Born in 1995 in Moscow, Russia, Josh Tiessen is an international award-winning artist based near Toronto, Canada. Tiessen is best known for his hyper-surreal shaped oil paintings, which take up to 1700 hours to complete, and reflect the interaction between the natural world and human-made structures, drawing upon his studies in philosophy, theology, and intercultural aesthetics.
As a young artist Tiessen was designated one of the world's top ten prodigy artists by Huffington Post, and the only known male art prodigy in North America by Dr. J. Ruthsatz, global prodigy expert. As a teenager he was juried in as the youngest member of International Guild of Realism among foremost realist artists from around the world, Artists for Conservation and Society of Animal Artists, elite groups of the top nature and wildlife artists worldwide. Art Renewal Center designated him Associate Living Master, and New York based gallery Jonathan LeVine Projects awarded him First Place from 2000 artists in their international competition Search for the Next Great Artist. LeVine presented the emerging artist’s debut international solo exhibition "Streams in the Wasteland" in May of 2019. His next solo exhibition will take place at Rehs Contemporary Gallery in Spring 2023.
Mentored by masters like acclaimed Canadian artist Robert Bateman, Tiessen has exhibited his work since 2006 in over 100 exhibitions including the National Gallery of Canada and prominent galleries in the United States. He has sold over 150 original works and hundreds of limited edition giclée prints to private and corporate Canadian and international collectors.
Featured over 200 times in the press & media (Forbes, American Art Collector, International Artist), speaking and teaching at 60 venues, and making 90 invited art donations to charitable organizations, Tiessen established the Arts for a Change Foundation. This prolific artist has garnered over 60 awards and honours including International Guild of Realism Creative Achievement, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and Canada's Top 20 Under 20, for his artistic accomplishment and philanthropic work.
"While I was incredibly fortunate to be mentored under acclaimed wildlife artist Robert Bateman and began my career as a teenager in the Canadian wildlife art scene, I eventually found my own style, which I coined "Narrative Hyper-Surrealism." In my subject matter I often juxtapose animals with abandoned remnants of human civilizations, highlighting irony and parody, the hallmarks of postmodern art. This is best seen in my first thematic body of work Streams in the Wasteland (2015-2021), inspired by nature's reclamation in the biblical book of Isaiah.
The choice to paint on shaped non-quadrilateral wood panels was intuitive, as I found rectangles and squares non-conducive to my organic subject matter. The format of non-rectangular oil paintings draws upon the 'shaped canvas' of the abstract colour field painters, as well as medieval iconography. I also design Renaissance-inspired tabernacle and altarpiece frames, which provide an interpretive framework for the spiritual themes conveyed in my work.
From my Jewish and Christian heritage, the Bible has been a guiding influence in my artistic practice. Throughout art history many notable artists found inspiration in Scripture — from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel to Rembrandt's Prodigal Son. In our modern era it ranges from Andy Warhol's Last Supper screen prints, to contemporary artist Damien Hirst's biblical titles for his installation art (albeit tongue-in-cheek). I resonate with Jewish artist Marc Chagall's remarks: "For me, painting the Bible is like a bouquet of flowers. The Bible for me is absolutely pure poetry, a human tragedy. The prophets inspire me. It is a committed poetry."
While I am indebted to western art history, I seek to reinterpret this tradition through a zoological lens, liberating the Judeo-Christian worldview from its perversion at the hands of anthropocentric Greek philosophy. I wish to embody a visual theology of the intrinsic value and moral innocence of the animal kingdom. I take delight in emphasizing the beauty, particularity, and diversity of the natural world. My Studio Gallery is located in the Golden Horseshoe, halfway between Toronto and Niagara Falls. Lake Ontario is a couple kilometres down the road, the Bruce Trail is a block away, and I paint to the sight and sound of a wide variety of birds and small animals just outside my windows.
Animal art, which in the modern era was devalued as kitsch and not deemed worthy of the art gallery or museum, has come to be embraced in this century by some of the world's top galleries. Artists include Martin Wittfooth, Alexis Rockman, and most notably Walton Ford who has exhibited at the blue-chip Gagosian Gallery. According to art critic John Berger, "The first subject matter for painting was animal. Probably the first paint was animal blood. Prior to that, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the first metaphor was animal." While settings and styles have changed, the animal in art has endured over the centuries.
A major theme in my work is the ecological crisis of our day. In my lifetime there has been a marked acceleration in the loss of biodiversity, with three species going extinct every day. To put that into perspective, scientists tell us that the extinction rate is 1000 times higher than the historical loss ratio. This leads to imbalance in ecosystems, breeding new viruses and diseases. My whole family has experienced the effect of this through contracting Lyme Disease, an auto-immune illness on the rise due to the proliferation of ticks caused by warming winter temperatures. I endeavour to practice what I preach by donating proceeds from the sale of my art to conservation efforts, eating a plant-based diet, ensuring a non-toxic studio, and serving as a board member of a local conservation area.
Questions that I pose through my art include: "Could the ecological crisis of our day be a sign of judgment from the Creator for our disregard of the earth?" "Are not the animals still calling us to faithful stewardship of the planet we've been entrusted with? And fundamentally: "What worldview coherently undergirds and substantiates ecological ethics?"
