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Howard Arkley

Questions and Activities

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Visual Analysis

Arkley’s urban imagery of factories, freeways and cityscapes was often exhibited juxtaposed with his images of his better known suburban houses. The factory series was inspired by the visual stimulus of comic book illustrations and in particular a short story first published in 1974 by the Australian writer Peter Carey. In the story, people are drawn to shadows with nightmarish connotations

Rich sources of material, including Arkley’s own photographs, have been collaged together and drawn over, and collaged again repeatedly to become final paintings composed of various elements of inner city smoke stacks, industrial sites and machinery.

Work 01: Cityscape, 1990

Visual Analysis and Interpretation

  • What are the dominant colours in the picture?
    How does the selection and use of colour add to visual impact, meaning and mood in the picture?
    In what ways does the text in the work influence how you interpret it?
  • Arkley’s suburban landscapes have variously been described as celebratory, threatening, or sinister. What is your personal interpretation of the mood and meanings in Cityscape? What is it about the artwork that suggests this mood and meaning?
  • Many factors can contribute to the meanings viewers find in an artwork, including world events or issues. How might current concerns related to the environment or terrorism influence the meanings that viewers today find in a painting such as Cityscape?
  • Compare Cityscape with a view of the city or an industrial landscape by another artist. ( For example L S Lowry, Peter Booth, John Brack and Jeffrey Smart.) What different ideas does each work communicate and how? How does each artwork reflect the time and place it was made?


NGV: Art like never before