Australian Artist Zoe Young Is Painting Through the Seasons
Australian artist Zoe Young celebrates daily life with fervour, whether it be with a floral depiction like ‘Pomelo Japanisme’ for her Orchard House collection, or the Pirtek prize-winning still life ‘Apples for Tea’ (part of her upcoming show ‘Winter Soundtrack’ at Olsen Gallery) her work is rich with colour and warmed with femininity. We spoke to Zoe about her appreciation for life, why she wouldn’t run a guest house and a gardener named Reg.
Tell us a bit about your upcoming show?
– My upcoming show is titled ‘Winter Soundtrack’. I grew up in a ski lodge – yes, Australia has ski resorts! The building was designed by Australian architect Glenn Murcutt and was full of Tony lifts and huge windows looking up to the mountains, bringing the old rugged landscape into the room.
– Murcutt’s philosophy is that buildings should blend into their environment and unassuming from the exterior, holding an interior revelation, I’ve grown up with this philosophy and I think it works on many levels and subjects. My painting tends to reveal itself to me and only hard work unravels the epiphanies, one brush stroke at a time.
How has your upbringing influenced your work?
– Embarking on ‘Winter Soundtrack’, I wished to return to my childhood in order to find what can truly nourish my own children as they shed their baby rolls and start to walk through this works on their own two feet. I want to put skis on their feet, as my parents did, I want to say: don’t walk, don’t run – fly and have fun.
– I’ve also come to realise that what I’m trying to express in my art is really basic things that I noticed as a child, for example, I’d wonder: how would you paint that it’s warm inside and cold outside, how would you paint that the clouds are moving and just about to snow…
– I grew up skiing and between adventures you spend half the time sitting on a chairlift, you can’t do anything but appreciate nature. We have fun trees in Australia so the alpine landscape is particularly different to Europe. We built a hydro electric scheme here and so many Europeans immigrated to work on the scheme, so German was taught at our local school and much of the architecture and food is influenced by the European alps.
– My parents had hotels when I was growing up so I would spend my time in Thredbo during winter when it was high season and then in the Southern Highlands – a place famous for its English gardens in Australia – I would live there in springtime and then in Sydney in the summer. I’ve tried to maintain the lifestyle of moving to where the season is quintessentially at its best, but it’s not the easiest lifestyle to maintain with two toddlers!
Above: Zoe captured in her atelier.
How does your work reflect your life as an artist in a countryside studio, a mother of two?
– I recently went to a lecture at our local ski resort for POW, which is ‘protect our winters’, and I was really impressed how some of our most awesome winter athletes are collaborating with ski resorts to set targets to reduce human impact on the planet.
– I think we are responsible as parents to introduce our children to nature and the challenges of the elements, if they don’t know nature, if they only know a domestic digital environment, what care will they have for losing something outside of that environment?
What was the last thing Reg brought you?
– Reg is much more grounded and happy in his garden, he could spend weeks there alone. We’re very different, he’s always bringing me produce like zucchini and pumpkins to paint, he’s starting a business that purely designs and maintains edible gardens, he grew up surfing and so we spend a lot of time at the beach.
– My next show is all about surfing and coastal lifestyles in Australia, it’s so raw and wild, I’m really looking forward to depicting the lifestyle of it.
– I do miss hotels and restaurants and I always think: ‘oh I’d love to open a little guesthouse’, but then I think of snobby customers asking me to clean their room and I think, maybe I’ll just paint a little guesthouse instead.
And lastly, where are you?
– I’m up in Thredbo skiing and painting. It’s been really zen going out and painting in the snow, you really feel part of the landscape. You start to realise that you’re governed by the same forces and that within us the body flows the same way a landscape does.
– It takes a while to calm down and connect with what’s happening, it’s really like a meditation, but you walk away with a piece of art, a souvenir from the experience!
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