Sunday, July 12, 2009

the creeping new suburbs

frmo w
The Macmansions are rising in the outer suburbs and very small crowded in block kind of houses. That's the cheaper options for new home buyers, but so far there's not much in the way of gardens and trees. Maybe you need from $350,000 to buy a house and block in the Melbourne and Geelong suburbs where there is little so far in the way of community function centres, churches, etc. There's an Australian painter (can't recall his name now) who died recently who was renowned for his ugly pictures of suburbia. Here's my take on these houses. Some communities are even gated - yesterday I had to get a code to get through a high gate to visit one home. #000#etc.

later: It's Howard Arkley and I found this article and pictures.
Christopher Bantick
January 20, 2007 12:00am

I LIVE in a Howard Arkley house. He died not a kilometre from where I live, alone in his studio from a heroin overdose.

Arkley (1951-1999) is known for his iconic paintings of suburbia. His candy-coloured fluorescent images of air-brushed suburban brick veneer and Californian bungalow houses have helped to define the way Australians see the suburbs. Similar to artists such as William Frater, Grace Cossington Smith, Sidney Nolan, Danila Vassilieff and Douglas Annand's images of Townsville, Australian artists who painted the suburbs have often depicted them as stultifying places of squalor or boredom. Albert Tucker's Spring in Fitzroy coalesces the vacuity of the suburbs in one forlorn image.

Arkley understood the crushing sameness of the suburbs and yet his work, beyond the lurid colours, reaches another level. This is largely the insidious darkness associated with suburban life. The suburbs may be claustrophobic and chaotic, but they are unforgiving places as well.

As you walk the same streets of Melbourne's Oakleigh that Arkley walked, his assessment of the suburbs can seem shocking but compulsive. "It's like looking at my own paintings. I can't believe it. My God, I thought I was hyping it up. I thought I was making an imaginative statement. But no, it's real."

Just how important Arkley is to contemporary perceptions of the suburbs is explored in Carnival in Suburbia: The Art of Howard Arkley, by John Gregory (Cambridge University Press, $99). It is a book which attempts to contextualise Arkley's work and also offer a perspective on his contribution to our understanding of suburban life. It achieves this moderately well.

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