Tam Joseph

Tam Joseph (b.1947) is a Dominica-born British painter, formerly known as Tom Joseph. Described as "a uniquely talented, multidimensional artist" by art historian Eddie Chambers, "Tam Joseph has contributed a number of memorable paintings that locate themselves at the centre of socio-political commentary, often making work that shocks as it amuses, amuses as it shocks. Typical in this regard are paintings for which Joseph is universally loved and respected, such as 'Spirit of the Carnival' and 'UK School Report'."


Born in the Commonwealth of Dominica, Joseph came to London at the age of eight, where he still lives and works. In 1967 he studied at the Central School of Art and Design, following this with a BA course at the Slade School of Art, University of London. He worked on Yellow Submarine, the 1968 animated film featuring the Beatles. He travelled in Europe and the Far East during the 1970s, and subsequently enrolled at the London College of Printing, graduating with a Dip AD in Typographic design. While working for the magazine Africa Journal in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he travelled extensively in Africa. In 1979 he illustrated Buchi Emecheta's children's book Titch the Cat, published by Allison and Busby.


According to InIVA (the Institute of International Visual Art), "Joseph's work is often figurative and centred on the themes of reality, or rather the surreality, of life in the city."


One of his best known paintings is his 1983 work Spirit of the Carnival, a reference to the Notting Hill Carnival. Another notable work, dating from 1983, is UK School Report, which depicts the passage of a Black youth through the British education system in three portraits that are captioned: "Good at sports", "Likes music" and "Needs surveillance".


His exhibitions have included: Caribbean Art at the Crossroads, El Museo del Barrio, Studio Museum in Harlem and Queens Museum, 2012; This is History, Gallery II and touring, 1998; Learning to Walk, Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling, and touring; Us and Dem, Storey Institute, Lancaster, 1994; Back to School, The Showroom, London, 1989; Black Art: Plotting the Course, Oldham Art Gallery and touring, 1988; Big Yellow, Bedford Hill Gallery, 1988; Observers are Worried, Painting and Sculpture, St Pancras Library and Shaw Theatre, London, 1986; Monkey Dey Chop, Baboon Dey Cry, Barbican Arts Centre, London, 1984. His work was included in the recent exhibition No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960–1990 at London's Guildhall Art Gallery (10 July 2015 – 24 January 2016).


Public Collections: Arts Council; Contemporary Art Society; Sheffield City Art Gallery; Camden Libraries; Bradford City Museum; Kelvingrove Gallery; Newlyn Orion Galleries; Wolverhampton Art Gallery. 


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