Young Northern Ireland artists have work exhibited in Tokyo

Joel Smyth as a 17-year-old with his prize-winning artwork from the 2017 Texaco Children's Art Competition entitled 'Lone Tree'
Joel Smyth as a 17-year-old with his prize-winning artwork from the 2017 Texaco Children's Art Competition entitled 'Lone Tree'
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Two young artists from Northern Ireland have recently learned that their prize-winning works of art have made it all the way to a famous Toyko gallery.

Two years ago Joel Smyth from Newtownards picked up a top prize in the Texaco Children’s Art Competition.

Justin Cole's self-portrait is also on display at the Japanese festival

Justin Cole's self-portrait is also on display at the Japanese festival

Joel, now a second year student at Belfast Art College, found out just yesterday that his ‘Lone Tree’ print from that competition which he entered when he was just 17 had been exhibited at the 20th International High School Arts Festival, which took place in Tokyo last week.

Now 20, Joel who heads to Latvia on placement next week, said he was honoured to have had his teenage artwork shown in Toyko.

He said: “It’s quite incredible. The Texaco competition feels like such a long time ago. It was one of my teachers in Bangor Academy that made me aware of it when I was in sixth form.”

He said the ‘Lone Tree’ from his prize-winning print was one which he saw while on holidays in France: “It was on its own, quite resolute, in the middle of a field quite high up in the mountains.”

He added: “It came second overall back when I entered it. This year they took some of the best work from the past few years to Toyko with them.”

He said he only found out on Thursday that his work had been on display in Toyko’s National Arts Centre.

“It’s an absolute honour that I did not expect, it’s quite a privilege.”

After finishing his degree in Silversmithing and Jewellery Joel said he would like to become a self-employed jeweller.

A prize-winning self-portrait from last year’s Texaco Children’s Art Competition by another young artist from Northern Ireland was also exhibited in Toyko.

It was painted by Justin Cole, 15, from Dunclug College in Ballymena.

Sponsored by the International Foundation for Arts and Culture, the exhibition took place in Tokyo’s National Arts Centre, one of Japan’s most highly regarded galleries.

The highly prestigious exhibition was described as ‘a showcase for the world’s best young artistic talent’ and featured some 400 artworks by students representing nations across the world.