Artist Profile
Your friend the enemy

John Walsh

New Zealand indigenous artist John Walsh is known for his unconventional style.  His paintings are characterised by a distinctively vibrant palette of aqua and green hues, and a penchant for bold and expressive brushwork.


Walsh’s unconventional style and subject matter has evolved over recent years as he infuses narrative paintings with whimsy and wit. 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.

Walsh’s works from Gallipoli focus on the intimate stories that took place during the war.  The above work explores the practice of everyday communications. The Turks had a constant flow of people relaying mail and news and supplies between the front and villages keeping contact with family and the state of their campaign. Walsh’s paintings personalise and provide insight into the individual narratives and experiences during a violent time of war.

Both an artist and curator John Walsh is of Aitanga a Hauiti descent. Walsh’s technique and narrative approach has been evolving since he left Art School.  Since 1993 he has been the curator of contemporary Maori art at the National Art Gallery (now Te Papa).

Walsh exhibits annually in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. He has completed a number of large public commissions including participating in the Pathfinder International Mural project in New York City in 1989. His work is held in various public and private collections including the James Wallace Collection, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, the Sargeant Gallery Collection and the Jean Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre Collection in Noumea, New Caledonia.

Image: Uncle Mamet relays news, 2014, oil on paper, 17.7 x 42 cm
Courtesy the artist

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