John Young Zerunge was born in Hong Kong in 1956 and moved to Australia in 1967. He read philosophy of science and aesthetics at the University of Sydney and then studied painting and sculpture at Sydney College of the Arts, specifically with the conceptual artist Imants Tillers and musical prodigy David Ahern. He currently lives and works in Melbourne.
Young’s investigation of Western late modernism prompted significant phases of work from a bicultural viewpoint, including the creation of the following series of paintings in the last four decades: the Silhouette Paintings, the Polychrome Paintings, the Double Ground Paintings, and the Abstract Paintings. Recently Young’s work has focused on transcultural humanitarianism with two projects entitled Bonhoeffer in Harlem and Safety Zone. Bonhoeffer in Harlem, a tribute to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was installed at St. Matthaus Church, Kulturforum in Berlin in 2009 and in Bamberg, Germany as part of the Circles festival in 2013. Safety Zone, a tribute to 21 foreigners who saved the lives of 300,000 citizens during the Rape of Nanjing in 1937, was shown at the University of Queensland Art Museum in 2011, and it was more recently brought to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka, Ballarat.
Since his first exhibition in 1979, Young has exhibited extensively in major national and international shows at institutions such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and museums and institutions in North America, Europe, as well as North and Southeast Asia. In 2005–6, a survey of his work entitled Orient/Occident: John Young 1978–2005 was exhibited at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, Victoria. Young has devoted a large part of his career towards regional development in Asia, and he has participated in many regional group travelling exhibitions, including The Rose Crossing (1999–2001, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia), Systems End (1996, Japan and Korea), AGWA’s Confess and Conceal (1993, all Southeast Asian Museums), as well as Transcultural Painting (1994–5, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong), and Asialink’s Art from Australia: Eight Contemporary Views, (1991, South East Asian Museums), He was also seminal in establishing in 1995 the Asian Australian Artists’ Association (Gallery 4A), now the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, a centre for the promotion of Asian philanthropy and the nurturing of Australasian artists and curators. Young was awarded the Australia Council Visual Arts Fellowship to support the research and development of this area of his practice in 2012–14.