First Steps

James Yuncken

HelenGory Galerie

377 Punt Road, Richmond
Exhibition Dates: 21 May - 7 June, 1997
Opening 22 May, 6.00 - 8.00 pm

Exhibition Text

First Steps was my first exhibition at a Melbourne art gallery.

The paintings were much influenced by a trip to Paris in 1995, a short and intense trip in which I visited every gallery I could find from morning till night for the two weeks I spent there.

They are also influenced by my love of theatre and literature and their ambiguous and mysterious feel is often theatrical in nature. There's a sense of disquiet and apprehension in some and a feeling of something just happened or about to happen ( Untitled (Female Figure), Woman approaching a house). In others the uneasy feeling is tempered with humour: Perhaps the problem is that mummy is looking at her watch rather than her pride and joy in “Mummy … waatch!”. A Mephistophelean character takes great delight in indicating the way to his nervous-looking companion in Daemons and the wife seems to be sniggering at her berating husband in Ibsen.

At the time of the exhibition my Artist Statement tried to describe the creative process employed by analogy to a fuel driven machine:


I'm interested in people: What they are, how they work, their psychology, behaviour, spirituality and even their physiology. I also interested in theatre, literature and music. All these interests - together with my own life-experience, of course - influence my painting.


This is how the paintings are made: At first I put down any old paint marks. They seem random but, half unconsciously, there’s a sort of compositional game going on. All the while I look at the marks to see what they might suggest. When I see it, that's what the painting becomes. I pursue that idea or image to a conclusion.


It's like trying to create chaos and then impose order on it. I do it because it makes the unexpected happen: It's unpredictable, but not arbitrary. It's a machine fuelled by my interests, making them into something else. It produces a result that tells me something new, something that I hadn't thought of before, takes me somewhere different. Sometimes it produces an interesting riddle. (You have to give the ‘je ne sais quoi’ a chance.)

James Yuncken