Tam Joseph

Tam Joseph
Thomas Joseph

1947 (age 73–74)
EducationCentral School of Art and Design; Slade School of Art, University of London
Notable work
Spirit of the Carnival;
UK School Report

Tam Joseph (born 1947) is a Dominica-born British painter, formerly known as Tom Joseph.[1] 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'."[2]


Born in the Commonwealth of Dominica, Joseph came at the age of eight to London, where he still lives and works.[3] 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.[4] While working for the magazine Africa Journal in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he also travelled extensively in Africa.[5] In 1979 he illustrated Buchi Emecheta's children's book Titch the Cat, published by Allison and Busby.[6]

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."[7]

In the documentary film Tam Joseph; Work in Progress he talks about his start as a painter and how he enjoys using tools he himself has made. This film was made over a period spanning seven years (2011–2017) and includes his work in sculpture, painting and graphic design.[8]

He recognises Pablo Picasso as one of his main references in sculpture and admires how he was capable of looking at things and offering a new interpretation of them.

One of Joseph's best known paintings is his 1983 work Spirit of the Carnival,[2] a reference to the Notting Hill Carnival.[9] 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".[10]

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,[11] Painting and Sculpture, St Pancras Library and Shaw Theatre, London, 1986; Monkey Dey Chop, Baboon Dey Cry, Barbican Arts Centre, London, 1984.[12] 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).[13]

Selected group exhibitions[]

–– Creation For Liberation 2nd Open Exhibition By Black Artists, Brixton Art Gallery, London[14]

–– Prema Art Gallery, Gloucestershire, The Old Mill, Uley

  • 1988: Black Art: Plotting the Course, Oldham Art Gallery

–– The Artist Abroad, Lincolnshire, Usher Gallery

  • 1990: Steel by Design, Scunthorpe Museum
  • 1992: Blast from the Past, Glasgow Art Museum

––The Minories, Colchester

  • 1993: Greenwich Citizens Art Gallery
  • 1994: Us n' Dem, Lancaster City Art Galleries
  • 1995: ART'CRA, Accra, Ghana

–– Tricycle Theatre, London
–– Gallerie de la Salamandre, Nîmes

  • 1997: Bradford, Museums and Art Galleries

–– Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield

  • 1998: Le Corps Humain, Gallerie des Arênes, Nîmes
  • 1999: Tullie House Art Gallery, Carlisle
  • 2000: Galerie HD Nick, Aubais
  • 2006: Gallerie de L'Ombres, Nîmes
  • 2007: Hawkins & Co, Elspeth Kyle Gallery, London
  • 2008: Hawkins & Co, Novas Contemporary Urban Centre, Liverpool

–– Crossing the Waters, Cartwright Hall, Bradford

  • 2009: The Tavern Gallery, Meldreth, Herts

–– Pic n'Mix, Woolworth, Leytonstone High Road, London

  • 2010: Gallery 101, Mansion House, London
  • 2012: Material Matters EastwingX, Courtauld Institute, London

–– Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, Queens Museum of Art New York; El Museo, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem

  • 2013: 50 Years post Birmingham, The Art Gallery: University of Maryland College

–– Tehran Calling, London Print Workshop

–– Perez Museum of Art, Miami, Caribbean: Crossroads of the World
–– Tam Joseph: "Back in School", The Reading Room, London
–– "Where Do I End and You Begin?" Edinburgh Art Festival


  1. ^ Eddie Chambers, Black Artists in British Art: A History since the 1950s, I.B. Tauris, 2014, note 20, pp. 255–56. ISBN 1780762720.
  2. ^ a b Eddie Chambers, "Tam Joseph - This is History" (1998).
  3. ^ "Tam Joseph" at Diaspora Artists.
  4. ^ Creative Africa Network.
  5. ^ "Tam Joseph", Dak'Art 2014.
  6. ^ "A Life Well Lived – Buchi Emecheta’s Life In Novels", The Guardian (Nigeria), 26 January 2017.
  7. ^ "Tam Joseph", InIVA.
  8. ^ Erik Moore, "Tam Joseph; Work in Progress", 5 December 2019.
  9. ^ "The Gallery: Carnival", The National Archives.
  10. ^ Tam Joseph commentary, p. 2, "Calling" project.
  11. ^ "Tam Joseph: Observers Are Worried", Eddie Chambers.
  12. ^ "Tam Joseph", Festival projects, Edinburgh Art Festival, 30 July – 30 August 2015.
  13. ^ Hamja Ahsan, "Exhibition of the Year: No Colour Bar: Black Art in Action 1960-1990", Media Diversified, 31 December 2015.
  14. ^ Brixton Art Gallery Archive 1983–1986, Brixton 50.
  15. ^ "Evolution: Tam Joseph Paintings | 3 Oct 2020 – 15 Nov 2020", ArtRabbit.

External links[]