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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Triple fronted



Howard Arkley


05 May 1951 - 22 Jul 1999


'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.


Other Title




Media category


Materials used

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


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Howard Arkley

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 16 publications


Patricia Anderson.,, 'Pop to popism review (AGNSW, Sydney)', Melbourne, 04 Nov 2014, n.pag. (colour illus.). viewed 04.11.2014,

Howard Arkley, World Art: the magazine of contemporary visual arts, 'The naked suburb', pg. 108, South Yarra, 1994, 108 (colour illus.). incorrectly dated 1990; image inverted

Michaela Boland, Weekend Australian, 'Pop went our easels', pg. 8-9, Sydney, 01 Nov 2014-02 Nov 2014, 8 (colour illus.). 'review' supplement

Michael Brand, Look, 'From the Gallery director', pg. 13, Sydney, Sep 2014, 13, 46 (colour illus.).

Tracey Clement, Art Guide Australia, 'Pop rocks', pg. 77-81, Collingwood, Nov 2014-Dec 2014, 81 (colour illus.).

Stephen Crafti.,, 'Art to accumulate', Sydney, 08 Dec 2013, n.pag.. viewed 07.08.2014,

Ashley Crawford and Ray Edgar, Spray: the work of Howard Arkley, 'Home sweet home', pg. 88-98, North Ryde, 1997, 92 (colour illus.), 93. incorrectly dated 1988

Juliana Engberg, Agenda: contemporary art, 'On the street where you live: Howard Arkley's houses & homes.', pg. 26, Parkville, 1988, 26. exhibition review

Andrew Frost.,, 'Pop to popism review - shock and social critique, with an Australian thread', Sydney, 03 Nov 2014, n.pag. (colour illus.). viewed 03.11.2014,

Merryn Gates, HA: Howard Arkley, 'Exhibitions and bibliography', pg. 29-38, Clayton, 1991, 31, 37 (colour illus.), 42. 75; incorrectly dated 1988

John Gregory, Carnival in suburbia: the art of Howard Arkley, 'The Arkley myth and the legend of the dot', pg. 14-20, Port Melbourne, 2006, 20, 81. incorrectly dated 1988

Anneke Jaspers, Pop to popism, 'Art of the second degree: post pop and popism', pg. 233-280, Sydney, 2014, 266-267 (colour illus.), 301, 323.

Anneke Jaspers, Art Monthly Australia, 'In the 'second degree': revisiting Paul Taylor's 'POPISM' at the NGV', pg. 50-55, Sydney, Dec 2014, 52-53 (colour illus.).

John McDonald, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Art of the endless suburbs', pg. 50, Sydney, 05 Sep 1987, 50. exhibition review

Joel Meares.,, 'Beg, borrow and arm-twist: wrangling the world's top artists for Pop to popism', Sydney, 29 Oct 2014, n.pag. (colour illus.). viewed 30.10.2014,

Clare Temple, Foundation Newsletter #24, 'Curators' and coordinators' reports', pg. 8-11, Sydney, Jul 2014, 11.