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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 parents were Australian, and had British ancestry.
|Born||5 May 1951|
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Died||22 July 1999 (aged 48)|
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Education||Prahran College of Advanced Education|
|Known for||Airbrush canvas|
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.
Craftsman House issued the first monograph; Ashley Crawford's Spray: The Work of Howard Arkley in 1997; a revised edition by Crawford and Ray Edgar was published in 2001. The National Library of Australia explains; "This revised and updated edition explores Howard Arkley's influences and the milieu which nurtured and inspired him - from punk music and feminism to the exuberant art scene of the 1980s. Spray examines his work from its early development through abstraction, the gradual move to figurative iconography, into figuration and landscape."
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 Los Angeles, where his exhibition at the Karen Lovegrove Gallery was a sell-out. They then drove to Las Vegas where he married his partner Alison Burton on 15 July. (It was his third marriage; he had previously been married to Elizabeth Gower and Christine Johnston.) They returned to Melbourne on 19 July, and on 22 July 1999 he died of an accidental heroin overdose.
Duffy & Snellgrove commissioned Melbourne writer and musician Edwina Preston to produce the first biography; Howard Arkley: Not Just A Suburban Boy was published in 2002. The National Library of Australia describe the book; "Arkley's work has been compared to a visual equivalent of the monologues of Barry Humphries. Arkley was also a wild man. This concise account describes the artistic breakthroughs, his relationship with Nick Cave and The Birthday Party, and the heroin which killed him soon after his talent was recognised around the world. It is the fascinating story of a highly gifted artist who took suburbia seriously."
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: The Play That AiredEdit
A play based on the life and art of Howard Arkley was staged as part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Presented by Mutation Theatre, the play explored the psychedelic houses of Arkley's paintings, and looked at what inspired him to paint them. It was staged at St Martins Theatre in South Yarra from 23–27 September 2014.
- Art Gallery of New South Wales
- "Howard Arkley, the man who saw Australian suburbia in technicolour". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
- "Art of suburbia: Howard Arkley (and friends…)". Architectureau. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
- Crawford, Ashley; Edgar, Ray (2001). Spray: the work of Howard Arkley (Updated & rev. ed.). Sydney: Craftsman House. ISBN 978-1-877004-16-2.
- Ashley Crawford, "Treasures lost and found", The Age, 11 November 2006
- Christopher Bantick, "Brush with the suburbs", Canberra Sunday Times, 24 February 2002, p. 60
- Obituary: Howard Arkley Rebecca Hossack The Independent (London, England). 24 July 2007.
- Preston, Edwina (2002). Howard Arkley: not just a suburban boy. Brief lives. Potts Point, N.S.W: Duffy & Snellgrove. ISBN 978-1-875989-89-8.