Bright Young things: Zoe Young
Welcome to ‘The Orchard House’. A place of whitewashed floors and ocean views, gingham tablecloths and floral wallpapers. A place where there are endless books to be read, oysters to be eaten, and Campari to be toasted…
“There’s definitely a lot of Campari!” laughs Aussie painter Zoe Young, the brains behind ‘The Orchard House’s’ simple beauty. Zoe has distilled scenes from her imaginary wonderland in rich, luscious paint on Belgian linen for her current show at Sydney’s Olsen Gallery. The resulting suite of still lifes read as an intimate concoction of all the places she has loved, lived and dreamed. It’s a reverse time machine of sorts, speaking both of a happy past and a hopeful future.
There is a splendid naivety and brazen femininity present in Zoe’s work. Popping pastels, dramatic shadow play and a thick, sculptural application of paint capture small domestic moments, so often overlooked. Her paintings invite you in and ask you to stay a while in the everyday. “The big picture bores me,” says the artist. “Life is essentially about getting lost in the details.”
Works in ‘The Orchard House’ feel naturally open and welcoming in their intimacy, perhaps a result of Zoe’s childhood spent in hotels and restaurants across Australia – from Kings Cross to Crackenback. Her very first works of art were actually pictures of hotel customers drawn on docket books. “My parents were very nurturing – possibly a bit too nurturing – of my art! They would print my pictures on their restaurant menus and hang my art on the walls,” says Zoe. “I really thought I was an artist from a pretty young age! And it stuck with me.”
Since Graduating from Sydney’s National Art School in 2012, Young has had two children of her own. The experience of motherhood, something she has always been inspired by, has brought further structure, maturity, and purpose to her practice.
Zoe has been focussing her efforts on still life and portraiture for the past two years. Painting from her studio in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales – surrounded by rock walls, donkeys, plum trees, and clouds – a typical day’s work starts with a treasure hunt. “I have a collection of trinkets in my studio,” she says. “But I’ll often decide I need plums, or rock melons, or oysters in the works. So I jump on my bike and gather.”
Heavy layers of paint then meet the canvas in thick, impulsive brushstrokes, as abstract forms coalesce into moments, memories and dreams. A painter with conviction, the works are built upon solid structural foundations, revealing picture planes that curve and block like sculpture does.
“Finishing a work that strikes a chord within is a wonderful feeling and basically, I’m always striving for that sensation,’ says Zoe. “It’s quite the potion.”
‘The Orchard House’ marks Zoe’s first show with Olsen Gallery and runs until 22 December 2017.