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Greek-Australian John Ioannou Promotes Aboriginal Art

John Ioannou was born in Yugoslavia in 1961 and travelled to Greece in 1967, then came out to Australia in 1970. He got into music at quite an early age, playing guitar and singing with his father because he sang as well. He followed classic Greek studies in his Greek school, which he attended on Saturdays.

He went to Europe in the early ‘80s and swung from band to band in Greece, Germany and Amsterdam, before returning to Australia in the mid ‘80s and playing here for quite a while.  Finally, he stopped playing around 1990.

When he first came on board the Aboriginal art industry he was totally naïve regarding politics; his education started with Tommy Watson.

Tommy Watson’s phoenix-like emergence as an artist is almost without parallel within Australian indigenous art. With a professional career of no more than seven years and no formal training in painting except for that which he initially received at the Irrunytju Community Arts Centre, his work has captured the hearts and minds of collectors all around the world. As one of Australia’s most distinguished Indigenous artists, he has paintings in both major Australian and international collections.

He was one of eight Australian indigenous artists to be celebrated for their high achievement as artists when his work was selected for permanent exhibition at the prestigious Musee de Quay Branly in Paris in 2007.

Tommy Watson was first taught to paint at Irrunytju Community Arts Centre and since then, like most of the highly successful indigenous artists, manages his own career, today working exclusively with Pitjantjatjara speaker and art dealer John Ioannou of Agathon Galleries.

John Ioannou not only promotes and manages Watson’s career for him, he also assists in the day to day care and professional development of Watson’s own community, the artists of Irrunytju in Western Australia.

John Ioannou: “The value of Tommy Watson’s painting as an investment lies in the fact that he has only ever produced 150 or so major works. Tommy regards these as an (aboriginal) ‘painting his country’… ‘Beautiful country’… and symbolically passing on very important cultural knowledge to do with his culture and land.”

John Ioannou continues: “He is a perfectionist in regard to the approach he takes to the process of painting. Each work is very carefully done, each a unique story of some aspect of his life. However, being an artist is only one aspect of his life as he spends much of his time in his community and lands.”

The artworks of Aboriginal artists usually command very high prices in international art galleries.

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