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Travels With My Wife: Painting Hong Kong from the Water and Air

23 March - 10 April

23 March – 10 April 2021

Tuesday – Friday 11am to 5pm,
Saturday 11am to 3pm
admission: Free

…overwhelmingly industrial…somehow nevertheless romantic…

James Yuncken, Lantau, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 83.5 x 55.5 cm

James Yuncken, Ships off Lamma Island Power Station, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 9 x 27 cm

James Yuncken, Airport 1, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 28 cm

James Yuncken, New Territories from Victoria Harbour I, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 13 x 28 cm

James Yuncken, Haze, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 9 x 25 cm

James Yuncken, Many Moorings, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 10.7 x 25 cm

Travels With My Wife is a new series of small paintings by James Yuncken, exploring bustling harbour and airport scenes in Hong Kong.

My wife travels to Hong Kong about six times a year for work. I go sometimes to keep her company. 

I didn’t expect a mega-city, an international finance hub to be fertile territory to paint. But first the airport – an artificial island in the South China Sea which sets a multitude of airliners against clouded mountains rising above chilling rows of apartment towers in one direction, or a host of dredges and ships in the other – and then the harbour where ships of all shapes, sizes and ages, overwhelmingly industrial, grubby, somehow nevertheless romantic, inhabit a haze, tropical and industrial where everything is just a bit unclear. I had to paint all that! 

James Yuncken is a Melbourne based artist, working from a studio on Smith Street in Fitzroy.

James has exhibited frequently in Melbourne and Canberra since 1989.



2018                Improvisations, St Vincent’s Residency: Drawings from Caritas Christi, St Vincent’s Gallery, Fitzroy

2017                Represented 45 at 45, fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne

2015                The Drawing Room, Prints, Drawings and Bas Relief, fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne

2014                Places Nearby, More Inner Melbourne fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne

2012                Walking to Work, Melbourne, Inner East fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne

2011                Vox Pix, Voices and Images Together Centre for Theology and Ministry, Parkville

2010                Travelling North, Journey to Cape York fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne

2008                Abstraction and Space, fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne

2005                Formal Considerations, 257 Church St, Richmond and On-line

2003                Sense of Place, SPAN Galleries, Melbourne

2001                Presence/Absence, SPAN Galleries, Melbourne

2000                Represented 8 x 8, Roar Studios, Fitzroy

1999                Represented 8 x 8, Roar Studios, Fitzroy

1998                Represented 3rd Annual Summer Show, Galerie helengory, Richmond

1997                First Steps, Galerie helengory, Richmond

1996                Represented A Four Art 19 ninety-six, Westspace

1995                Studio Landscape Exhibition, Smith Street Studio, Fitzroy

1993                Represented Swan Hill Print and Drawing Show

1992                Represented Studio One’s ’92 Pressing Annual Show, Spiral Arm Gallery, Canberra

1990                Represented Sun, Smoke and Steel, Studio One touring exhibition Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle

1989                Images in Different Genres, Dorette’s Bistro, Canberra

Travels with My Wife

My wife likes to travel – well, normally. But this time it was different. Everything was different!

Travel is her great escape from the drudgery and humdrum of the daily grind of work and earning a living. It’s a wonder world of places and experiences you read about in books. Books are one of her favourite things along with movies and shows, all of which involve escape from that very humdrum already mentioned.

But this time it was different! It was travelling to work.

Don’t get me wrong! She was grateful to have the work, and well paying work at that – the same type of work that she used to have in Australia. But the circumstances were really not of her choosing.  If she had the party connections… if hadn’t been appointed by the other side… Losing that job hurt. It hurt so much. It hurt to watch her hurt.

In 2018 I found myself on a plane to Hong Kong. My wife travels there for work – her new work – about six times a year. She usually stays a couple of weeks each time. Apart from work she had no contacts in Hong Kong so I go about twice a year to provide a bit of company.

Frankly I was quite excited. Hong Kong – China: One Country, Two Systems: The Asian Century – all that. And I’d never once been there.

So what did I find? I mean apart from the obvious: an Asian mega-city, an international finance hub sporting an array of architectural show pieces promoting various brand-egos.

Well here’s what I found:

  1. A bloody big airport. It’s really fascinating! It’s on an artificial island in the South China Sea. It has spectacular views of cloud covered Lantau Mountain. That mountain somehow tells you you are in China and nowhere else. The mountain is guarded by chilling rows of apartment towers, all the same, lined up like soldiers. Imagining a life in one those sent a shudder down my spine. Out the other side beyond the planes and the runways and the hangers and the terminals, the sea, those ubiquitous clouds and the haze and dredging: a myriad of dredges. And ships; all sorts, not modern passenger liners, but the grubby, industrial ships of work and commerce, old, new, big and little.
  1. The water, the harbour, where ships come and go as they have ever since and even before the British freebooters, thugs and drug runners stole it at gunpoint. Those same ships I saw from the airport, but more and more of them. All shapes and sizes and ages, but –as before – functional, industrial, nothing much elegant. But there’s a kind of romance – maybe even a heightened one – in the grubbiest, the oldest, the smallest cargo ship

What I found was, I guess what was ever there: the gateway to southern China, to trade and riches. Now it sort of belongs to China (and only ‘sort of’ if the Hong Kongers could have their way). And the haze sits over it all: the tropical haze, the industrial haze. Everything is just that little unclear. But clear enough to paint.


23 March
10 April
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03 9662 9966


James Yuncken


fortyfivedownstairs gallery
45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia
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03 9662 9966
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