John Christian Gould was born in 1952 in England of British-Icelandic parents. As a child he lived in England, Iceland, Ireland, Germany and Singapore before emigrating to Australia in 1966 with his family. A severe dyslexic, he found his passion for the visual arts at an early age.
His initial training was as a sculptor at the Canberra School of Art where he studied with Ron Robertson-Swann. After graduating in 1978, he worked with Ron Robertston-Swann on the Melbourne City Square sculpture, "Vault". John undertook post-graduate training in sculpture at the City Art Institute (formerly the Alexander Mackie College) in Sydney and completed a Graduate Diploma in Education (Technical) at the Institute of Technical and Adult Education in Sydney. He has taught painting and sculpture with NSW TAFE over a number of years in Wollongong, Armidale, Goulburn and Queanbeyan and with the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT Solutions), between periods living overseas.
Since 1978, John has held 13 major exhibitions of sculpture and paintings including at the Irving Sculpture Gallery (Sydney), Solander Gallery (Canberra), Gallery Delta (Zimbabwe), Australian Embassy Beijing, Australian High Commission Port Moresby and M16 Artspace (Canberra). The exhibition in Port Moresby (Australia Week, 5-9 March 2012) was a joint exhibition with noted PNG artist Ratoos Gary Haopa and curated by Katherine McMahon, Head of Gallery Development, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
John's first sculptures were squarely in the tradition of the formalist welded steel sculpture of the 1960s. After graduating, an interest in sand painting inspired by Jackson Pollock, together with an interest in sand-casting and a love of artifacts and the exotic, led to a study of North American Indian ceremony and artifacts. He was interested in sculpture having a narrative which involved investigation, research and documentation — rather than being purely about form and aesthetics.
The early works inspired by North American Indian culture were multi-media ranging from sand-casting to small welded objects in wood and glass boxes depicting aspects of artifact and ceremony, with a museum-like quality. The work was exhibited at the late Celia Winter-Irving's Irving Sculpture Gallery in Glebe, Sydney (1982-1984), to much acclaim. In 1985, his sculpture "The Native's Return" was shown at the Ninth Mildura Sculpture Triennial in Victoria.
From 1986-88 John was based in Nairobi, Kenya and from 1994-97 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Africa marked a move from sculpture to painting and multi-media constructions. In Kenya, John developed a technique using pen and ink and sepia-toned wash that give the impression of an etching or original print. Each image takes an inordinate amount of time to produce, including those in the Africa Nights series. One of these was published in the limited edition Aries Art 94, Vol 1, No 1 (1994), collected by the National Gallery of Australia.
From Nairobi, John travelled to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania to conduct a workshop for Makonde wood sculptors at Nyumba Ya Sanaa (House of Art) teaching them to use welded steel techniques to produce traditional forms. The gates featuring the colourful welded-steel animals and birds which John and the Makonde sculptors produced still stand at the entrance to Nyumba Ya Sanaa, next door to the Sheraton Hotel in Dar Es Salaam.
In Harare, John exhibited his work and ran workshops on construction techniques for Zimbabwean artists at Gallery Delta. In Zimbabwe, John's path crossed again with Celia Winter-Irving (1941-2009), author of Contemporary Stone Sculpture in Zimbabwe who had moved to Zimbabwe to research and curate Shona sculpture. John's African works were shown at three major exhibitions back in Canberra at Joy Warren's Solander Gallery (1989, 1992 and 1998).
The opportunity to live in Beijing from 2001-2004 marked a new phase inspired by the immense history and dynamism of China, particularly the juxtaposition of the old and the new. John produced a series of topographical maps of Beijing, inspired by long bicycle rides, in which old Beijing is revealed beneath the surface of the modern city. The artifacts, carpets, textiles, ceramics and sculptures of China were a source of rich inspiration for John's China series.
From 2005-2009, John taught painting and drawing with CIT Solutions and was closely associated with the Mawamball Elders Art Group in Queanbeyan NSW as teacher and mentor. John's work over this period was increasingly environmental, exploring landscapes and rivers and the extremes of drought, fire and flood. His work “Sacred River” was awarded the People's Choice Award at the 2009 Capital Chemist art awards at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre.
John spent 2010-2012 living in Port Moresby and exploring the diverse landscapes and cultures of Papua New Guinea through his paintings and multi-media constructions. He taught an enthusiastic class, the Aviat Art Group, and facilitated workshops with the City Mission and Save the Children's Poro Sapot Project to produce posters for World AIDS Day 2011. He was also a judge for the 2010 and 2011 Luk Save Art Show, one of Port Moresby's premier visual arts events.
John is now back in Canberra where he is teaching painting and drawing at CIT Solutions. He has had work in recent exhibitions at the New England Regional Art Museum, M16 Artspace and the Tuggeranong Arts Centre. This work reflects both his continuing interest in Pacific navigational aids and growing interest in the Australian environment and habitat.
Updated May 2017