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Tam Joseph

Tam Joseph (b.1947) is a Dominica-born British painter. 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 which he left after a few months. 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.


The eclectic spirit of the Bohemian has played a definitive role in Joseph’s multifaceted exploration of contemporary realities, exploring the many inspirations, aspirations, and contradictions that shape those realities. Joseph’s work is often figurative, personal, ephemeral, and idiosyncratic, with a surrealistic take on life as he sees it.


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".


Joseph’s work has been the subject of and included in numerous exhibitions in the UK and Internationally.


The works of Tam Joseph are in private and public collections including: The Arts Council; Victoria & Albert Museum; The Museum of London; Wolverhampton Art Gallery; Kelvingrove Gallery; Ben Uri Gallery; Contemporary Art Society; Sheffield City Art Gallery; Camden Libraries; Bradford City Museum; Newlyn Orion; Tate Gallery.


'Evolution - Tam Joseph Paintings'  3 Oct - 1 Nov 2020 (extended), Felix & Spear, London (press release).

'The Face: Portraits by Tam Joseph'  19 Nov 2021 - 9 Jan 2022 (extended to 16 Jan), Felix & Spear, London (press release).

'Beam Me Up, Sweet Lord'  23 Sep - 29 Oct 2023, Felix & Spear, London (press release)

Joseph, Tam_ painter, 2020-09, DSC_1245

Photo by Anne Purkiss

Tam Joseph (b.1947)

Spirit of the Carnival 


acrylic on paper, 200 x 200 cm

Wolverhampton Art Gallery

The Art Fund podcast uncovering the story behind Tam Joseph’s powerful painting, which offers a commentary on the large police presences at the Notting Hill Carnival during the 1970s and 1980s.

Selected Works

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