ARC ONE Gallery is thrilled to present 1866: The Worlds of Lowe Kong Meng and Jong Ah Siug, an important new body of work by one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists, John Young.
A recipient of the Australia Council Visual Arts Fellowship for established artists in 2012, for his first exhibition at the gallery Young presents the inception of his two-year research project concerning the Chinese diaspora in Australia.
In this richly evocative exhibition, John Young masterfully unites the poignant lives of two unlikely men: Lowe Kong Meng, a multi-lingual, educated merchant traveller from Penang, and Jong Ah Siug, a simple illiterate miner from Zhongshan, Southern China. Having both arrived in Victoria in the mid-1800s to seek their fortunes during the gold rush, Lowe Kong Meng later rose to become a member of the colony’s powerful elite, while Jong Ah Siug was condemned to 33 years of incarceration in lunatic asylums up until his death.
A century and a half later, Young gently renders the histories of these two migrant men with starkly disparate fates through a series of abstract paintings, works on paper and two intricate embroideries. Charting their achievements and tribulations within his Australian home as an artist himself born in Hong Kong, the exhibition develops Young’s investigation of the fascinating links between Asia and Australia, and the ways in which humans are fundamentally interconnected cultural beings. In response to the themes of the exhibition, sound artist and composer Theodore Wohng has also produced an inspired antiphonal sound piece that will unfurl in the space.
This is Young’s return to painting after recently working on international projects and permanent public installations including Bonhoeffer in Harlem in Bamberg, Germany, and Open Monument, a major public artwork in Ballarat, Victoria. Open Monument is currently under construction and due to be opened early 2015.
1866 marks the fifth exhibition over six years of John Young’s ‘history projects’, starting with Dispersion 1967 (2008, Hong Kong), and followed by Bonhoeffer in Harlem, (2009-14, Berlin and Bamberg), Safety Zone (2010-14, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Ballarat), and The Macau Days (2012, Hong Kong).
John Young Zerunge was born in Hong Kong in 1956 and moved to Australia in 1967. Young read philosophy of science and aesthetics at the University of Sydney and then studied painting and sculpture at Sydney College of the Arts. His investigation of Western late modernism prompted significant phases of work from a bi-cultural viewpoint, and he has devoted a large part of his three-decade career towards regional development in Asia, participating in many regional group travelling exhibitions including Asialink’s Art from Australia: Eight Contemporary Views, (1991, South East Asian Museums), Transcultural Painting (1994-5, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong), Systems End (1996, Japan and Korea) and Antipodean Currents (1995, Guggenheim Museum USA). Young has regular solo exhibitions in Australia and also shows in Berlin and Hong Kong.
In 2005-06, a survey exhibition covering 27 years of work was held at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, Victoria, curated by Maudie Palmer. A second survey exhibition, The Bridge and the Fruit Tree, covering works from 2000-2012 was exhibited in February-March 2013 at Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra. Three separate monographs have been written on John Young’s works and projects by Dr. Graham Coulter-Smith (1993, Schwartz City Publications); Dr. Carolyn Barnes and William Wright AM (2005, Craftsman House, Thames & Hudson); and Dr Carolyn Barnes, Professor Jacqueline Lo and Terence Maloon (Australian National University Drill Hall Gallery).