Java Leonard’s first SOLD OUT solo exhibition curated by Leela Bhai, was a collection of works in Trials of a Mind combines a visual reflection of the artist’s thoughts and experiences. It also considers dystopian societies throughout history, exposing a sadness impacting his internal dialogue and equilibrium.
Java works prolifically using any mediums available to him, often layering acrylic, pastels, builders’ pencil, and spray paint. He predominantly works on a large scale, allowing him the space and freedom for gestural marks full of movement and expression. His stylistic approach displays his influence of Jean-Michel Basquiat, but his narrative goes further, embedding personal stories of experience.
“I paint the experiences of my life. I explore and catalogue my thoughts through whatever medium I have at hand, usually in large scale recordings. These thoughts and experiences are layered until I am happy with the surface hiding the secrets below.”
21-year-old Java Leonardo is a young Māori artist from West Auckland. He attended Avondale College, where he focused on visual art subjects. He was accepted into Whitecliffe in 2018 but dropped out of the bachelor’s degree a year later due to unforeseen circumstances. Utilising his social media presence to drum up interest in his work, he continued to paint, selling work to friends and family until he was approached by independent curator Leela Bhai to participate in Barrel Store Colony II, a group show in Henderson, June 2021. Java show-cased three mixed-media works alongside established painters Andy Leleisi’uao, Dagmar Vaikalafi Dyck, and Sylvia Marsters, photographer Raymond Sagapolutele and sculptor Stephen Woodward. The exhibition hosted a visual conversation between the artists championing friendship within an artist community. Java’s work was well received, and two pieces sold on opening night. An image of his piece Rusting of Trust was selected and posted by Art New Zealand Magazine on their Instagram page, resulting in much interest and subsequent sales.