John YOUNG, Give and take Enlarge 1 /1


Hong Kong born 1956

  • Australia from 1967

Give and take 2001 Materials & Technique: paintings, digital scan and oil on two panels

Dimensions: overall 212.0 h x 264.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased with funds contributed by Sue Cato, Member of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation Board 2001
Accession No: NGA 2001.130.A-B

For the past decade John Young has concentrated on a series of paintings generically titled ‘Double Ground’.  Give and take is from this body of work and sums up Young’s concerns in addressing issues of displacement and the plight of people in a diaspora.  Young comments:

Memories, sentiments of departure and severing from an old culture, denial and indifference to loss, the anxiety of an unknown new land, and the reality and hardship on the new shore. Many of such memories are often repressed, buried away in confusion, without the perspicousness of a psychic landscape which gives reason to existence.1

In Give and take, Young merges memories and rites of passage in open-ended ways to re-create this psychic landscape.  The images in the work are rich in historical and cultural references.  They include Chinese porcelain dolls, the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, a stone archway of Yuan Ming Uyan (the Chinese Versailles), and a male and female image in opposite corners of the painting.  The patterned background was drawn from a Tibetan tanka.  ‘It was my hope that some resonance or mood still remains from the original tanka pattern.’  In this way the artist creates a fiction whereby the montaged forms in the foreground are brought into relationship with the background, inviting the viewer to feel that these diverse images have belonged with each other all along.

John Young (2002) and Deborah Hart

1John Young, notes on the painting, National Gallery of Australia file 01/0330 f3

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002