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|Born||11 May 1951
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Died||22 July 1999 (aged 48)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Education||Prahran College of Advanced Education|
|Known for||Airbrush canvas|
Howard Arkley (5 May 1951 – 22 July 1999) was an Australian artist, born in Melbourne, known for his airbrushed paintings of houses, architecture and suburbia. His mother's side of the family was Jewish and his father was German.
John Brack was Howard Arkley's first true inspiration and felt encouraged to continue with his art. After seeing an exhibition of works by Sidney Nolan, Arkley became very interested in art. Nolan's use of household materials inspired him and abstract artists such as Klee and Kandinsky also appealed to him. After discovering art, Arkley studied at Prahran College of Advanced Education from 1969 to 1972 where he discovered the airbrush, which he subsequently used in his paintings as he desired smooth surfaces.
He had his first exhibition, aged 24, at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, in 1975. Most of his early works were abstract, often depicting patterns or lines created with the airbrush. Arkley's works were first black and white, it was only later on that he began experimenting with colour. A turning point in Arkley's career was in 1981 when he created Primitive, a mural, which caught the attention of the public to his potential. In 1982 he painted a tram for the Victorian Ministry of the Arts.
One of his first pieces, "Le que", was noted in the Fine Arts Falls Collection in 1973.
Use of urban and suburban imagery
Between 1960 and 1990 he expanded in inventory of images and icons to include heads, portraits, masks and the urban and suburban imagery. Arkley returned from a trip from Europe where he had searched for inspiration. Upon walking home, he noticed the pattern of his front gate, he then ran around to all his neighbours gates using them as inspiration in his later artworks. Arkley's inspiration was taken from the patterns, colours and forms (gates, doors etc.) found in Australian suburbia. Strong visual effects such as colour, bold forms and brash designs derived from advertising were also evident in his works. Arkley was also known for being the first ever man to create a painting with his feet.
Influenced by, Arkley made use of handmade stencils and other household objects created such as perforated plastic laundry baskets and fly screen doors to achieve the richly textured patterns. Arkley collaborated with Juan Davila for an exhibition called Blue Chip Instant Decorator in 1991, at Tolarno Galleries in South Yarra. His exhibition called Fabricated Rooms with a 15-metre multipaneled series, was on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales between 1998 and 1999. This image depicted of multiple rooms in a family home which were brightly colored and patterned.
Arkley opened his final exhibition at the 1999 Venice Biennale, then travelled to London to plan an album cover for Nick Cave. Following London, he flew to Las Vegas where he married his partner Alison Burton, and returned to Melbourne. He died 22 July 1999 of a heroin overdose.
The National Gallery of Victoria opened a retrospective, Howard Arkley, in November 2006 at the Ian Potter Centre, coinciding with the launch of Carnival in Suburbia: The Art of Howard Arkley, a book written by his brother-in-law Dr John Gregory, a senior lecturer at Monash University.
Fluorescent Facade: Howard Arkley and Suburbia
A play based on the life and art of Howard Arkley was staged as part of the 2008 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Presented by Mutation Theatre, the play explored the psychedelic houses of Arkleys paintings, and looked at what inspired him to paint them. It was staged at St Martins Theatre in South Yarra from 23–27 September 2008.