A painter and multimedia artist, Jose T. Joya was named National Artist in Visual Arts in 2003. Having early traditionalist training, he eventually steered to a direction of his own. Known as an Abstract Expressionist, he adopted the values of kinetic energy and spontaneity in painting, mastering the art of gestured paintings, where paint is applied spontaneously using broad brush strokes. Aside from painting, he also designed ceramic vessels, plates and tiles, and worked with graphic arts like printmaking.
Son of Jose Joya, Jr. and Asuncion Tanig, Joya was born in Manila on June 3, 1931. He became interested in sketching as early as the age 11, and wanted at first to take up architecture, but decided not to pursue it because of the math and science subjects. Under a scholarship, he entered the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts in 1950, where he had traditionalist mentors like Guillermo Tolentino, Ireneo Miranda, Dominador Castañeda and Virginia Agbayani. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts in 1953, the university’s first magna cum laude. After that, he studied in Madrid from 1954 to 1955 under a grant from the Spanish government’s Instituto de Cultura Hispanica. He got his Master’s Degree in Painting at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan where he studied under Zoltan Zepeshy from 1956 to 1957 under a Fulbright-Smith-Mundt grant. He then received another grant, this time from the John D. Rockefeller III Fund and Ford Foundation, to study at the Pratt Graphic Art Center in New York from 1967 to 1969.
He participated in the first Exhibition of Non-Objective Art in Tagala at the Philippine Art Gallery in 1953, and then held his first one-man show there in 1954. He was later sent to represent the country at the Venice Biennial in 1964. In 1981, he held a retrospective of his works at the Museum of Philippine Art.
Joya was president of the Art Association of the Philippines from 1962 to 1965 and dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts from 1970 to 1978. In addition, he was chairperson of two delegations to China, in 1961 and 1972, and Amorsolo Professorial Chair at the U.P. in 1985. He also served as Head of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts Committee on Visual Arts (NCCA-CVA) from 1987 until his death in 1995.
His major works include:
- 1948 – Barter of Panay
- 1954 – Christ Stripped of His Clothes
- 1958 – Granadean Arabesque, his landmark painting
- 1965 – Dimensions of Fear
- 1981 – Vista Beyond Vision
- 1985 – Torogan
- 1998 – Playground of the Mind
- 1951 – 3rd Prize, Art Association of the Philippines, for City entering the Edge of Sundown
- 1952 – 1st Prize, Shell National Students Art Competition, for Gossips
- 1958 – 1st Prize, Art Association of the Philippines, for Cathedral
- 1959 – 2nd Prize, Art Association of the Philippines, for Space Transfiguration
- 1960 – 3rd Prize, Art Association of the Philippines, for House of Life
- 1960 – Purchase Award, Art Association of the Philippines, for Church Silver
- 1961 – Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for Painting
- 1961 – Republic Cultural Heritage Award
- 1962 – 2nd Prize, Art Association of the Philippines, for Cathedral
- 1962 – Honorable Mention, Art Association of the Philippines, for Yellow Harvest
- 1970 – ASEAN Cultural Award
- 1971 – Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award, from the City of Manila
- 1980 – Finalist, Mobil Competition, for An Abstraction of Strength and Refinement
- 1987 – Order of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, from the French government
- 1991 – Gawad CCP para sa Sining, from the Cultural Center of the Philippines