John Young
Transculture, Colourful Beast 2003
digital print and oil on canvas
300 x 445.5 cm
TarraWarra Museum of Art collection
Purchased 2004

Orient/Occident: John Young, A survey of works 1979–2005

Past Exhibitions
1 November 2005 - 2 April 2006

This first major survey of John Young’s practice addresses a period of profound artistic and intellectual shifts, in both Australia and internationally. Young has produced a substantial body of work over the last 25 years, exploring and gradually merging a diverse range of themes, most importantly, the crossing of cultures and the heritage of modernism within a post-modern context. His work articulates the complexities and contradictions of a changing artistic landscape and traverses traditional cultural and geographical boundaries and this significant mid-career exhibition provides an opportunity to gain an understanding of Young’s visual journey and intellectual engagement in the development of his practice and dialogue with the cultural milieu of his time.

Orient/Occident was conceived as part of a total project which includes the completion of a monograph titled John Young 1978–2005 written by Dr Carolyn Barnes and published by Craftsman House. Works in the exhibition have been selected from the three main periods of John Young’s art which have been explored in the monograph to be launched at the exhibition opening. 

The survey begins with his earliest, conceptual and minimal works to key pieces from the Silhouette series in which slim panels of quiet, earthy tones begin to appear alongside monochrome figure studies. This is followed by the Polychromes series in which Young alludes to the relationship between painting and the ‘tele-visual’ world, placing mosaic-like blocks of colours alongside painted studies of the three prevailing themes in art—the nude, still life and the landscape. Finally, in the more recent Double Ground works, he unites all of his ideas by introducing printed backgrounds from a diverse range of sources, combining them with subtle, ever changing versions of the painted foregrounds.

John Young was born in Hong Kong in 1956 and moved to Australia at the age of eleven. He read philosophy at the University of Sydney, then trained as a painter, and later taught, at the Sydney College of the Arts, and is now based in Melbourne. His experience of living away from his country of birth has allowed him a unique cross-cultural perspective on the world, contributing to the vibrancy of Australian contemporary art. The ‘placeless’ existence and experience of a person in diaspora is a condition we are all beginning to face in a technological, virtual and globalized world.

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