Presence / Absence

James Yuncken

SPAN Galleries 2001, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Exhibition Dates: 17 - 28 July, 2001
Opening 17 July, 5 - 7 pm

These paintings are in the nature of visual poems, romantic and surreal. Full of ambiguity, more often than not a there is a sense of a presence not accounted for in the image itself. Something or someone that was there, or will be there, or isn't in view, something that is formally absent from painting.

Though people are largely absent from these paintings, their sometime presence is often implied: a boat, roads, tracks, footprints. Or the hidden presence may be an eerie, no doubt anthropomorphized force of nature as in the turbulent sky of Jouncing Clouds, a sky which almost seems to be sweeping the landscape up with it in its swirling movement.

The ambiguous meaning of these paintings is a result, I believe, of the way in which they are painted. They are in a certain sense 'found objects', found however on the surface on which they were painted, found through a painting process which tries not to presume what the end result will be, but rather is a journey in which one mark put down (painterly gesture) incites the imagination to another and another with the image attaining ever increasing complexity, until finally a satisfying and coherent result is "found". It can be a short journey, but more often than not it is long with many a bend in the road and often a forced retreat or two or even a total change of direction.

The reason I like to paint this way is because of the surprising and interesting results it can bring about. The process embraces uncertainty of outcome, decisions and action are driven as much by improvisation and accident as by plan, and the door is open to the participation of subconscious forces so that the unexpected is always nearby.

That's not a bad start on a metaphor for life. Not all can be freedom, however, and one constraint that applies to these paintings is in the domain of colour. For most of this series only four pigments were used: Yellow ochre, red oxide, black oxide and the thrilling and chilling titanium white. Other formal constraints such as considerations of composition etc. inevitably play a role too.

By setting up the conditions for art to imitate life one aspires to put life into art.

James Yuncken