Calm amid COVID-19 chaos has proved a winning formula for one Southern Highlands artist.
Archibald Prize finalist and award-winning artist Zoe Young has a surprise in store for Art Gallery of New South Wales' members.
The Bowral-based talent was commissioned by Look magazine to create a painting under a theme inspired by Henri Matisse's 'Calme et Volupte' for inclusion in the July-August issue of the magazine. Look is published by the Art Gallery Society at the Art Gallery of NSW and goes out to Gallery members every two months.
In the 1904 artwork Matisse aimed for what he described as a "balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter."
A similar expectation was placed on Ms Young's commission, created especially for inclusion in the magazine, with the hope of bringing joy and a sense of calm to readers in these troubled times.
- HarbisonCare visitors' pod to keep aged care residents, loved ones connected
- Wingecarribee Council has nine day turnaround for some Development Applications
- Paint your own portrait by numbers with Wingecarribee Council support
- Through your lens: No pot of gold, but a bright blue sky at the end of the rainbow
- Police warn they will be patrolling school zones
- Prenter Report: The churches with no prayer spread 'the word' online
- Isolation prompts reunion of former Southern Highlands students after almost 50 year
It was a welcome relief for the artist who had suddenly had one of her greatest artistic opportunities dashed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She had secured an opportunity to exhibit her work in the Sydney Art Fair, an event considered the biggest contemporary art fair in the country. The fair was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The 2017 winner of the coveted Portia Geach Prize said cancellation of the fair was a blow from both a career and financial point.
"As an artist I work toward a goal of exhibiting and selling my work," she said.
"The lost prospect of sales due to the cancellation and closure of galleries and exhibitions was very disappointing."
Another special project was also brought to a halt by the pandemic restrictions.
Ms Young had been making regular trips to Noosa where she had been working on an Archibald Prize entry featuring David Williamson.
The closure of the Queensland border brought an abrupt stop to the face-to-face component of the project.
The subsequent Art Gallery Society commission for Look with the theme 'Calme' was somewhat ironic for Ms Young.
She was still coming to terms with the cancellation of exhibitions, was in the process of preparing a funding submission to support her ongoing work through the COVID-19 restrictions and had begun home-schooling her two young children who were in kindergarten and Year 1.
Ms Young is quick to point out that a sense of calm was not really part of her environment at the time.
But somehow she began to find the calm in the storm created by the COVID-19 upheaval of life.
The first thing she could do was put a stop to the funding submission.
"I'm an artist, not a writer," she said.
But Ms Young still had to find the inspiration for calm in what had become a chaotic home environment.
"I normally paint calm, serene still life, but at the time my life was anything but that.
"Eventually I found it and the beauty in what my life had become."
That beauty came from looking at her environment with a different attitude.
She said she began to watch how her children seamlessly settled in to a new way of life and they became her inspiration.
"I was inspired by how my kids quickly adapted," she said. "They were so resilient, so much better at coping with the changes.
"They would set up cubbies in the house and would have pillow fights. I saw beauty in that.
"I saw the innocence, fun and cheekiness, which warms the brittleness.
"I wanted to honour their resilience."
With the inspiration playing out before her, Ms Young's next challenge was to find the time while trying to assist her children with learning from home.
This time came at 3.30am each morning while her children were sleeping.
But when 7am hit her role changed from sought after artist to full time mum and teacher.
"The reality of every day created tension between domestic responsibility and artistic commitment," she said.
"I managed to unleash those tensions through my art."
With the Look magazine work now completed Ms Young is breathing a sigh of relief and achievement.
But not for long. With COVID-19 restrictions easing she is now busy working on a series of 20 artworks for exhibition in 'The Architect's Lunch' at the Olsen Gallery in Woollahra in October.
She is also continuing work on her Archibald submission.
"Most of my research has been done for this entry. The rest I can work on from home without the need to cross the border," she said.
Meanwhile, another artwork is featured in the National Portrait Gallery in the inaugural Darling Portrait Prize. While the gallery has been closed the exhibition has been featured online at https://www.portrait.gov.au/dpppainting/94478/89460/
Did you know the Southern Highland News is now offering breaking news alerts and a weekly email newsletter? Keep up-to-date with all the local news: sign up below.