The Exciting New Works of Joseph John.
Story by Patricia Gil
oseph’s affair with art started as a young child. He has always painted and art has been his life’s calling and his career. From Emae Island, in the Shepherds group, Joseph grew up in Efate but returns to his home island almost every year. It is there that he gets a lot of the inspiration for his paintings. “I love the ocean and back in my island, go out into the ocean and dive every day.”
book ‘Nana Coco petite sarciere de la Grande-terre et l’ogre tres gros’ by Claudine Jacques. His oil and watercolour paintings can be found in government buildings and private homes. “I get quite a bit of commissioned work. After more than 30 years as an artist, word of mouth goes around. Sometimes people will ask for a very specific painting and sometimes it is a general theme that they would like me to translate into a painting.” T he absolute underlying theme of all of Joseph’s works is nature and the interaction of humans and the natural world. Above and beyond, on the earth and in the ocean, Joseph paints the beauty of nature like few people can. His latest work is a series of watercolours in which human forms are drawn out of rich marine and forest landscapes. The paintings are infinitely delicate. With remarkable intricacy, richness of detail and exquisite colouring and shading, each painting is an expression of the endless beauty of nature. “We are killing nature. We need nature and nature needs us. When we kill the trees, the birds go, the animals go. When we kill nature, we kill ourselves,” he explains. Joseph’s other preoccupation is with the current state of art in Vanuatu. “At the moment, I am teaching art at the Vanuatu Teachers College. I am teaching teachers how to teach art to children. Art is not being taught enough at schools and at a higher level. There is also a lack of understanding of how to teach art. Teaching art is not about giving a child a piece of paper and saying, ‘ go ahead, paint!’ and that is that. Teaching art is about teaching how to see, how to look at something and see something else. It is about encouraging experimentation and giving direction. It is about teaching how to be creative and to inspire to create new things, not to copy,” Joseph explains. H is current teaching commitments are taking time away from his art and his watercolour series rests unfinished, waiting. “I am taking time off this Christmas to finish the series. I have so many ideas that new paintings keep coming into my head and I don’t have the time to finish it all. I have to put the ideas down onto paper first, before I lose them. But I will get there.” The works are of such quality that buyers are looking to acquire his work before it is even finished. Joseph however, is not so sure about selling the watercolours. “I don’t know what am I going to do. The originals are really not for sale and my idea is to keep them and display them permanently. ” But fear not, from limited edition prints to posters, the works will be available in different forms to be enjoyed by many. I personally can’t wait.