DAK’ART 2014

11ème Biennale de l’Art Africain Contemporain 09/05>08/06

Tam Joseph


Crows Mate for Life : Acrylic paints, cement, on board, 240x109cm, 2013, courtesy of the artist, © Bob Brown.
Laughing Legend with Stratocaster: oil paint on board, 120x85cm, 2013, © Bob Brown.

With his ever evolving style, it is difficult to pigeonhole Joseph’s art. It ranges from formal abstraction, figural, impressionistic to the surreal. It can also be a mélange. Crows Mate for Life is realistically rendered. It features a single black crow in flight against a heavily textured light-bluish abstract background that adds an air of surrealism to the panting. Similarly, Laughing Legend with Stratocaster is a realistic representation of a human form. However, there is something surrealistic about the subject matter as well as Joseph’s application of the colors. He imagines the head of Jimi Hendrix on the body of Frans Hals’ famous painting Laughing Cavalier. Joseph’s Hendrix is a mythical creature, a composite of two beings. The artist pays homage to the influential seventeenth century painter and twentieth century music genius. Hendrix’s modern Stratocaster guitar casually plays against his Baroque clothing, compressing historical time and evoking surrealism. Joseph’s work draws inspiration from a multitude of sources as a result of his life of travel. He explains that the experiences he has and things he sees “whirl around like a maelstrom at the center of which lies a social and political, religious, and mystical core.”

Born in Dominica in 1947, Tam Joseph migrated to Britain in 1953 when he was seven years old. Beginning with his 1970s whirlwind nomadic tour of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the eclectic spirit of the Bohemian has played a definitive role in Joseph’s aesthetics. While working for the magazine Africa Journal in the late 1970s and early1980s, Joseph traveled extensively across Africa, having a first-hand experience of Africa and her peoples, and connecting his African, Caribbean, and black British backgrounds. He was an influential member of the Black British Art Movement in the 1980s and produced works that reflected his ideological commitments in that period. Some of his iconic works are The Dogon’s Tale, Spirit of the Carnival, UK School Report, Timespan, The Flying Doctor, and Under The sea, Under The Sea. They show his multiple painting techniques that range from formal abstraction, intense figuration, impressionism to surrealism. Yet with his ever evolving style and exploration of multiple art forms and genres, it is difficult to pigeonhole Joseph’s art. A self-described free spirit, his interests in a global black (art) history and migrant experiences function as a critical backdrop in his work. For more than three decades, he has sustained a thematic engagement with Africa’s and the global black world’s multifaceted contemporary realities, exploring the many inspirations, aspirations, and contradictions that shape those realities.

View online : www.tamjosephartlive.com