Howard Arkley

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Howard Arkley
Born 5 May 1951
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died 22 July 1999 (aged 48)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Nationality Australian
Education Prahran College of Advanced Education
Known for Airbrush canvas

Howard Arkley (5 May 1951 – 22 July 1999)[1] 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.

Early career

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.

Final exhibition

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.[2] They then drove to Las Vegas where he married his partner Alison Burton on 15 July.[2] (It was his third marriage; he had previously been married to Elizabeth Gower and Christine Johnston.)[3] They returned to Melbourne on 19 July, and on 22 July 1999 he died of an accidental heroin overdose.[4]

Career retrospective

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.


  1. ^ Art Gallery of New South Wales
  2. ^ a b Ashley Crawford, "Treasures lost and found", The Age, 11 November 2006
  3. ^ Christopher Bantick, "Brush with the suburbs", Canberra Sunday Times, 24 February 2002, p. 60
  4. ^ Obituary: Howard Arkley Rebecca Hossack The Independent (London, England). 24 July 2007.

External links

  • Arkley studio, oakleigh
  • Howard Arkley retrospective at the NGV
  • Howard Arkley on Artabase
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