ZOE YOUNG

Artist Profile - - CONTENTS - by Brid­get Macleod

WHAT ARE YOU WORK­ING ON AT THE MO­MENT?

In my up­stairs stu­dio I’m just putting the last marks on a se­ries of paint­ings about a myth­i­cal, pop­si­cal beach par­adise ti­tled Salt Life, which is be­ing shipped to Chicago next week. It was cre­ated in Thai­land where I was just do­ing a res­i­dency. It’s a pretty bonkers body of work – it couldn’t have been made any­where else but Phuket! Down­stairs, it’s all about still-life. The com­po­si­tions are a col­lage of things I’ve col­lected over the years or stolen from my hus­band Reg’s gar­den – so the­o­ret­i­cally these paint­ings start be­fore I en­ter the stu­dio. Of­ten I scav­enge things from friends’ houses – “this is a lovely tea cup” – and once I’m happy with the ar­range­ment, I start paint­ing.

Do you do more than one paint­ing from each ar­range­ment?

I’ll gen­er­ally do a new set-up for each work – each work tells a story; I’m not go­ing to tell two sto­ries about the same in­ci­dent. I of­ten get an idea about one thing and base the other ob­jects around it. I just got ob­sessed by the book by Rus­sell Drys­dale and Jock Mar­shall, Jour­ney Among Men. If I hadn’t had two kids I’d be on the road fol­low­ing their path right now. I al­ways get all these ideas of what I want to do, and then re­mem­ber I have two tod­dlers!

They’ll grow up though!

And they are grow­ing up so quickly, I think that’s all right, I’m where I want to be right now, they’re in­spir­ing me. My “Jour­ney among Men” can wait.

Tell me about your re­cent com­mis­sion for Baranga­roo.

I don’t usu­ally do com­mis­sions, but I liked the idea of be­ing part of Baranga­roo and the client was really en­thu­si­as­tic about what­ever I wanted to do. They just gave me the sizes and a dead­line, the rest was up to me. I was watch­ing a lot of Jac­ques Tati films and lis­ten­ing to Ayn Rand’s The Foun­tain­head on au­dio book while I painted, so the se­ries ended up be­ing a min­i­mal­ist, lim­ited pal­ette, dada data kind of thing. The Baranga­roo se­ries led to the Chicago se­ries.

You ma­jored in sculp­ture, is that right?

I started at the Na­tional Art School when I was 17 and I kind of weaved my way in and out there, trav­el­ling a lot be­tween stints, un­til I fi­nally grad­u­ated when I was 30. I did my time in ev­ery department at some stage but yes, I ma­jored in sculp­ture.

Do you still sculpt?

Not cur­rently, but when I was artist in res­i­dence be­tween Sturt Col­lege and Fren­sham School I fo­cused on cre­at­ing wood­cuts and I en­joyed its tac­tile na­ture and quilt­ing wood to­gether with a nail gun. I’ve got a space al­lo­cated in the stu­dio for wood­work and it’s quiet for now, but maybe not for long.

Did you teach dur­ing your res­i­dency?

I taught por­trai­ture and draw­ing and it was a really re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially when one of my stu­dents won the Young

Zoe Young paints to cap­ture fleet­ing mo­ments in time. At the ram­chackle barn she has trans­formed into a stu­dio in the NSW South­ern High­lands, Zoe spoke to ARTIST PRO­FILE about her re­cent projects, up­com­ing ex­hi­bi­tion and the ef­fect that mother­hood and the Archibald have had on her prac­tice.

Archies. Un­for­tu­nately I don’t have time to teach now, be­tween paint­ing and par­ent­ing there’s not much time for any­thing else.

I think at this point in my ca­reer there’s an art to nav­i­gat­ing how you do your art, and the things you say no to are just as im­por­tant as the things you say yes to. 2017 for me is about spend­ing the time I need in the stu­dio and push­ing through with my own work.

Did your prac­tice change when you had chil­dren?

Yeah! I’ve al­ways strug­gled with dead­lines, stay­ing or­gan­ised and fo­cus­ing. Hav­ing chil­dren was a rev­e­la­tion, I re­alised I needed to pull my socks up, so I did. Preg­nancy gave me a hum­bling sense of pur­pose and place in the world that in­spired me to paint.

You have an ex­hi­bi­tion com­ing up, what will that in­clude?

I have a solo show com­ing up in April at Pier­marq Gallery. It will fo­cus on still-life and colour har­mony. The ob­jects are just a way to get in and then it all goes a bit ab­stract. I really en­joyed work­ing with the things from our house. I brought a wash­ing bas­ket in one day and painted that, and it res­onated with me. I try to keep it real to the ob­jects around me and see them in a dif­fer­ent light. Once the Chicago works are done I’ll re­sume paint­ing por­traits up­stairs.

Tell me more about your ap­proach to por­trai­ture.

My favourite por­traits are the ones that hap­pen quickly, which I love be­cause they are so of that mo­ment and there’s flu­id­ity in the paint­work. There’s a lot of peo­ple around the world with my por­traits of them on beer coast­ers – it’s a good way to make ends meet while trav­el­ling! My work is more re­fined now, but has the same essence of

I’ve al­ways strug­gled with dead­lines, stay­ing or­gan­ised and fo­cus­ing. Hav­ing chil­dren was a rev­e­la­tion, I re­alised I needed to pull my socks up, so I did. Preg­nancy gave me a hum­bling sense of pur­pose and place in the world that in­spired me to paint.

en­gag­ing with a char­ac­ter, trans­lat­ing the liv­ing in one mo­ment of life onto a flat sur­face to last longer.

Did the Archibald have a tan­gi­ble im­pact on your ca­reer? [Young was a fi­nal­ist in 2014 with her por­trait of To­rah Bright and in 2016 with Sam Har­ris]. Oh def­i­nitely! To­rah was a to­tal game-changer for me. I have to send two kids to day care to keep my stu­dio prac­tice run­ning, so it was a bless­ing. It oth­er­wise would have meant that I might have ended up like so many fe­male painters, hav­ing a large part of my paint­ing ca­reer gone for a while. It’s con­fir­ma­tion from your peers, and peo­ple know that you’re ded­i­cated. Ev­ery­one in the in­dus­try knows it’s not just a hobby, but now other peo­ple re­alise it’s your ca­reer. It keeps pun­ters off your back!

What’s a typ­i­cal day in the stu­dio for you? I come up to the stu­dio, and when the fire’s lit, the mu­sic’s cho­sen and lights are on I run out the door and get a cof­fee. When I get back I usu­ally have this mo­ment where I think of all the things I need to get done, and I want to run back out­side and get an­other cof­fee! The first hour is all about mo­ti­vat­ing my­self and then it’s like run­ning – once you’ve run the first 100 me­tres you’re in the zone. I break the day swim­ming laps at the lo­cal pool. There’s a cer­tain kind of ten­sion that paint­ing cre­ates so I like to do some­thing phys­i­cal. It re­laxes me and makes it eas­ier to wan­der through my imag­i­na­tion and solve prob­lems.

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