Delightfulness central to work

Hannah Joynt delivers one of her latest works to Olga where she is exhibiting this month.
Hannah Joynt delivers one of her latest works to Olga where she is exhibiting this month. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Dunedin artist and teacher Hannah Joynt is never short of an idea or  enthusiasm to 
try new things - the challenge is to pace herself. She tells Rebecca Fox about painting and performing.


Look closely - yes, that is a man pedalling two pink inflatable sharks across a pond as a swan glides by.

"I want my work to be delightful, I want my work to be funny," Dunedin artist and teacher Hannah Joynt says.

"I just can’t make work that is really serious. I try to but I just can’t."

That is not to say there is not a thoughtful side to some of her works.

A work featuring a man standing holding three umbrellas on top of each other - a parasol, a rain and then a sun umbrella - looks humorous on first glimpse but for Joynt it is a commentary on climate change.

Another features a car piled high with furniture and a campervan with a washing machine and dryer on the roof. It references issues about homelessness and self-contained freedom camping.

"It might seem funny to see a car with its whiteware on the roof but it could speak to a narrative that could be quite tragic. They do speak to much bigger issues, but indirectly."

Some works, such as one of a scuba diver jumping off a springboard, are just fun for absurdity’s sake.

"It’s the absurdity of language. It’s another angle to the absurdist lens."

The boatman, by Hannah Joynt. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The boatman, by Hannah Joynt. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The works form part of an exhibition opening tomorrow not surprisingly called "The Absurds".

The concept came out of drawings Joynt (35) made during lockdown.

"I was doing daily sketches and as time went on they got more and more peculiar. I guess they were my response to the disruption of lockdown, the strangeness of it."

Then there were the stories of the absurd things people were doing to pass the time at home.

"The absurdity of what people do, how they behave. They were doing random, crazy stuff."

Those influences culminated in the main work of the exhibition, featuring people on a pond in various types of pedal and flotation devices alongside black swans.

"There are people on swan boats. You can buy yourself a pedal swan on Alibaba or a pedal seahorse. They are all real things that exist. I didn’t have to go far to find the absurd. My favourite is the pedal shark."

The colourful works, some of which are only postcard-sized, are a departure from Joynt’s more recent chalk pastels, as she made the decision to return to oils - something she found very challenging.

"I painted it all with a No 0 brush. It’s all heavily textured, it’s something that developed during my master’s.

"I hadn’t used oils in five years. So it’s been a big shift in my practice, but I think the skills from working in the pastels has crossed over to the wet media."

As if returning to oils was not enough, Joynt also decided to restrict her colour palette to an "obnoxious super-phosphate green", a bright yellow verging on orange, magenta and a cobalt blue.

She then mixed the "oversaturated" colours to give her the softer, almost illustrative colours in the works, more reflective of the chalk pastel palette she usually works with.

"It’s not a palette I’ve used before. I like to put restrictions on certain aspects of the painting process. When I have a restriction it allows me to play and explore things I wouldn’t normally do. The colours ties the works together."

The works "play on the edges" between fine art and illustration - a place Joynt likes to be.

"That edge between painting and drawing, I’m always sitting on that one especially with my pastel works."

Given the works have all been created since lockdown, she feels they will be important to look back on in years to come, as a reflection of such a significant, stressful year for everyone.

"They’re important works for me. They might have other things to say later on, looking back."

She feels she is at a point in her practice where her aesthetic is evolving to be distinctive, which allows her to mix things up.

It is not just with her painting that Joynt has been mixing things up.

For some time she has been collaborating with fellow teacher Jane Venis - they both share an office and teach at Otago Polytechnic - under the banner "Small Measures".

It started out as Venis playing music, improvising, while Joynt drew in response to the music, then Venis playing in response to the drawing.

The collaboration took both artists in directions they would not have gone by themselves.

"That’s how we’ve been using collaborative method."

In 2019, the pair were successful in gaining the Buinho Creative Residency, in Messejana, Portugal. It was Joynt’s first residency and trip to Europe.

"It was an important point for me in my art career and not having been to Europe before, it influences you in a big way."

While there, they were able to experiment with different ideas, and they made a physical theatre sketch based at a bullfighting ring, which has been made into a short film.

"We use our own bodies to tell a story. Jane plays the ukulele."

Umbrella for a  changing climate, by Hannah Joynt.  PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Umbrella for a changing climate, by Hannah Joynt. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Late last year, they heard the film had been accepted to be shown at a London short film festival, the Bomb Factory Artist Film Festival.

"It was a huge Christmas present for us. We were over the moon."

Performing is not unheard of for Joynt. She has done performance painting before, where she paints in front of an audience, and she regularly demonstrates in front of her level four students in art and design at the Dunedin School of Art.

"It hasn’t come out of nowhere. I thought you just have to go for it. You’re having a similar dialogue. It’s just a different discipline and it’s quite exciting really, refreshing."

Joynt’s teaching career began during her fine art degree at the school.

Interested in teaching, she began doing after-school art classes for primary school pupils to see how she liked it. Then she got a job as a teaching and research assistant at the art school in 2007.

It confirmed she wanted to teach, so she began working towards a qualification and moved up to lecturer.

Now a senior lecturer, she loves her job teaching the level four students.

"I love that they are at the very beginning of their creative journey. They have this freedom and I get to watch their journey. It’s amazing to see where they are in five or 10 years time."

She splits her time half and half between teaching and her own practice.

"They inform each other and feed the other practice. It’s quite a symbiotic way of working."

Having a regular income also freed Joynt of financial worries, allowing her to concentrate on her work.

"It’s important for me as any financial stress can impact on the creative process. The security of that is important to me."

She set up her own studio space straight after art school and has continued making work ever since.

"Having an easel set up and a pinboard are all important things ... It might look like a chaotic mess but there is structure in there. I need that creative mess to come out and be with me for that whole body of work."

As part of her process, she will have images on the walls and a play list that she will play over and over while creating a particular body of work.

"It allows what you have imagined in your head to create and also for you to go beyond that imagining, to a new territory. This work took on a life of its own."

Joynt completed her master’s in 2017, an important step for extending her practice nationally and internationally.

She also made the commitment to make less work and spend more time on making art.

"It’s a luxury I have given I do not rely on selling my work to make a living."

The next year she exhibited works in contemporary drawing and landscape exhibitions at the CICA Museum in Seoul, South Korea.

In 2019 she exhibited in collaboration with Venis at Ashburton Art Gallery.

Last year, the pair had had planned to go to South Korea for their exhibition "Dual" at the CICA Museum, but Covid-19 prevented that. However, they were able to get the work to Korea though in time for it to be exhibited.

"It was an amazing 2020 full on, I decided not to fight it. The challenge for me is to pace it out a bit."


"The Absurds’’, Hannah Joynt,
Olga Gallery 
January 29-February 19


These are stories of which there should be more.
The artisans, the channellers, those in the World, offering unique perceptions.

That's enough about Rebecca Fox. The Art School teacher is amazing as well.

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