Entering the house—
Howard Arkley’s vivid paintings of houses, imagined through a vibrant Pop-art palette and sensibility, are compelling landscapes of suburbia and emblems of the ‘Great Australian Dream’ of home ownership. While Arkley’s paintings are notable in their lack of identification or specificity, (that is, we never know the residents), Chris O’Brien’s soft sculpture is instead drawn from the artist’s personal life and experience. O’Brien works with repurposed fabrics and materials to recreate houses as sculptures, which can almost be viewed as portraits of the inhabitants. We may never see Mr Grumpy, but through the floral walls and the title of the work we gain an impression of his character.
The Herbert and May Shaw Bequest consists of a broad range of art and antiquities, which reflected the personal taste and interests of the collectors. Over her lifetime, May Shaw amassed a varied collection of Staffordshire porcelain pastille burners, small cottage-shaped objects that housed perfumed pellets, which she displayed on a corner cupboard in her home. While the pastille burner shows the exterior of a house, Holly Macdonald’s ceramic work Latticework shows an interior viewed through a number of cut-outs. This vessel is from a series of works made by the artist in 2020 after searching for new rental properties, and imagines the interior life of prospective new houses and neighbours.