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Howard Arkley

1951 – 1999

Howard Arkley (1951-1999) was born, died, and spent the majority of his life in Melbourne, where he studied at Prahran CAE and Melbourne State College between 1969 and 1973. From 1975 until 1999 he exhibited at Tolarno Galleries. In 1977, Arkley was awarded residencies in Paris and New York. He came to see no sense in the Australian preoccupation with paintings of the bush, when such a small percentage of the population engages with the bush itself. Henceforth, Melbourne’s suburbs provided the inspiration and setting for his best known works, made over twenty years of experimentation in an immaculately-finished, psychedelic and incandescent airbrush style. Arkley’s suite of interiors, The Home Show, was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1999. Afterwards, he travelled to London to plan an album cover for Australian musician Nick Cave, and then to Los Angeles for a sell-out show of his paintings. He married his long-time partner, artist Alison Burton, in Las Vegas before returning to Melbourne, where he died from an overdose a few days later. Major retrospectives of his work were curated by Monash University Gallery in 1991 and NGV in 2006; his art was included in the National Gallery exhibition Federation in 2000 and Fieldwork: Australian art 1968-2002 at the NGVA in 2002. Arkley’s painting of Nick Cave was one of the National Portrait Gallery’s first commissions and remains one of the Gallery’s signature images. His works are held by the National Gallery and most state collections.

Updated 2018