Joseph Drapell was born into the German, and later Soviet, occupied small town of Humpolec. His parents brought up their three boys not to believe in official propaganda of the occupying regimes. Drapell escaped his birth country at his first opportunity at the age of twenty-five in order to develop his art in the west. He landed in Halifax in 1966. Drapell adopted an island in Georgian Bay as his new spiritual home. The island has inspired all his mature artistic developments to date.
Drapell’s aim was to contribute to the art of painting, rather than to merely make a living as an artist. Between 1968 and 1970, he studied under various visiting artists and lecturers at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. This is where he first started to develop his compression technique as a response to the painting of Morris Louis. He settled in Toronto in 1970. Drapell walked the streets of New York with a roll of large paintings, until he was discovered by the Robert Elkon Gallery on Madison Avenue. After three exhibitions there, Drapell achieved his first artistic breakthrough in 1974 with the Great Spirit Paintings. Joseph divides his time between Toronto and Georgian Bay.
My painting did not start with an agenda to return what art had lost in the postmodern period–not at all–instead it was my free, idealistic, non-conforming character that forced me to build myself without much concern for trends, for being “in”. It gave me the ability & willingness to be “out of sync”.
Looking back at my work, it seems to me that my art has provided an alternative to the verbal, non-visual trends. By now, the record shows the absurdity of the postmodern aim when subjective self- expression was discarded in order to provide “more objective” art. Without personal focus, how can art be authentic? Without visual power, how can art endure?
Drapell believes that abstraction will probably always remain his main means of expression. But for his future expression, he does not rule out anything. Finding new ways of representation has always lured him, as long as the result is honest, inventive and good.
Joseph Drapell's work can be seen at The Museum of New, beginning on April 8th until May 13th at the exhibition of the New New Painters.