Perth artist Yvonne Zago has established herself as an artist on the rise. We were excited to hear news of her upcoming solo show Drunken Daytime Ghosts at Linton and Kay Gallery. Yvonne is known for her paintings with exquisite detail, introducing us to a world of magical characters, vibrant colour and extraordinary imagery. We were eager to meet the woman behind these paintings and didn’t pass up the opportunity to ask Yvonne a few questions leading up to her exhibition.
Describe yourself in three words?
Reclusive, observant, ginger.
What (or who) gives you the most inspiration?
There are artists that I cannot get enough of looking at, all for different reasons. Chris Ofili, Hiromi Tango, Jules De Balincourt, David Hockney and Hernan Bas are all in there, but I wouldn’t say I am an artist inspired by other artists. I am inspired by what I see, not what another artist sees. Although my artwork can be seen as distinctly imagination bound, they are experiential in nature and there is much of the observed within them. I find it hard to be bored because there is always so much to see, from the vastness of the landscape to the minutiae of insects and fungus. I take endless photographs of plants and animals and trawl through the Internet looking for figures in angles that ‘shine’. If the Internet fails me I often get Iain to pose in particular, and often uncomfortable, positions. I’ve had him holding dead ducklings, dead lizards, our dog, and trying to bend his arms in ways that arms are not supposed to be bent.
Your paintings are full of colour, what is it that influences your colour palette?
I love density, and detail, and I think colour naturally ties in with those concepts. You can achieve a highly detailed work using a more monochromatic palette of colour but it just wouldn’t be so chaotic for the brain to view. I like to work in a way that gives my eyes almost have no chance to rest, they keep having to move, to absorb, to integrate. I have no real plan for the final colour palette of each work, that comes as I build layers. I have a massive paint collection, and love working with single pigment colours. Getting to know the pigments you use is a really important part of a painters practise, I think. They all have their own characteristics.
My partner refers to my work as drunken, which is what forms part of the title for my upcoming show, in that it’s excessive in almost every aspect; forms, detail, colour…
Do you listen to music when you paint? if so what is playing?
No, I don’t. I love music but I find it too easy to block out and since my brain has natural tendencies towards anxiety I find myself in a cycle of anxious and self deprecating thoughts before too long. I don’t paint well in that kind of mental state. I listen to audiobooks. I’ve always been a big reader and I can let the story absorb me and occupy my mind during the long hours of repetitive work.
Right now it’s Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels….for the second time.
Is there anybody fictional/present/dead you would love to collaborate with and why?
Not that comes to mind, but my dream mentorship would be with Chris Ofili.
However, I would love to work with people in VR and learn more about it. Ever since I played with my friends headset I’ve wanted to create a virtual reality painting, colourful, immersive, strange, interactive… I think the technology is a way off being able to detail the room in the way I’d like, but yeah, that goal is always at the back of my mind.
How long does it take for you to complete a piece of work?
Anywhere from 3 weeks to two months, depending on the size and if the piece becomes difficult. I am uneasy about finishing work quickly, and find it hard to know when to stop. I like the long understanding of a work, of building it into being.
Most inspiring place in Perth?
I am lucky enough to live in the Perth hills, where I live is nestled in between the Gooseberry Hill, Kalamunda, and Beelu National parks, and I spend hours and hours in the bush finding new things and taking photographs. I then go home and spend time learning the names both Indigenous and Latin, and research the uses and functions they may have had. It opens up whole new levels of knowing when walking the land you’re on if you’re aware of each plant in its uniqueness, and of the diversity that surrounds you. I still have tons to learn.
Tell us a little about your upcoming show ‘Drunken Daytime Ghosts’ at Linton and Kay Gallery?
This is a show that has evolved out of possibly the worst year I have ever had, creatively. I normally allow myself about a year and a half to produce a show, but suffered so much performance anxiety and self doubt that I found it hard to put a confident mark to a painting for about 8 months after my last show. It all started to come together again at the end of 2015 and this work has all been produced in a sort of frenzy in the last 8 months, which is an incredibly tight time frame for me.
Driven by curiosity of the natural world ‘Drunken daytime ghosts’ is a body of paintings that draw on familiar figurative imagery and combine fragments gathered from various places to create dreamlike scapes that enthrall, escapist and inherently feminine, familiar and yet ‘other’ ; the paradox of being unable to escape to a place that never really felt like home.
While containing identifying Australian flora and fauna and figures that are trespassers, these landscapes remain unidentified in time and space, providing a moment that is intimately imbued with emotion, opening up a texturally imaginative world.
Drunken Daytime Ghosts is on at Linton and Kay Gallery 26 July–16 August for more detail follow the buttons.