Source material for Head series, Howard Arkley Archive, MS 14217/1/1660
Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library VictoriaContributors
© The Estate of Howard Arkley. Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art
Sifting through Arkley’s archive, one encounters hundreds of clippings of diverse subjects, often assembled together in photo albums in a dizzying display of the mutability of the human visage.
Clearly for Arkley this was a fertile subject with a seemingly endless range of possible directions and the breadth of his interest is evident in the divergent and eclectic imagery that he selected, adapted and transformed in his paintings: a bug-eyed comic book character (Psychedelic Head); a Persian carpet design from a book in Juan Davila’s library (Arabesque Face); a magazine page showing what happens inside a head when a virus takes hold (Head Virus); the popular toy franchise Transformers (Head Transformer); a book of make your own celebrity masks (Plastic Portrait); and a 1921 drawing by Picasso (Picasso Head). However, more than just his characteristic blend of art historical references, popular culture, mass media, science and decoration these confronting, large scale works were intimately tied up with Arkley’s own persona.