Customary Maori narrative has been an ongoing source of inspiration for artist, John Walsh.
In his paintings Walsh conjures up dreamscapes and vistas where ancient beings, gods and demigods weave the fabric of human existence. Initially an accomplished portrait painter, Walsh’s unconventional style and subject matter has evolved over recent years as he infuses narrative paintings with whimsy and wit.
Characterised by a distinctively vibrant palette of aqua and green hues, a cast of lyrical hybrid characters and a penchant for bold and expressive brushwork, Walsh has quickly garnered a reputation for himself, becoming a solid fixture in many public and private collections throughout the country. Walsh’s painterly individualism is undeniable. Gestural strokes mimic the trace of his movements- wiping, sweeping and scratching the pigment across the surface of the work. At times it is frenzied or tumultuous yet always in keeping with the dynamic narrative which is being told. Although his stories may be located in the distant ‘past’ they are never fixed nor static- they remain relevant and contemporary, ever evolving- and Walsh communicates this superbly through constant movement, vivid colour and imaginative storytelling.
John Walsh was born in Tolaga Bay in 1954 and is of Te Aitanga a Hauiti and Irish descent. He lives and works in Wellington where he was Curator at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa before dedicating to a full time career as an artist.
He attended Ilam School of Art at Canterbury University from 1973-74, but refers to himself as a predominantly self-taught artist. Walsh regularly shows works at PAULNACHE Gallery in Gisborne and in 2009 held a solo exhibition at the Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, entitled Flying Solo. He has completed a number of public commissions which include a foyer painting for the Wellington City Council in 2004 as well as participation in the Pathfinder International Mural project in New York City in 1989.
His works are held in various public and private collections including the James Wallace Collection, Auckland; the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington; the Sargeant Gallery, Whanganui and the Jean Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre Collection in Noumea, New Caledonia.