In 1954, James Walsh was born in Tolaga Bay, a town in the North Island of New Zealand. He spent his childhood in the Gisbourne region and in the early 1970’s went to The Illam School of Fine Arts in Christchurch. He returned to his hometown after spending two years away at University, thus he remains largely self taught. His work during this period consisted of portraits and murals reminiscent of artist C.F Goldie. This type of work within his community led him into Marae restoration. Throughout the 1990’s Walsh began a curation job at the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa. He left this job in the early 2000’s to focus on his career as a painter.
Walsh’s work represents a world tied to both his Māori and Pākehā lineage. He tells stories of past and present Aotearoa through Māori legends such as Ranginui (sky father), Papatuanuka (earth mother) and Hine Titama (goddess of the dawn). His stories of Māori mythology are represented through ghost-like floating figures created with prominent brushstrokes and heavy blue and white contrasts.
He has exhibited nationally and internationally and has work included in numerous collections such as Te Papa Tongarewa, the Wallace Arts Trust, the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea, New Caledonia and the Sargeant Gallery.