Source material for Superb + Solid (1998), Howard Arkley Archive, MS 14217/1/1074
Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library VictoriaContributors
© The Estate of Howard Arkley. Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art
Viewing Arkley’s paintings of suburban dwellings, one finds an unexpectedly rich variety of individual facades highlighting his heightened alertness to the intricacies of the different features, textures and styles inherent in each home.
Perhaps the most common source of Arkley’s suburban subjects was the commodified language and imagery of real estate advertising, which he gathered, examined and exploited to full effect for both the title and content of many of his paintings. A prime example of this is his large scale work Superb + Solid (1998) which can be traced from the original newspaper clipping, through its iteration in several studies, to the final resolution on canvas. A series of photocopied enlargements of the ad enable the artist to begin removing extraneous details, work out the palette, and resolve the overall composition and draw out the distinctive abstract qualities of the house which is what he found so appealing about its architecture. As through his entire practice, an intuitive understanding of the vernacular is in intimate dialogue with the artist’s ongoing preoccupation with the formalist concerns of modernist abstraction.