I recently received an announcement about the first female solo art exhibition in Papua New Guinea (PNG) that I thought was very special and would like to share with those that did not hear about it. “Beauty Within (PNG)” is a contemporary art exhibition featuring works in watercolor, natural dyes and mixed media by Joycelin Kauc Leahy at the Royal Papua Yacht Club in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on November 14, 2017.
Fifty works of art, studies and techniques culminates for the first time a large body of work shown by a single Papua New Guinean female artist in PNG. “I hope to bring focus to PNG’s simplicity in people, places and things that may seem common or typical, but has an aesthetic beauty about it, and I mean not just culture,” Leahy said. “A baby in a bilum (traditional bag), children at play, birds, and typically how our life is simple and less “technologized” is what I’m interested in,” she added.
Joycelin Leahy lives in Brisbane, Australia, and works across Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. She is a mostly self-taught artist who loves watercolor and has developed her own natural pigments from plants to use in her painting. These are seen in some of her ‘gum ladies’ paintings. Her painting style is influenced by her rich, colorful and unique Papua New Guinea heritage.
While she can draw and paint with other mediums, the natural pigments link to her heritage inspires her to continue to practice using some of these natural dyes before they disappear from her culture. Her love of this art-process stemmed from her childhood growing up in Wagang Village, Lae, Papua New Guinea. As a child, she spent days making paint from vines, leaves and fruits to paint grass skirts, bilums, tapa and headdresses with her grandmother, aunts and family members. She was also dancing with her singsing group, and throughout high school and University years, she danced with many other PNG provincial groups. This enabled her to understand the cultural dresses and the significance of the materials with performances and beliefs.
Leahy said, ” I am part of a tribe. I was raised by my mother and grandmother. Like many indigenous people who continue to struggle to hold on to their heritage, I feel that it is my responsibility to work hard to protect, preserve and sustain what belongs to my people. My art and my writing is one way of promoting and protecting heritage. ”
She continued, ” When I was growing up, we learnt from our elders. The connection we had with the land, animals, spirits and our ancestors remains a powerful force within me. When I paint, the magic is in letting go, observing, being in and feeling one with nature. Often I finish an artwork and I don’t remember where it came from.”
Leahy holds a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Queensland, Australia, and a Diploma in Journalism from the University of Papua New Guinea. She began practicing art in a professional capacity between 2016 and the beginning of 2017. Before becoming an artist full-time, she painted and drew for fun and spent her artistic and writing abilities to help promote the work of other Melanesian and Pacific Island artists and communities for almost 30 years. She is known for her work in climate change and intangible cultures, Pacific Storms Contemporary Art Exhibition and the Melanesian Wantok 2017 Showcase in Australia.
Leahy would like to sincerely thank the major sponsors of the exhibition: Royal Papua Yacht Club, Moore Printing, Frameshop, Whittaker, Kalem, and DHL Express (PNG).
“Beauty Within (PNG)” will, unfortunately, run for only one night. Hopefully, another exhibition featuring her works will be on display in the near future.
Good luck Ms. Leahy!