Zooming AroundThe world of Alan Young is both familiar and strange. We easily recognise the daily goings on wandering in North Hobart, dancing at Rectango on a Friday night, hanging around in Melbourne, visiting Canberra. But it is also the world from a unique perspective. Zooming over, zooming in, zooming out – Alan defies the single point of optical realism. Instead his work acknowledges the synchronous multi-perspectival qualities of vision that tend to stand above and zero in on particular, peculiar and oblique interactions. In doing so he extracts the exuberance of an individual mind, body and soul engaged with moment to moment goings on right there, right now.
The fluidity and ambiguity of abstraction offers ample room to move, to let go, to enter the artist’s realm as he describes places, actions, people and decisive moments from his idiosyncratic points of view. Such view points might be spatial – from the elevated seating of a bus, or seen sideways from a taxi window, or from the birds eye view of a plane, or simply from the footpath. Whatever, these vantage points allow the viewer time to notice – a luxury that drivers cannot afford without crash mitigation. Points of view also encompass depictions of the artist’s cacophony of characters, symbols and motifs that gleefully inhabit his free fall cartography.
The sense of delight and fun that rolls across the panoply of vibrant canvases is infectious, the dance music vibe undeniable, up tempo, constantly on the move, and never failing to surprise. But perhaps above all, Young is a fearless colourist – refuting the expected, and placing points both on and off the rainbow’s spectrum on a collision course, where more is never enough.
Young shares this direct hand-mind-pigment-surface energy with the likes of the new abstract expressionists of the 1980s, in particular Jean-Michel Basquiat, stripping away the inessential in order to get straight to the heart of the matter. Their focus is on annihilating, circumventing or simply ignoring realism’s visual tricks of proportion, perspective and foreshortening in favour of abstraction’s capacity for no holds barred storytelling. Narrative overrides the optical. Anything goes, everything can happen, all at once and on one surface, with plenty of room to fly, to invent, to play, to befuddle.
Whether controlled chaos or order now out of control or an idiosyncratic energy hovering in suspended animation somewhere between the two, Young’s generous capacity to appreciate the small things through a delight in creating in and of itself fuses a way of seeing with a way of being.
- Dr Jane Deeth. Curator, arts writer, educator