Joe Sheehan follows in his father's footsteps as a jade-worker, taking a contemporary look at the relevance and position of greenstone carving in today's world. Joe concentrated mostly on jewellery and metal skills while at University, studying contemporary jewellery at Unitec in the mid-90s. He has since worked in carving studios nationally and has visited nephrite-jade deposits around the world.
His work has looked at the commercialisation of the jade industry and the limitations it places on jade and its potential as a medium for relevant art practise, asking why much modern greenstone carving looks like museum-held works, rather than objects of this time. Seeking fresh responses and processes, Joe plays with social and cultural contexts with his work, presenting pounamu and jade objects that speak first about their object status and second about their materials. There is a conceptual background evident in his work, where he utilises international materials and forms to address the way jade's cultural associations are marketed.
Joe had his first solo show Stonedog at Avid Gallery, Wellington in 2004. Other solo shows include Limelight at Objectspace, Auckland, Clean Green at FHE gallery in Auckland and Slideshow Tim Melville Gallery, Auckland.
Along with more traditional forms of jewellery such as a necklace made from several hundred precision-cut discs of Russian Nephrite, other jade and pounamu works have included meticulously rendered ballpoint pens, a working lightbulb, a cassette tape that plays a recording of a river, sunglasses, AA batteries and a suite of three slide carousels and projectors. The skillful handling of hard stone combined with some hard thinking makes these everyday objects thoughtful commentaries on the way we see things.
Joe was one of five inaugural recipients of an Arts Foundation New Generation Award in 2006. He has also been the recipient of an Artists to Antarctica Fellowship.