saw Ohope quite differently. I came across dramatic skyscapes that changed the colour and nature of the sea and from the set of photos I took for ‘Beach Front’ I was able to have huge fun at my easel working differently with colour.

I did, in fact use exactly the same colours that I generally use to paint pleasant blue days to convey a different feeling; a little subdued, much like we were in Canterbury during June 2011…

Our world began to change at 4:35 am on September 4, 2010. The epicentre of the massive 7.1 earthquake was only 7.3 kms from our home (4.5 miles for those who speak that language) and the quake was just 10 kms deep. Michelle and I made it through unscathed with an unbelievably small amount of damage to our home and contents. Our Newfoundland Dogs Henry & Enzo were fine too. We immediately expected aftershocks, and this was precisely what happened, but over a more extended period of months than we had imagined.

As the aftershocks of the initial quake continued, a second fault unzipped in Christchurch on February 22, 2011, taking 185 lives, including those of some Michelle & I knew. The quake devastated Christchurch City. Then a third fault, again centred near Christchurch, rumbled and shook into life on June 13, planting uncertainty in the minds of many as to what might come next. The major Alpine fault, which remained dormant and potentially lethal, was in the darkest thoughts of many, especially those of us living close to the mountains. We believed that this fault had the potential to explode with the intensity of an eight or nine on the Richter scale...

Artist Grant McSherry in the Christchurch CBD while doing some voluntary quake related work (project suburbs).Left; artist Grant McSherry posing with an army vehicle in the Christchurch CBD red zone while doing some voluntary quake related work (Operation Suburbs).

Life changed in our community. For example we were invited to a party in July by a friend who was leaving Christchurch to escape the quakes and the invitation was accompanied by an assessment of the safety of the host’s home along with a description of the number of building exits.

I had been getting my hair cut in the bathroom of my hairdresser’s home, as his business premises were rendered unusable by the quakes. Many of us were sleeping with a torch beside the bed, some with shoes at the ready. Michelle took a torch to work daily... just in case. These things are all part of what we called ‘the new normal’ and all of this was topical when I began work on ‘Beach Front’.

It’s fitting that this oil painting of my favourite seaside resort should not be painted with sunshine and summer surf this time around. During the opening night of an exhibition in early June 2011 I was asked if the quakes had affected my painting, to which I promptly replied "Absolutely not". I don’t know if I would have been motivated to paint this image otherwise, but I do know that I couldn’t bring myself to paint ‘Beach Front’ as darkly as I had originally envisaged. I'm really happy with the result.

Original painting 'Beach Front': oil on linen
Original painting size: 1300mm x 804mm
Artist's collection.