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Philippines Art Expedition: 2004

"IRRI had the pleasure of hosting John Dyer as our artist in residence for the United Nations’ International Year of Rice. John produced a series of paintings that interpreted the relationships among people, the rice plant and the rice ecosystem."

Duncan Macintosh Development Director for the International Rice Research Institute, Philippines. 2004


John Dyer painting the rice harvest in the Philippines for the United Nations year of Rice

Undeterred by his experience in Costa Rica in 2003, from which he soon recovered, by the following year John was more than ready for another expedition, this time to record the rice harvest in the Philippines for IRRI (the International Rice Research Institute) during the United Nations’ International Year of Rice. The UN’s Director-General of its Food and Agriculture Organisation warned that while ‘rice is the staple food for over half of the world’s population, its production is facing serious constraints’ due to climate change and destruction of habitats. The previous autumn, John had done a painting, Rice and Hope , in the Humid Tropics Biome highlighting the importance of rice, at the request of the charity Save the Children UK to help launch their ‘Beat Poverty’ campaign. Everyone who signed up to support ‘Beat Poverty’ on that day at Eden was included in the painting, which was reproduced as a limited edition print and sold to raise money and awareness for the campaign.

John Dyer exhibition of paintings on the theme of rice at the Eden Project

For this trip, John was accompanied by Tim Varlow, who had been in the Amazon with him and was now a director and head designer at Liquid TV in London. As guests of IRRI, they were staying in rather more comfort than John had experienced in Costa Rica, and the visit was better organised, enabling him to record the different stages of rice production. During the five days they spent there, Tim gained a real insight into the way John works. ‘Each day was about another part of the process of rice growing and harvesting. By the last day, John was assimilating elements from all the previous days.’ The effect, Tim felt, was like a medieval tableau, telling a story in pictorial form in a way which ‘spoke’ to the workers John depicted, despite their lack of a shared language. ‘When you paint real people doing their daily jobs, it is a very effective form of journalism. Because you are not just rushing in with a camera, there is an element of trust and human curiosity.’ An exhibition was held at the Eden project of the the six paintings he completed in the Philippines.

Article courtesy of Kate Dinn.
Read all about John Dyer's life and work in the book 'Painting the Colours of the World' by Kate Dinn.