Santiago, Chile born 1946
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1951 – 1999
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia born 1938
print workshop (organisation)
Interior with built in bar
1992 Page: collection record
Place made: Larry Rawling Fine Art Prints, 424 Nicholson Street, North Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper screenprint, printed in colour inks, from 17 stencils Support: Arches 300 gsm paper
Edition State: published state
Edition: edition of 6; plus 4 artist's proofs, 4 workshop proofs, 1 state proof
As part of a recent purchase of works from the innovative Melbourne screenprinter Larry Rawling, the Gallery acquired Interior with built in bar 1992, a collaborative print by Australian artists Juan Davila and Howard Arkley. At the time, Arkley and Davila seemed an unlikely partnership. Aside from their volatile personalities, their backgrounds and aesthetics were very different. Arkley was born in the Melbourne suburb of Box Hill in 1951 and his art became synonymous with the kitsch, decorative themes of the 1950s and subsequent decades. In contrast, Davila was born in Chile and immigrated to Australia in 1974 with his own set of cultural and political baggage.
In the late 1970s, Tolarno Galleries represented both artists and it was through the gallery that they first met. Arkley and Davila soon discovered that they shared an ambivalent attitude towards the mainstream abstraction of the period and a passion for popularised images. From their first collaboration, Blue chip instant decorator: a room, installed at Tolarno Galleries in 1991, to their last, Icon interior 1994–2001, the theme of interior decoration stayed with them. Icon interior began in 1994 and was unfinished at the time of Arkley’s death in 1999. It was finally shown in an exhibition at Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Galleries in 2001 and served as a heart–felt tribute from Davila to his friend. This installation was a reversal of their earlier Blue chip instant decorator: a room in that it did not depict real furniture in a created environment, but rather virtual furniture in a real space. The exhibition also included Interior with built in bar.
Arkley’s contribution to Interior with built in bar was a background packed with the patterns and symbols of suburban Melbourne. His hyper–intensive colours were informed by suburban decoration as well as pop culture imagery of the period. Davila subsequently sabotaged Arkley’s work by turning it upside down and putting his own version of a suburban interior over the top, challenging Arkley’s kitsch imagery. The theme of interior decoration in this and other collaborations is a vehicle with which the artists question and subvert Melbourne suburban values.Alexandra Walton
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra