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John YOUNG (b.1956) - REX

John YOUNG (b.1956)

Photo of ArtistJohn Young was born in 1956 in Hong Kong and moved to Australia as a child in 1967. He received early training in Russian Impressionism at the Julian Ashton School of Art. John won a scholarship to study painting at The National Art School, Sydney, but declined the scholarship to read Philosophy of Science and Aesthetics at The University of Sydney where he received First Class Honours for his thesis on Wittgenstein and Aesthetics. John went on to study sculpture and painting at Sydney College of the Arts. Whilst there, he engaged with other artists interested in conceptual art, including Imants Tillers and the late musical prodigy David Ahern, and was involved with the punk movement.

In the early 1980s, John spent time in Europe, living in London and Paris, after he received the Power Foundation Scholarship from the University of Sydney. Returning to Sydney in 1983, he began to lecture in Studio Theory and Painting at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney until 1994, moving to Melbourne in 1997 where he currently lives. He is married with two children.

John has devoted a large part of his four decade career towards regional development in Asia and was instrumental in establishing the Asian Australian Artists' Association (Gallery 4A) in Sydney in 1995 (now the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art), a centre for the promotion of Asian philanthropy and the nurturing of Australasian artists and curators. He re-joined the board in 2009.

John Young was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2020 Australia Day Honours for his "significant service to the visual arts, and as a role model".*

John's first solo exhibition, The Second Mirage, was held in 1979, on the west coast of Ireland. In 1984, he held one of his first major Australian solo exhibitions, John Young, at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Since then, John has held over 60 solo exhibitions and over 160 group exhibitions in Australia, throughout South-East Asia, in Berlin and in the U.S. including at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Young has been the subject of three survey exhibitions: the first covering 27 years of his works was Orient/Occident: John Young, 1978-2005 held at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, Victoria in 2005-2006; then The Bridge and the Fruit Tree covering his works from 2006–2012 at ANU Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra in 2013; and, The Lives of Celestials: John Young Zerunge at Town Hall Gallery, Boroondara, Melbourne in 2019.

John has received various awards including the VACB Artist’s Residency in 1998 (for travel to Tokyo, Japan) and the Australia Council Visual Arts Fellowship for established artists in 2012 (John undertook a two-year research project concerning the Chinese diaspora in Australia). Young has been commissioned for numerous significant national and international public projects including Open Monument, a permanent monument recording the contribution of the Chinese population in Ballarat, City of Ballarat, Victoria (2013-2015); Finding Kenneth Myer, Tapestry commissioned by Lady Southey and the Myer Family and produced with the Australian Tapestry Workshop for the National Library of Australia (2010-2011); Open World, Tapestry commissioned by the Victorian State Government for Jiangsu Province, China and produced with the Victorian Tapestry Workshop for Nanjing Library, Nanjing to mark the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Nanjing and Melbourne (2005) and Interchange for Mass Transit Railway, Hong Kong (2001).

Young was instrumental in Australia's postmodern turn. His investigation of Western late modernism prompted significant phases of work from a bi-cultural viewpoint, exploring the relationship between Euro-American models of culture and experience and other modes of visuality, being and the cultural object. These have included three series of paintings – the Silhouette Paintings, The Polychrome Paintings and the Double Ground Paintings.

In relation to the Polychrome Paintings, John has explained that: “These works exist somewhere between the eye, brain, and what it may remind you or I of. So, it is somewhere between the optic, the concept and the memory … The aims of these works are a sense of wonder for art, a sense of guilt about the impossibility of repeating the same, unique relationships between the artists involved from one work to the next, and following a set of predetermined rules of how to proceed with these paintings to give me a safe sense or passage.”**

More recently, Young has produced the Abstract Paintings, which deal with concerns around technology and the body. Since 2008, Young’s work has focused on transcultural humanitarianism with two projects entitled Bonhoeffer in Harlem (Berlin, 2009) and Safety Zone (Melbourne, 2010; Brisbane 2011), and his investigations into the history of the Chinese diaspora in Australia since 1840, through projects including Open Monument (Ballarat, 2013–15), 1866: The Worlds of Lowe Kong Meng and Jong Ah Siug (Melbourne 2015), Modernity's End (Melbourne, 2016) and The Burrangong Affray (Sydney, 2018).***

John’s works are held in Collections across Australia, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queensland National Gallery, the Art Gallery of Western Australia and many other regional galleries, corporate and private Collections throughout Australia as well as at the United Nations Collection, New York and in galleries in Hong Kong, China and Korea.**** *

"John Zerunge Young". ** John Young, Propositions for the Polychrome Paintings, Kerb Your Dog, No. 12, Sydney, 1992 *** John Young Studio, Projects **** John Young Studio, About, Collections


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