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Artwork Inspires Identity For Youth

Media Release 30 June 2014

Artwork Inspires Identity For Youth

Joel Martin’s artwork has started to inspire a journey of progress and identity for Northland youth. Joel is an artist and father and he has gifted the image of one of his paintings for use on the NorthTec’s Youth Guarantee Programme pamphlet. He initially studied art at NorthTec and now lives near Auckland.

Joel – “The painting is a side branch of a life-changing work I did creating a logo motif for our family crest. In that research journey, I discovered my own identity. I have found a greater purpose that is outside of myself and that has given my life meaning and direction. Sometimes we need a clear sense of who we are before we can progress.”

Joel’s family crest logo combines imagery that symbolizes aspiration and connection. Joel – “I intuitively used symbols that I later found out had a direct link to the stories of my ancestors – like fishing and sawmilling – and the central shape brings the strands of my Scottish and Ngati Whatua and Maniapoto ancestry together. It puts story into a visual language.”

Joel says his painting used on the Youth Guarantee pamphlet can be generalized so that it can help others searching for their identity. “It is like a conduit to our ancestors through fishing, the moon, and the night-sky. It is a visual aid to connect us to striving - just like when we cast our hooks into life’s deep ocean, or when we stare into the darkness in search of something.”

Joel has seen a lot of darkness is his own journey but says it was art that got him through. “Education didn’t work for me when I was young. I was always good at art but was kicked out of school young and learning was hard for me. I eventually found inspiration when someone gave the book Mataora. I was introduced to leading contemporary Maori artists and their world view, and it shook my world. These people had vision. It broke me out of my own shell into a broader identity of family and community. I was relieved to find that I could have a great artistic gift, and also have an application, vision, and purpose for it.”

“I was challenged and fascinated and started studying art at NorthTec. I later studied at Massey University under some of the artists in that very book. It took me 10 years on a bumpy life road, but I eventually gained my Bachelor in Visual Arts. My life and study came together after I started kickboxing. It seems to bring balance and focus to my life and I now have national titles and a New Zealand belt in Mauy Thai – a form of kick boxing.”

“So my art has not so much been a journey into fame or even recognition, but more a journey into discovering my identity which I can now use to help others find theirs. Sometimes in life we really struggle and we then have to step back for a while. But don’t retreat for too long. When we can learn from our failures and rejections, we can begin to rebuild and then we create something from the inside out that is unstoppable.”


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