According to Steven Bouma-Prediger, "We care for only what we love. We love only what we know. We truly know only what we experience." While animal art does not replace first-hand experience, like walking in the woods or going on a safari, it immortalizes a fleeting moment within nature for us to meditate on. As each of my paintings takes up to 1700 hours to complete, my subject matter has a profound influence on me. Animal art has the potential to evoke wonder, reorient our affections, and increase empathy for our fellow creatures.
I have endeavoured to draw together two strands – spirituality and art – as a way to inspire greater appreciation for the natural world, motivate environmental stewardship, and provide hope in anxious times (with irony and a little humour thrown in for comic relief)."
b. 1995 Moscow, Russia
Selected Exhibitions (from 100 gallery & juried shows)
2021 - Group: Jackson Hole Art Auction, Jackson Hole WY
2021 - Group: Rehs Contemporary Gallery, LA Art Show, Los Angeles CA
2021 - Group: "Annual Small Works Show," Beinart Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
2021 - Group: "Ritual Deluxe," Wow X Wow, United Kingdom
2020 - Group: "The Society of Animal Artists Members Exhibition," Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, Oradell NJ
2020 - Group: Rehs Contemporary Gallery, New York City NY
2019 - Solo: "Streams in the Wasteland II" Corey Helford Gallery, Los Angeles CA
2019 - Group: "Lucky 13 Anniversary Show," Corey Helford Gallery, Los Angeles CA
2019 - Solo: "Streams in the Wasteland," Jonathan LeVine Projects, Jersey City NJ
2019 - Group "Ascent," Talon Gallery, Portland OR
2018 - Solo: "Josh Tiessen at RZIM Gallery," CBC Canada, Toronto ON
2018 - 2-Person: Josh Tiessen Studio Gallery, LA Art Show, Los Angeles CA
2017 - Group: Juxtapoz Magazine "Clubhouse," Miami FL
2017 - Group: Jonathan LeVine Projects, Scope Miami, Miami FL
2017 - Group: "Search for the Next Great Artist," Jonathan LeVine Projects, Jersey City NJ
2017 - Solo: "Watching Paint Peel," The Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON
2017 - Group: "Winter Salon," The Marshall Gallery, Scottsdale AZ
2016 - Group: "Small Works," Gallery 1261, Denver CO
2016 - Solo: "7th Annual Open House," Josh Tiessen Studio Gallery, Stoney Creek ON
2015-2016 - Group: "Masterworks from the International Guild of Realism," R.W. Norton Gallery, Shreveport LS; Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala FL; Albany Museum of Art, Albany GA
2015 - Group: "International Guild of Realism," Principle Gallery, Alexandria VA
2014 - Solo: "The Visceral," Josh Tiessen Studio Gallery, Stoney Creek ON
2014 & 2016 - Group: "Annual Juried Exhibition," Algonquin Art Centre, Algonquin Park ON
2014 - Group: "Remnants," Robert Lange Studios, Charleston SC
2013 - Group: "International Guild of Realism," Tempe Center for the Arts, Tempe AZ
2013 - Group: "The Artist Project," Exhibition Place, Toronto ON
2012 - 12-Person: "So you want to be an artist?" National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa ON
2010 - Solo: "Josh Tiessen: Launching into Fine Art," Art Gallery of Burlington ON
Selected Awards and Honours (from 60)
2019 - Rehs Contemporary Gallery Award for "New Sheriff in Town," Annual Salon Competition, Art Renewal Center USA
2018 - Dual Category Award for "Occidental Babylon," Landscape & Animals, Annual Salon Competition, Art Renewal Center USA
2017 - First Place Winner, Delusional: Search for the Next Great Artist, Jonathan LeVine Projects
2017 - Canada 150 Sesquicentennial Constituent Award, Government of Canada
2016 - Best Wildlife Award, International Guild of Realism
2014 - Creative Achievement Award, International Guild of Realism
2013 - Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 Award, Plan International Canada
2012 - Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Government of Canada
"I believe all that we have comes from God, who created the world and is the ultimate Source of everything in it. I give out of sincere gratitude for all the material blessings I enjoy, and seek to responsibly steward that which God has entrusted to me: my gift for art and the financial resources which result from it. These beliefs form the basis for my philanthropic lifestyle. By seventeen I had donated funds and art to over forty charities. My donations were multiplied through charity auctions, with a framed print raising upwards to $1,000. To date, through these fundraisers my art has generated over $50,000 for seventy-five charities. I decided to start my own foundation to better coordinate my charitable giving and art donations. I chose not to use my name, as I wanted to actualize my philosophy of doing 'art with a purpose' to make a difference in the world in partnership with others. So I created the name Arts for a Change Foundation, to benefit individuals and organizations making a difference through humanitarian and conservation efforts. I entrusted Abundance Canada, which has a similar faith base and stewardship philosophy, to manage and disperse funds under my direction. I am thankful to my collectors who have participated with me by purchasing my art and supporting Arts for a Change Foundation."
As an award-winning international artist, Josh is often asked to speak, teach and display his art. Having spoken at over 50 engagements including elementary and high schools, colleges, community groups, churches and conferences, Josh has several talks including his story of becoming a professional fine art by 16, how to make an art career, and the relationship of art and faith. With the goal of inspiring and encouraging listeners, he highlights themes like the importance of mentorship, appreciation for nature, doing 'art with a purpose', and how good things can come out of the worst circumstances. Accompanied by a digital slideshow depicting his journey and images of his art, Josh is a dynamic speaker who is able to adapt his presentation for all audiences.
If interested in booking Josh to speak, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the following info:
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