Spiritual Yards – Gallery 3: Leonard Daley, William “Woody” Joseph

Spiritual Yards: Home Ground of Jamaica’s Intuitives – Selections from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection, opens on December 11. Here is a post on two more of the artists in the exhibition, along with video footage, courtesy of Wayne Cox.

Leonard Daley (c1930-2006) was born in St Catherine. He moved Kingston where he became a part of the urban Rastafari movement. Later in life, he moved back to the hills of St Catherine residing in Wakefield. He worked at a number of jobs including as a cook and a taxi-driver. The paintings of Daley have been dated to as early as the late 1970s, although it is speculated that he may have been producing paintings from much earlier. Daley’s imagery involved a high degree of surrealism that featured densely packed and multi-layered compositions of ghoulish figures and faces, animals and text. He worked on a variety of discarded materials including plywood, hardboard, metal drum lids, pieces of tarpaulin and even shredded canvas. Daley described his artistic process as an automatic response to his own meditations and thoughts, “I close my eyes and I pray a lot. Sometimes tears fall down…Sometimes I sit down and look at the plain wall, and I can’t penetrate it. And so I will use some water in my mouth, and spew it on the wall, and whatever way it dries it comes out as a picture.” Daley participated in many local and international exhibitions, including Fifteen Intuitives (1987) at the National Gallery of Jamaica and New World Imagery: Contemporary Jamaican Art (1995) at the Hayward Gallery, London. He is well represented in a number of private and public collections internationally and locally, including the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica. In 2002, he was awarded a Bronze Musgrave Medal for Art by the Institute of Jamaica.

William “Woody” Joseph (1919-1998) was born in Castleton, St Mary. At some point in his life, he moved to Stony Hill, St Andrew, where he lived for a while until he built his house in Castleton. He began carving around 1963. One narrative states that he was inspired to carve when he went to a river to heal an injured leg and saw a stick floating in it. He took it as a sign that if he carved the stick, it would assist the healing. From then on, Woody viewed carving as a spiritual service or in his words “capture the heart of justice.” His anthropomorphic and zoomorphic wooden forms were reminiscent of similar forms in African and Taino traditions and demonstrate an imagination that was deeply tied to nature and the spiritual realm. Woody began exhibiting his sculptures sometime around the late 1970s. Notable local and international exhibitions include the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Intuitives series and Redemption Songs: The Self-Taught Artists of Jamaica (1997) organized by the Diggs Gallery, USA. He was awarded a Bronze Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica in 1988.


Leonard Daley (1930-2006)

Leonard Daley - The Pickpocket (1984), Private Collection

We continue building our archives on Jamaican artists with a post on the Intuitive painter Leonard Daley. This post is adapted from the Intuitives III catalogue, biographical information from our Education Department, and a tribute by Chief Curator David Boxer which was read at Daley’s funeral.

For me, the late Leonard Daley may well have produced one of the most original and impossible-to-classify bodies of work I have ever seen. Partly abstract, partly surreal, partly realist (in its depiction of birds, snakes or plants), it is always deeply spiritual. Daley’s paintings offer a rich stew of allusions to the power of natural forces, humankind’s relationship to the animal world, primeval spirits and the irrepressible fecundity of the earth. […] Perhaps in a way closely similar to that of Everald Brown’s visionary work, Daley’s semi-abstract images tap into and evoke a sense of Jamaica’s collective cultural consciousness — its collective memory or sense of its history.

– Edward M. Gómez (Intuitives III, 2006)


The Intuitive painter Leonard Daley was born in Point Hill, St. Catherine, in 1930. He started painting some time in the 1960s but no works have been preserved from before 1979, when he first came to the attention of the local artistic community. He came to national prominence in 1987, when his work was featured in the National Gallery’s Fifteen Intuitives exhibition. While his visionary, spontaneously abstract expressionist work was well received by aficionados of outsider art and Intuitive art, it proved controversial with those in the Jamaican art world who had more mainstream, academic tastes and could not appreciate his work as “art.” Despite this mixed response, Daley’s work was widely exhibited and collected, in Jamaica and abroad and ultimately received significant critical acclaim. It was included in several other National Gallery exhibitions, such as Intuitives III (2007) and is represented in its permanent collection. Daley’s work was also included in several noteworthy overseas exhibitions, such as New World Imagery (1995), an exhibition of contemporary Jamaican art which toured in the U.K., Caribe Insular (1996), a Caribbean exhibition which toured in Spain and Germany, and Redemption Songs (1997), an exhibition of Jamaican Intuitive art which was shown in the USA. Daley lived in the Liguanea area of Kingston when his work was first discovered in 1979, and subsequently moved to the rural community of Fidler Hill in St. Catherine, where his self-built house was a work of art in  its own right with all surfaced covered with his paintings and sculptures. In the latter years of his life, he lived in the Jack’s Hill area of Kingston. He died in 2006.

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