Logo: National Gallery of VictoriaHeader: Education Resource

Howard Arkley


Icon: Print Version


‘Australian art has been dominated by the rural landscape and I think there is something false and overrated – it’s romanticised or, at the very least, lopsided. Most of the population live in an urban environment. This environment affects us – the kinds of people that Australians are, and the way we behave. It affects our formative years, so it is a very important element.’

Page 88 – Spray, The Work of Howard Arkley, Ashley Crawford & Ray Edgar, 1997, unpublished interview with the authors.

Howard Arkley is widely recognised as the foremost painter of Australian suburbia. He rejected the landscape tradition, as the artist John Brack had beforehand, celebrating instead the ubiquity of images embedded in urban and suburban environments with his vibrant airbrushed paintings. His signature houses, domestic interiors and fascination with mass culture struck a powerful chord with contemporary Australians who readily identified with them. Suburban motifs, patterns and textures offered Arkley endless possibilities for abstract compositions which blurred the distinctions between High Art and Pop culture by referencing both art history and the everyday experience.

Simultaneously serene and edgy, Arkley’s work creates an intriguing tension between the inherent beauty of suburbia and its darker more menacing side.



NGV: Art like never before