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Howard Arkley


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Image Reference

Howard Arkley
Australia 1951–1999
Floriated residence 1994


The highly developed techniques of airbrushing lines and stencilling were fundamental to Arkley’s unique style where the ordinary metamorphoses into the extraordinary, creating deliberately hyperreal images similar to the glossy reproductions of paintings found in books .

When creating one of his suburban house compositions Arkley would

‘start with preliminary rapidograph pen drawings, sourced from outmoded photos from glossy magazines or real–estate brochures, outline the composition of exterior or interior, project the crisply defined drawing directly onto the canvas, and then paint the broader areas in flat colour. Later he would tape smaller cut–outs or stencils onto the canvas, suggesting textures and patterns, which became integrated into the overall picture.The trick from there was to balance lightness with the oppressive density of the visual data. With their fuzzy, dreamlike quality and tonal after–effects, the airbrushed lines stylised the final look of the painting.’

Floriated Residence, 1994, Arkley’s most widely reproduced painting is an example of Arkley’s signature line which dominates as a formal element across the cropped view of a suburban house infilled with decorative patterns and reminiscent of flocked wallpaper. It also shows his skilful and refined manipulation of stencils which have been overlapped to create a shimmering effect.

Arkley also created an iridescent effect by deliberately misaligning lines and patterns. He had discovered this optical effect when reading an article in a 1963 issue of Scientific American on moiré patterns which are normally associated with fabric designs



NGV: Art like never before