Suburbia Essay

1351 Words 6 Pages
The subject of suburbia and its’ association with the ‘Australian Dream’ has historically been a source of negative discourse amongst social commentators and other intellectuals , as well as artists. In order to explore the complexities of what the concept of suburbia entails, a clear definition must be established. The Oxford dictionary defines a suburb as that an outlying district of a city, especially a residential one and suburbia as the suburbs or their inhabitants viewed collectively. Since the 1950s, a key goal for many Australians has been home ownership in the suburbs, however such an aspiration is changing in its desirability as reflected in declining home ownership rates in Australia over the last two decades . The reality of Australian …show more content…
It was within this context of optimism that suburbs became ‘increasingly prominent features of Australian life’. It also serves as the historical backdrop for Melbourne artist, John Brack’s paintings, which feature suburban themes. Contrary to the perceived optimism of the time, Brack’s work, ‘The unmade road’ 1954 appears drab in its bland pallet of brown and ochre under a pale grey-yellow sky. The flat application of paint and deserted streets in the painting depict a palpable sense of isolation and lack of energy. Such a depiction of the Australian landscape is a far cry from the landscapes of Nolan or Drysdale, and only a single tree exists in the foreground, emphasising the absence of the bush ruggedness found in many Australian landscape works. In this way, Brack has exposed the reality of suburbia, so often ignored in Australian art, however his lackluster representation of it reflects no sense of celebration, but rather an unpleasant banality. This is further reflected in the uniformity in colour and form by which he paints all the houses, and the bleak blackness in their windows in ‘The unmade road’ which ooze an unrelenting ‘sameness’. Brack’s houses are consistently represented in the same manner throughout other paintings of his such as ‘Subdivision’ …show more content…
Howard Arkley has been documenting and exploring what Chris McAuliffe has described as a new recognition of the varieties of suburban style. The sheer variety of facades, driveways, fences, gardens, and many other suburban symbols depicted in his works, along with their vibrant and colourful representation, provides a stark contrast to Brack’s suburbia. The term “featurism” coined by Robin Boyd condemned the decorative embellishments applied to suburban houses in the 1960s. These were seen to be in bad taste, however Arkley celebrates them in his work as a sophisticated and complex collection of signs and symbols that are visually vibrant. This is evident in his work ‘Theatrical Façade’ (1966) in which bold perspectival lines are combined with curvaceous balustrades. This subverts the negative connotations of Boyd’s “featurism” and goes against attitudes towards the suburbs propagated by those such as architect Glenn Murcutt who has described the “poverty of spirit and barrenness of mind” in the mass produced, consumer-greed driven

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