Howard Arkley

“Ordinary houses are full of pattern. You go into a house, there’s no art … but it’s filled with a kind of second degree imagery – the patterning around the fireplace, on the curtains, in the carpet; and the different bricks on the different houses, and the pattern between the gutter, the nature-strip, the footpath, then you have the fence, then you have the lawn, the house, the tiles, then you have the beautiful sky… and I missed the bushes in between…it’s rich.”

— Howard Arkley - 1999

 Howard Arkley is widely recognised as the foremost painter of Australian suburbia. He rejected the landscape tradition, the path which most of his peers and Australian art more broadly takes as its received practice, 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.


Howard Arkley, born on May 5,1951, in Surrey Hills, Melbourne, developed a deep passion for art at a youngage. His initial exposure to the art world during a family visit to theNational Gallery of Victoria in 1967, where he was captivated by Sidney Nolan's surreal depictions of the Australian landscape, ignited his artistic journey.This encounter led Arkley to experiment with art using his father's house holdpaints, marking the beginning of his artistic exploration.

Throughout his student years,Arkley demonstrated an insatiable appetite for creativity, drawing on various surfaces and exploring different artistic techniques. He drew inspiration from artists like Paul Klee and the Surrealists, who influenced his artistic style and approach. Arkley's fascination with automatic writing and collaborative art-making techniques practised by the Surrealists left a lasting impression on his artistic philosophy.

Upon enrolling in a three-year art course at Prahran College of Advanced Education in 1969, Arkley was introduced to the airbrush by Fred Cress, a lecturer and artist. Embracing the airbrush as his signature tool, Arkley utilised it not only for shading effects but also as a drawing instrument, manipulating it skilfully to create precise lines and vibrant colours in his artworks. 

In 1975, Arkley held his debut exhibition at Tolarno Galleries. His early exhibited works, often referred to as the "white" paintings, reflected a fusion of modernist and abstract influences. These paintings, characterised by their softness and delicacy enhanced by the airbrush technique, explored themes of symbolism andZen philosophy through the interplay of black and white tones.

Throughout his career, Arkley continued to refine his unique artistic style, incorporating elements of popular culture and suburban life into his vibrant and dynamic paintings. His innovative approach to colour, form, and technique earned him recognition in the Australian art scene, cementing his legacy as a pioneering artist.

Sampler: Formal
Howard Arkley
$ 350,000.00 AUD
Howard Arkley, Sampler: Formal, 1998, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 150cm x 120cm
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