Artwork by Aimee Young
Vancouver-based, Australian-born artist Aimee Young recently found herself dreaming about the high streets, petrol stations and ice creams of her youth, and turned these memories into witty, eye-catching works of art.
Mixing uniquely Australian iconography—commodores, crushed VB cans, and Cathy Freeman—with a vivid colour palette, Aimee’s work makes us feel like the sprinklers and Gaytimes (popular Australian popsicle) of our childhoods aren’t so far away after all.
Where are you from in Australia?
I grew up in Ballarat. Do you know it?
I went there once for a basketball competition. So, it was very exciting.
Oh, it’s a thrilling town. [Laughs] It’s so funny, growing up there, I never used to like it and I went back recently and was like, ‘Oh, Ballarat. You’ve gotten a lot nicer and cooler.’ It was a funny place to grow up, but a good place to grow up, too.
Was your family artistic?
My mum used to paint a lot, but she also worked really hard doing night shift as a nurse; so whenever we had time together, we’d sit down and paint or make things. I guess it is a really good thing to do with your kids, because it doesn’t cost much and we didn’t really have internet or anything until much later; it was good to always be making things. I’m so grateful for it now; all the weird skills that you pick up that come in handy later, like what glue will work with what.
A little bit of Clag here and there.
And you can eat it! I wouldn’t endorse that though, only if you’re hungry.
I’ve noticed there’s a lot of Australian iconography in your work. Is that something you felt drawn to since moving overseas?
Yeah, for sure. The longer I’ve been away, the more I appreciate home. It’s weird having this kind of split identity, because now Canada is very quickly becoming home as well and—this is kind of naughty—but weed is legal in Canada, which is great. And sometimes when I smoke a bit of weed before bedtime, I’ll have these amazing dreams about home. And they’re so vivid: walking to the servo to buy a Golden Gaytime and the smell of the hot pavement… all these really vivid memories came back to me that I’d totally forgotten about.
Are you inspired by other artists who use Australian symbolism in their work?
I think we have a lot of really talented young artists at the moment and with Instagram you’re seeing good stuff floating around all the time. But I guess Mambo and Reg Mombassa, all that kind of stuff is rattling around in my head, because that was the era I was wearing that clothing.
I relate to your piece featuring the horse saying, ‘Maybe when you’re older,’ because my mum always told me that exact thing when I’d ask for one.
Did you ever get a horse?
I never got a horse.
Neither did I!
They like to keep you hanging on.
Exactly, they can’t exactly say no and break your heart when you’re a horse-crazy twelve-year-old.
What materials have you been experimenting with lately?
I do a bit of everything: I screen-print in my kitchen, and last year I learnt how to use a CNC router to cut out big pieces of wood which was cool.
Is that like a drill?
Yeah, it’s a computer-operated drill kind of thing. It can carve and cut and engrave at the same time. It’s quite a huge piece of equipment, but it’s very technical and the things you can do with it are very cool. I learnt how to do that and it was really fun, and I used that to build an installation. I try to use things that I have lying around at home; I don’t want to spend too much money, and I don’t really think having art supplies makes you a better artist anyway.
I got pretty deep in your Instagram and…
Oh no, what did you find?
Well, it seems like your style has really evolved.
Definitely. I think because I’m naturally curious about stuff, like using different mediums, and trialling different things; it just keeps evolving, which is cool. I had a good couple of years there, though, where I was just hating everything I did—no confidence in my work and, like, ‘Why am I even making art? It’s not meaningful or important.’ Then I sort of had this weird epiphany where I realised not everything has to be important or heartbreakingly emotional. It can be stupid and funny and be just as valid and interesting as anything else.