Brief moments in time

Zoe Young in her home studio, among works-in-progress for her upcoming exhibition in London in January 2018. Photo: Charli Shield. 


Of late, artist Zoe Young has been focusing on capturing fleeting moments in time.

Fascinated by the ephemeral nature of “really small, insignificant moments”, Zoe paints still life compositions that depict life around her in the Southern Highlands.

“I work with all different genres – abstract, landscape and figurative – but still life is a way I can consolidate all of those things in a painting,” she said.

She is currently working on a collection for an upcoming exhibition at Rebecca Hossack’s gallery in London in early 2018.

Using bright, pastel tones and dramatic shadows, Zoe paints sweet scenes from home, featuring fruit, flowers, old portrait paintings, piles of worn books and antiques.

“I don’t know why I paint all these old things,” she said.

“Often the paintings start in my head before I even get into the studio because I’m constantly on the look out for things… and stealing stuff from my parents house that will inspire me to paint.”

“They are nostalgic works in a sense because a lot of the objects [I paint] I have inherited.”

A trained graphic designer, Zoe prefers to work from set ups she styles herself.

“I do prefer the challenge of working from a set up. I think it gives the work an honesty.”

“But I’m also not going to let truth ruin my painting. If [an object] isn’t the right colour, if it doesn’t work, I’ll change it.”

A two-time Archibald Portraiture Prize finalist, Zoe has recently been shortlisted for the prestigious Portia Geach Memorial Award for her painting ‘My Mother, Myself’.

The work depicts her and her two kids on a sofa at home, with a portrait painting of her mother hanging above them.

“I wanted to create something about the beautiful chaos of being a mother,” she said.

“I actually really wanted to paint my mum. I had the studio all set up for her to sit, but she was two hours late. So we ended up having an argument about it instead [laughs]. And then I just decided to paint an old portrait of her from the 1960s.”

Zoe said the process of painting the work, which measures 210cm by 300cm, was a demanding one.

“It took ages. The painting has heaps of layers underneath it,” she said.

“It’s one of those paintings that slowly reveals myself to me. I still look at it now and think about the relationship between my mother, myself and my kids,” she said.

This year’s entries will be judged by Geoff Ainsworth AM and Samantha Meers, trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW, as well as Jane Watters, the Director of the S.H Ervin Gallery.

“I was advised to paint a small portrait if I wanted to win any art prizes. But something rebellious in me kicked in, and I decided I had to paint a big work,” Zoe said.

“I find it really rewarding to complete a challenge you have set for yourself. That’s why I paint.”

As published in the Southern Highland News, October 2017. 

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