Joe Sheehan (b.1976) studied contemporary jewellery at Unitec in the mid-1990s, and since then has worked in carving studios throughout New Zealand and visited nephrite-jade deposits around the world.
Sheehan’s practice explores the contemporary relevance and position of stone carving by playing with social and cultural contexts and by making artworks that speak about both their material and object status.
His work has included traditional forms of jewellery as well as meticulously rendered batteries, a working lightbulb, and a New Zealand pounamu (jade) cassette tape which plays a recording of the river where the stone was found. Since 2019 Sheehan’s practice has also encompassed large floor-based sculptural works.
Sheehan writes: “I am trying to shift my work away from something that looks like it has been slowly worn away by a hand rubbing with stone on the edge of the river, into something that acknowledges the industrial nature of the process and the industry. This interests me because of the changes I am seeing in the tourism industry as well as the craft/art world. It seems to speak of the way that both our country and our idea of identity is developing.”
In November 2006 Sheehan was one of the inaugural recipients of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand’s prestigious New Generation Award. In 2008 he presented work at the 28th Sao Paulo Bienal in Brazil. In 2010 he received an Antarctica Fellowship.
Joe Sheehan lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand.
Artist Portrait: Aaron Burgess