Zoe Young On the Farm

Title
On the Farm

Location
On display, Cowra Regional Art Gallery. 4 October to 15 November 2020.

Place of origin
Bowral NSW, Australia

Year
2020

Media
Painting

Medium
Acrylic on Belgian linen

Dimensions
120 x 160 cm

Credit
Winner Calleen Art Award 2020

Accession number
CAL2020.1

On Zoe Young, by Peter Haynes (2020)

Zoe Young was born in 1978, and studied at the National Art School in Sydney, graduating in 2012. Although she majored in sculpture her subsequent practice has concentrated on painting and since graduation she has exhibited in group and solo shows in Australia. Young has undertaken a number of artist residencies including at Tudor House school in Moss Vale (2013); Sturt/Frensham, Mittagong (2015) and at Momtri’s Villa Royale in Phuket, Thailand (2016).

The artist has participated, and been successful in, many prestigious award exhibitions. She has won the Portia Geach Art Prize (2018, 2020), and the Mosman Art Prize (2018). She has an enviable record as a finalist including in the Archibald Prize (2014, 2017) and the Sulman Prize (2019), both at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Her work is included in the collection of the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, the Winifred West Schools (Sturt/Frensham), and corporate and private collections in Australia and overseas.

On the Farm is the artist’s painterly paean to childhood adventures with her cousins who lived in the Cowra region. It is essentially a group portrait in the landscape with depictions of her (then) young friends smiling at the viewer as they are about to depart on some sort of adventure, or perhaps returning home from school (the blue of their clothes are exemplary of school uniforms). The figures are enclosed within the strong diagonal and horizontal bands of the sides of the truck’s tray, the sharp geometries standing in strong contrast to the organic forms of the children and the ragged circles of the trees and sky above. The truck and its passengers occupy the bottom half of the picture plane. The right-hand edge of the truck sits sharply against the edge of the picture, anchoring the composition and standing starkly in tonal and formal contrast to the sky, the latter filled with a creamy fluff of scumbled clouds. A range of contrasts is given free play throughout the composition and used to great effect particularly as seen in the clear split of the painting into thematic halves. The bottom half offers the narrative with its overtones of personal history and memory; while the top half of sky and trees provides the indicative topographical elements of the environment in which childhood activities took place.

In her Artist Statement Young notes her use of a palette knife to apply paint. This technique is employed with special skill and is particularly effective in her treatment of the landscape elements viz. the trees and the clouds. The artist beautifully captures the fugitive moments of childhood in this evocative yet nostalgic image.