John Foster

Commentary - Seven Months in South Canterbury

South Canterbury mural

1977, Acrylic on paper, Length 10.7m, Height 2.18m

View Mural
plain image


A cross section of South Canterbury

This mural is laid out like a map – the Canterbury Plains on the left, foothills in the centre, and the mountains on the right. A seasonal gradation also exists across the mural, with summer plains on the left merging to autumn greens, and winter snows on the right.


Most of the individual pictures were painted on location. Often, twenty or so pieces of paper were clipped to a board and taken several thousand feet up a mountainside where quick drying acrylic paints were used to render the hastily changing light effects. Frequently John was trying to hold those papers in a howling nor’wester, or suffering from frozen toes standing in snow, or being bombed by fertilizer dropped from a topdressing aircraft.

“Every day possible I took the small squares of paper on a board in the car about the district. A painting in acrylics was hastily painted wherever the landscape appealed to me. Back at the cottage there would be days spent going over these paintings, making sure the form was right, the colours answered to each other in the painting. In the seven months there were over 400 paintings done – 240 of these comprise the mural.” -- John Foster

The colours in this mural were mixed from four tubes of paint – red, yellow, blue, and white. These landscapes are predominantly greys of the primary colours mixed with complementary colours.

John's colour chart

“The paintings were bundled together and taken back to Northland. There was no thought then of making a mural of the individual paintings, but the idea must have occurred to me sooner or later. A number of the paintings were laid out on the large woolshed floor, then a ladder climbed up from where I could look down on them. From there it was decided in which order to compose the map-like sequence that they now appear in as the mural.” -- John Foster

No prints were made of this mural, as John lacked print making facilities in the family’s temporary accommodations. Many individual paintings exist which are not included in the mural.

Series also includes:

Working Drawing

« Prev   Next »