John Young

in collaboration with Helga Groves and Clint Doyle
Yuill/Crowley, Sydney
22 July - 17 August 1988

3 States

1. The ecstasy of nature

2. The state of ordinary life, work and nostalgia

3. The state of intuition and the death of linear time1

 

That John Young described his most recent exhibition of six works as virtually the same painting, discloses an erasure rather than an absence of repetition and difference. The serialism of Pop and Minimalist Art was based on an idea that repetition and difference could be thought of as two separate operations. For example, the first section of a work would contain an arrangement of elements that would be repeated, each additional section altering one or more of the preceding elements by either progression, rotation, permutation or reversal.2 Thus the work and each of its stages could be understood as a divisible composite (a set), as opposed to an indivisible whole. The mechanistic or numerical nature of change would proceed by differences in degree rather than differences in kind.3

Young's work similarly evidences a montage of elements which occurs across the work: the grid, the veil, pastiched Derain paintings, strips of grey canvas, allusion to Goethe's colour theory of lightened black and darkened white, slate tablets denoting specific years, the residue of kitsch naturalism. But within each work these tropes or elements remain uncomposed; the method is parataxical (1 + 1 + 1 + 1 or this and this and this). This refusal to submit to composition is repeated in the three authorial hands - Helga Groves, John Young, Glint Doyle; and in the three states – the ecstasy of nature; the state of ordinary life, work, nostalgia; the state of intuition and the death of linear time; and in the multiplicity of standpoints from which the work must be viewed to be seen.

What distinguishes Young's work from the serialism defined above is its renunciation of linearity. There is no narrative unfolding across this work, succession and negation do not take place. In Requiem Young plays on the work of a Japanese artist On Kawara. Instead of mechanically representing a succession of dates as they passed in time as Kawara did, Young's series of slate tablets are the signs of past, present and future dates and are arranged in an aleatory fashion. The blank tablets and empty spaces question the representation of time as "presence" and testify to the incompleteness of the work.

While each of Young's other works consists of the same combination of elements, every element differs between each work. There is no one element that remains constant and hence no sameness against which difference can be perceived. Repetition and difference would hereafter be understood as a single operation. We might say that all repetition is difference and all difference is repetition; that these five works are virtually the same.

Bergson's conception of the virtual as defined by Deleuze exists "in such a way that it is actualized by being differentiated and is forced to differentiate itself, to create its lines of differentiation in order to be actualized.4 Now the actual does not resemble the virtual and a work actualizes itself by developing only some of what is virtual. If Young's works are virtually the same, they can still be actually different. And yet between them they evidence a certain nostalgia for what was not actualized. It is not a case, then, of each work manipulating the material elements of that preceding it, but an attempt to return to the genesis of an idea and retrieve part of what was lost or had fallen away.

notes: 

1. By John Young

2. Mel Bochner, "Serial Art, Systems, Solipsism" Gregory Battack (ed.), Minima/Art, Studio Vista Ltd, London, 1969.

3. For further elaboration of the distinction between these two terms see Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism, Zone Books, New York,

4. Ibid., p. 97 .