Published in 1865, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has inspired scores of adaptations in film, literature and music. The imaginative text’s reach extends even to the danker corners of the internet where Alice and conspiracies regarding CIA mind control programs tend to cross paths regularly. There is a fascinating duality at play in Lewis Carroll’s darkly absurd masterpiece, which is not lost on Launceston-based artist Junko Go. Go’s paintings have long teetered on the edge of adult and children’s worlds just like the novel that has inspired her newest body of work, Down the rabbit hole.
Go’s paintings begin with a skin of colour punctuated by smudges of nursery room pastel, and come with titles that draw on cake baking, sweets and philosophical musings. Beyond this fairytale preamble, a world of restlessness, outings, adult conversations and domestic activity take place simultaneously, unconstrained by time or space. The viewer attempts to construct a scene from these snatches – a tea pot, a line of pills maybe, a candelabra – before the scratchy line drawings think better of figuration, and stammer into something indecipherable: ‘Why is a raven like a writing-desk?’ Speaking about her work, Go says, “It seems absurd and frivolous, but beneath the playful aspect, it has serious and complex ideas such as duality and the philosophy of our being.”
That dichotomy for Go comes from her Japanese background – she was born near Kyoto and migrated to Australia in the early 90s after studying art in New York. Her paintings function to transcend that dualism rather than draw on her identity as a point of difference. “I have come up with the fact that we all have universal values in ourselves as an organic existence that can feel and think regardless of race, colour or religion.” The compositions she presents in her paintings invite the eye to travel, to rest and to search.
This article was originally published in the July/August 2019 print edition of Art Guide Australia.