The art of John Bom – a long neglected PNG great
25 September 2015
ON our last day in Papua New Guinea, Rose and I wandered down to the ad-hoc market outside the Holiday Inn.
The offerings were mostly tourist trinkets and holiday kitsch, but then Rose saw someone she recognised. He was wearing a leather cowboy hat and sporting a magnificent beard. It was Uncle John.
Now Rose is inclined to call any PNG man who looks a bit older than her 'uncle'. But in this case he was related. His welcome was warm and fluent Kuman flowed freely.
Uncle John was an artist and he was selling his paintings. We were in a hurry to get to the airport, so grabbed a couple for a hundred kina or so. Then we rolled them up to be stuffed in a cardboard tube and bid him a fond farewell.
I had forgotten about this until last week when we were cleaning house. "Look at these!" I exclaimed.
"They’re by Uncle John - remember, we saw one of his paintings in Darwin," replied Rose.
And so I rediscovered the two sketches we had bought some years previously. They are amazing, full of colour and light, with skillfully etched outlines and infill.
Well, I’ve now had them stretched and mounted on frames and they have pride of place in our lounge room.
These last few days I have been looking at them carefully and realise they are examples of fine Papua New Guinean art. Uncle John Bom was a student of the great Matthias Kuage and it shows.
But John’s taken the style a step further. He has a unique way with line and contrast. And so we now proudly possess Tupela Pisin lo Paradis and Family Gecko.
These photos don't really do justice to the bold colours - simple bright red, black, white and a touch of blue. The geckos are watching their young hatch from eggs, and the birds of paradise are guarding their nest whilst eating berries.
The cross-hatch infill of wings, tails and bodies is derived from bilum weave patterns.
They are exquisite, and I have been the poorer for having neglected them for so long. Thank you, Uncle John Bom, a great Papua New Guinean artist in the Simbu tradition.
I recently came across a John Bom painting. I had no idea who John Bom was until today.
I thought it was Aboriginal art however, as stated, I know he is from PNG.
The painting is a gecko and a paradise bird with a bush in the background. It is a terracotta coloured background, white with some yellow. Sadly, it was stretched over some unconventional picture frame and a little bit crooked.
I did take it to a picture framer and he advised me that he couldn’t re-stretch it because of the canvas but he reframed it with a black trim around the edge.
If anyone is a collector I would like to know more please feel free to contact me. The editor of this page has my contact email.
Posted by: Mick Kuusik | 11 December 2020 at 11:03 AM
Yeah Peter why not, we'll meet you so long as you're buying and we'll buy yu buai na daka na liklik offkat mutrus tu.
Nah, give me a call
Posted by: Baka Bina | 25 September 2015 at 02:26 PM
I'm going to be in Moresby next week. Anyone up for a drink?
Posted by: Peter Kranz | 25 September 2015 at 11:02 AM
That's why I reckon it's the natural home of the Croc Prize Daniel.
Posted by: Phil Fitzpatrick | 25 September 2015 at 09:51 AM
Kera Peter, we still come out of the ghettos in Morata every day to produce the goods.
Outside Holiday Inn is our open-air office.
Wan ende wo. Mok pamin eewa!
Posted by: Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin | 25 September 2015 at 09:41 AM
Thanks for this Peter. To me, Simbu and Jiwaka provinces produce talented people. Look at the national scene - many of the painters, singers, sportsman and woman are from there.
And Simbu is blessed with writers. I saw evidence of this last weekend during Crocodile Prize presentations in Kundiawa.
Some of the good leaders in PNG also come from there. They support their writers and people involved in the arts and sports which encourages them to outperform others.
Posted by: Daniel Ipan Kumbon | 25 September 2015 at 06:53 AM