Zoe Olivia Eyres Young: Painting my ‘primavera’

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Zoe Olivia Eyres Young was artist in residence at Mom Tri's Villa Royale in December 2016. She will be exhibiting at Mom Tri’s Gallery until April 30, 2017. Reallifephuket.com recently had a fascinating talk with Zoe about her life, her work and her artistic inspiration.

What medium do you paint in and how does it help your express yourself in your paintings?

I use Driven Matisse Acrylic Paints, I researched a variety of brands and felt this paint, combined with a quality medium and impasto really worked well. As my painting method involves the layering of different colours, the fast drying qualities of acrylic paint suit me, the high quality of Matisse acrylic paints means that although the paints are acrylic, they look like oils and retain the same vibrancy that oil paints do – which I love, the colour must remain delicious!

Female figures and images of motherhood feature quite prominently in your work, is there an autobiographical aspect to this?

I think all works that artists create are autobiographical to an extent, motherhood was an epiphany for me, where I finally felt I had a sense of purpose in the world, it was like the springtime of my life – my primavera – and so I wanted to try and depict those feelings through painting the figure in the landscape.

You have been a finalist in Australia’s prestigious Archibald Prize twice with portraits of prominent women – what do you admire in these women that inspired you to paint them?

Both girls broke the stereotypes in their careers, snowboarding was generally a male dominated sport and the Australian fashion scene was generally filled with blonde haired blue eyed beach girls. Torah and Sam both share a very refreshing professional, yet down to earth disposition, which I related to – happy go lucky, yet ultimately focused when it came to getting the job done.

Are you planning to enter again this year? Any hint about who you might be painting?

I’m constantly painting portraits in the studio and yes, there have been some pretty high profile people walking through the studio door recently, but no, no hints, the Archibald Prize is cloaked in mystery and I don’t want to jinx the process!

Your colour palette you use is quite subdued, what does this reflect? Is it influenced by the colours of the Australian landscape where you live?

On my website you’ll notice a variety of different pallets over the last year, ranging from the monochromatic to pastel with a punch, though I guess my work does always sit on the more subdued notes of the colour palette. Ultimately I guess because at this point in my life I feel that way, but feelings are fleeting and times change. When I was a teenager I painted heavy charcoal works and maybe as I grow older I will return to that or move onto something more bolder. I think colour is fairly indicative of an artist’s temperament at the time and what the world is dealing them at that point.

Tell me about some of the artists that have influence and inspired you, in what ways did they influence your style?

Australian Artist’s Ben Quilty, Tim Storrier and John Olsen all live near by in the countryside just south of Sydney. I relate to their work for different reasons, living in close proximity to these artists, I realised the biggest thing they all share was a very strong work ethic. I think people often misinterpret our jobs as being something more like a holiday. We’re all in the studio everyday – as [renowned American artist] Chuck Close said “inspiration is for amateurs”.

As far as influence goes, obviously Manet, Édouard Vuillard, Californian artist Richard Diebenkorn and the Australian female modernist painters, Grace Cossington Smith and Margaret Preston. I’m currently looking to 60’s films, especially Jacques Tati’s “Mon Oncle”, it’s my favourite film.

Has moving from the city to the countryside had an effect on your painting style?

The country side bought me the required focus to really push through with my own painting, there’s too many influences in the city. Don’t get me wrong, I love the city, but it’s just too much, too many distractions. The countryside gives me time and space to really conjure up and grasp concepts that are otherwise lost amidst the noise of the city.

How did the exhibition at Mom Tri's come about? Have you exhibited outside of Australia before?

I exhibited with Mom Tri’s at the old Boathouse Gallery in 2008. My parents have a place in Phuket and in 2008 I was living here and painting, sailing and surfing. The exhibition was titled “The Colourful Island”. I spent most of my twenties in-between studying at The National Art School in Sydney and travelling throughout Asia and Europe.

I’ve often exhibited my work in unconventional ways. I remember there was a cafe in Chiang Mai called Marmalade. I swapped board and food for the week whilst I painted a mural over their entire back wall – now my days on the road bartering my art for beer are well and truly over. But the spirit of painting everyday never leaves me, I have to create, it’s the same as air for me, I can’t live without it.

For more information about Zoe and her upcoming exhibitions visit her website at: www.zoeyoung.com.au