DECO, 1979

Important Australian + International Fine Art
2 May 2012


(1951 - 1999)
DECO, 1979

synthetic polymer paint on canvas

203.5 x 78.5 cm

signed, titled and dated verso

$25,000 - 35,000
Sold for $26,400 (inc. BP) in Auction 25 - 2 May 2012, Sydney

Museum of Contemporary Art, Brisbane
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 21 June 1992, (MCA sale), lot 7
Private collection, Sydney


Howard Arkley, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, May 1979, cat. 7 (as 'Arrows – Crosses')
Howard Arkley, Coventry Gallery, Sydney, March 1980, cat. 6 (as 'Deco') 1968–1988, Selected Works, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, 6–30 January 1988, cat. 4
Suburbanism, George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne, 9 August – 1 September 1988, cat. 3
Art of the Seventies, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1990 (label attached verso)
Howard Arkley Survey Exhibition, Monash University Gallery, 21 August – 5 October 1991


Engberg, J., Suburbanism, George Paton Gallery, Melbourne, 1988, p. 4
Gregory, J., Carnival in Suburbia, The Art of Howard Arkley, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2006, pp. 54–57, (illus. exhibition installation photograph p. 55)
Vivian, H. (ed.), When you think about art: The Ewing and George Paton Galleries, 1971–2008, Macmillan, Melbourne, 2008, p. 118
Arkley Works electronic catalogue raissoné reference: 
© The Estate of Howard Arkley. Licensed by Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

Catalogue text

'The artist explained later that the May 1979 Tolarno exhibition had its genesis in his delighted recognition of the diverse patterns of Australian suburban fly-wire doors, following his recent return from overseas, stimulated in turn by his fascination with the Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture he saw in Paris in 1977. Indeed, the 1979 show, and a second exhibition at Sydney's Coventry Gallery in March 1980, both took the form of a sequence of tall door-shaped canvases (interspersed with several square or 'double door' format works), each based on a particular decorative pattern or motif.

The loose parameters of the project were made plain in the second, Sydney show. There, the title Deco was used for a different painting altogether, first shown at Tolarno (as Arrows - Crosses), an Op Art influenced work involving repeated red and blue sprayed elements floating against a backdrop of arrows and crosses in a fine, black outline. In Sydney, the bright yellow picture originally shown at Tolarno as Deco was simply re-named Bodgie - Widgie (and later the artist inscribed this work on the reverse with yet another variant tile: Bodgie). Repetition, both of decorative elements and titles, was obviously central to Arkley's working method here. Pattern, by definition, involves the theoretically infinite repetition of small decorative forms and motifs - and he exploited this quality to the full, challenging the viewer by treating his canvases like decorative fabrics or wallpaper. 'Art by the metre', he joked later to Richard Brown.'1

1. Gregory, J., Carnival in Suburbia, The Art of Howard Arkley, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2006, pp. 57-59