An image of Triple fronted

Howard Arkley

(Australia 05 May 1951 – 22 Jul 1999)

Triple fronted

Other titles:
Not on display
Further information

'Triple fronted' is an iconic example of Howard Arkley's distinctive airbrush style. It demonstrates his preoccupation with the Australian urban landscape since the 1980s. The painting depicts the exterior of a suburban house made ultra-new and ultra-modern in its dayglo colours (Juliana Engberg, 1988). Yet beneath the dazzling finish, a sense of detachment permeates the image.

Howard Arkley is renowned for his representation of the Australian suburbs; transmuting ordinary, everyday subjects into the extraordinary. Drawing upon the visual language of advertising and home decorating magazines, his work employs techniques and colour ranges of popular culture. It reveals his abiding fascination with pop art, underpinned by a sense of deadpan humour, irony and pathos.

Beginning as an abstract painter in the 1970s, then turning to figurative painting in the 1980s, Arkley reconciled the two tendencies in his distinctive take on the suburban motif. Starting with preliminary rapidograph pen drawings, sourced from outmoded photos from glossy magazines or real-estate brochures, Arkley would outline the composition, project the crisply defined drawing directly onto the canvas, and then paint the broader areas in flat colour. Later he would tape smaller cut-outs or stencils onto the canvas, suggesting textures and patterns which became integrated into the overall picture.

With their fuzzy, dreamlike quality and tonal after-effects, the airbrushed lines stylised the final look of the painting. The results were always exuberant: 'I like the fact that the imagery looks like it's printed; it looks like a reproduction of a painting, rather than a painting' (Arkley quoted by Ashley Crawford and Ray Edgar, 1997).

The artist captured the Australian suburbs on canvas as a new zone of aesthetic inspiration. He transformed the suburban home into a new icon, suggestive of the soullessness of the Australian suburban sprawl, which became a defining feature of the Australian way of life with the post war spread of suburbia.

synthetic polymer paint on canvas
166.4 x 238.4 x 4.7 cm stretcher
Signature & date

Singed l.r. verso on canvas, black fibre-tipped pen ".../ Howard Arkley".
Dated l.r. verso on canvas, black fibre-tipped pen "...1987/ ...".

Mollie and Jim Gowing Bequest Fund 2014
Accession number
© The Estate of Howard Arkley, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art