Joe Sheehan (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 objects that speak first about their object status and second about their material.
His work has included traditional forms of jewellery as well as meticulously rendered ballpoint pens, AA batteries, a working lightbulb, and a New Zealand pounamu (jade) cassette tape which plays a recording of the river where the stone was found.
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 Awards. In 2008 he was invited to represent New Zealand in 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