For Southern Highlands based painter Zoe Young, art reflects life. At present, that means the ‘sweet, cluttered and busy’ juggle of motherhood, work and life in the country.
Zoe’s latest body of work brings together a series of acrylic paintings on board, captured in a chalky, muted colour palette. Drawing on subject matter close to home, these still life paintings capture fleeting moments of everyday beauty and domestic bliss – a stack of well loved books and magazines, the aged patina of painted weatherboards, a scrap of pretty fabric, a perfect bloom in a clear glass vase.
Despite her recent affection for still life, Zoe is a versatile painter who also loves portraiture and landscape painting. She is a two-time finalist in the Archibald Portraiture Prize, having been selected in 2014 with her portrait of Olympic Snowboarder Torah Bright, and again in 2016 with her portrait of model Sam Harris. More recently, Zoe has been exploring subject matter inspired by her surroundings in the Southern Highlands.
We recently chatted to Zoe about this exquisite latest body of work, and current exhibition in Sydney.
Hey Zoe, we love your work! Tell us a little about your background?
My parents owned and operated hotels and restaurants across NSW, and as a result I grew up seasonally; Jindabyne in Winter, Bowral in Spring and Double Bay in Summertime. I was the youngest child (by six years) and my childhood was pretty magical and exciting. On the Farm at Crackenback, we had a pet wombat, who was quite a star. Vanilla Ice dropped into the farm when I was 15 just to meet the wombat!
I was always the little girl sitting in the corner of the restaurant drawing on docket books and my parents encouraged my creativity. They printed my drawings on the menus, which is why I’ve always been so torn between a love for painting and a love for design. I danced between the two in my 20s. I started an accessories label in Amsterdam and up until recently I was still designing the menus for my family’s restaurants. When I was 30, I realised I needed to choose between art and design, so I chose art and went back to National Art School to finish my degree and I haven’t looked back.
Your work encompasses unique still-life, landscapes and portraiture. Do you have a preferred subject matter, and why?
My work is quite autobiographical; for now, my life is sweet, cluttered and busy with motherhood and living in the countryside. I guess I want to celebrate the beauty of it all through still life. I know my children won’t be children forever. Time passes so quickly and through still life I feel that I can honour the things that make life special for me: books, tea pots, fresh produce, clouds, and zucchini’s!
But to answer your question: I’m missing painting the figure. I just love capturing mood and character through the figure in space, and I just cant wait to get back into the studio and start working with the figure again.
Are you inspired by any other artists or creatives?
I’ve had the good fortune of being mentored and had the chance to develop relationships with some remarkable painters. I did my first painting apprenticeship under Patti Somerset. Who not many people know, because as talented and skilled as she is, she is very shy. She introduced me to the art of all the great painters who still influence my work today; Frank Auerbach, Richard Diebenkorn, David Hockney and Édouard Manet.
What influences your colour palette in general, and what has inspired that of this latest collection?
The latest series of still life paintings started with a cascading harmony of colours, starting from a wild orchard and ending with subdued mists through the ragged trees of the Snowy Mountains – which may just be the next series I work on. Stay tuned.
Is there a concept or intended message behind your latest works?
My latest body of work for my solo exhibition ‘Space Between Hours’ at Piermarq in Paddington are an intimate reflection of my lifestyle and surroundings in the Southern Highlands. My paintings are an attempt to distill my experiences and the unique, tranquil moments of my day to day on canvas. Essentially the exhibition is a celebration of my childhood, of motherhood and everything I love about life; food, nature and colour.