ARC ONE is delighted to present John Young’s None Living Knows, the latest instalment in the artist’s multi-project exploration of the Chinese diaspora in Australia since 1840. Highly regarded in Australia and internationally for his commitment to intellectual rigor and aesthetic finesse, in None Living Knows Young poetically captures a scarcely documented event in Australian history.
During the late nineteenth century, Chinese immigrants and miners walked from Darwin through the vast Northern Territory to Croydon, and as far as Cairns on Queensland’s east coast, in search of gold. Intermittent and often alone, the walkers trailed a perilous and unmapped two thousand kilometres that resulted in many deaths. ‘None Living Knows’ – words drawn from a W. B. Yeats poem – echo this forgotten narrative.
Young meditates on this walk with a series of abstract paintings and his signature tableau of chalkboard drawings and digital prints. Large-scale and meticulously painted canvases evoke figures dissolved in the landscape through molten veils of light and colour. Tracing the mental and spiritual passage of culturally displaced men in pursuit of a new life, Young takes inspiration from early modernists such as Hilma af Klimt, whose work explored theosophy and the mystic through abstraction. The works in this exhibition are beautiful and melancholic responses to the psychological endurance, feeling of hope, and quest for spiritual transcendence Young envisions in these men.