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Howard Arkley

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Howard Arkley | Australia 1951–99 | Stucco home 1991 | Synthetic polymer paint (with ‘Hammertone’) on canvas | 167 x 167cm | Purchased 1994. | Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © Estate of Howard Arkley

Howard Arkley Stucco home 1991

Howard Arkley
Australia  1951–99
Stucco home 1991
Synthetic polymer paint (with ‘Hammertone’) on canvas
167 x 167cm
Purchased 1994.  Queensland Art Gallery Foundation
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
© Estate of Howard Arkley


Howard Arkley

Stucco home 1991

Howard Arkley’s obsessive portraits of suburban Melbourne houses were among the most dedicated and serious studies of Australian popular culture in the 1980s and 1990s. His interest in suburbia was partly a reaction against the mythic status of the outback landscape among Australian artists, who mostly live in cities. He remarked of the suburbs: ‘Something like 89% of Australians live in this environment . . . it’s something that’s denied so often’.

Arkley began to use suburban imagery in 1978 when he painted his ‘Doorway’ series, reproducing the patterns of flyscreen doors, which struck him for the great variety of their wrought iron designs. The fact that something so banal and ubiquitous could generate such an array of stylistic variation alerted him to the ways that the suburban house can be a means of self-expression.

The almost clinical precision displayed by owners of neat suburban bungalows, reflecting their comfort and propriety, is intensified by Arkley into a stylised façade that might mask anxious self-repression. Despite the superficial appearance of satirical humour and parody, the meticulously decorative surface of Stucco home is a careful portrayal of subject matter that fascinated Arkley for the best part of his career.