Non-objective Reprentations

James Yuncken

helengory galerie

25 St Edmonds Street, Prahran

Exhibition Dates: 7 July - 1 August, 1999
Opening 8 July, 6.00 pm

The title encapsulates some concepts that are relevant to the work in this exhibition. It’s a sort of pun of contradictions.

The paintings are ‘representational’, at least in a broad sense, because they depict familiar objects and scenes. So I’ve called them “representations”. However, they are products of a painting process which relies on the imagination rather than the study of and reference to the objects of our real world of day to day experience, so I also call them “non-objective”.

‘Non-objective’ is not far removed in meaning from ‘not objective’, or ‘subjective’, and, being works of an essentially imaginative process, so they are.

‘Non-objective’ also means a type of painting devoid of the recognisable objects of that aforementioned world of day to day experience. It’s how the paintings in this exhibition all started out, with no recognisable objects. Only gradually were they transformed into ‘representations’.

These representations were not pre-formed in the mind, but were worked out on the canvas, so-to-speak. The image is improvised and the imaginative process is dynamic and interactive, not fixed and predetermined. It involves putting something ‘out there’ on the canvas then responding to that with one’s imagination. It’s a sort of visual equivalent of pulling oneself up by one’s boot straps.

That is the technical process. How the imagination responds in this process determines the images themselves. This depends on one’s own person and one’s preoccupations at the time.

At the time I was looking at a lot of early modernist painting and its influences can be seen in many of the images. I think of Matisse's Red Studio when I look at Toilette or Cave Simile.

Other things are always mixed in though. The title Cave Simile is from Plato's famous philosophical passage where prisoners chained facing the wall of a cavern behold only the shadows on the walls cast by a fire behind them. Enlightenment would come if they were able to turn and face the source. Here the door is open to the wide world – and the dunny out the back.

In White Noise a Japanese woman at a lectern speaks into a microphone. There is a video machine, a power point, some wiring and what looks like my 1970 vintage transistor radio viewed side on, aerial raised, on a shelf in the background. It seems to be a metaphor for the information age, as confusing and disorienting as it is enlightening.

The results of this painting process are often as surprising and interesting. It is a process that seems to come with its own hidden intelligence that makes connections and associations that are novel, coherent and unexpected, sometimes disturbing and sometimes funny.

James Yuncken