Ian HOWARD, Sleep of dreams Enlarge 1 /1


Sydney, New South Wales, Australia born 1947

  • USA, England, France 1968
  • UK, Europe, USA, Canada 1973-76

Sleep of dreams 1987 Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on 20 shaped composition boards

Dimensions: overall 300.00 h x 300.00 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1988
Accession No: NGA 88.2257.A-T

Like many of my works, Sleep of dreams attempts to make what is otherwise just a nagging feeling into a real and perceptible, even concrete, image. The nagging feeling behind this work is that, regardless of a particular stance one might take towards the militarisation of planet earth, all individuals are inevitably swept up in the world as it is. Therefore, by default or otherwise, we become complicit in the real and what might be termed economic violence of the arms trade. Hence the sleeping everyman on the couch becomes a submarine, aircraft carrier, fighter bomber, missile, bomb and tank and then slips again into his old self. Alternatively, the seated figure may not be sleeping but rather dozing off in front of a television, where events of the world are paraded before him in an endless cycle of overlapping very bad dreams.

If this work is ‘successful’ and moves our perception from nagging feeling to demonstrated idea – that there is unwitting complicity in institutional violence from everyman (and woman) – then what is a viewer to conclude or do next?

Hopefully, by showing that which is not obvious, by proposing that this is what the world is really like, the viewer can then consider their position in this cycle. Is it a vicious circle, or are there particular categories of players not as stereotyped as my everyman, who can be outside the ring playing independent and influential roles?

Original drawings for the work were created on an overnight bus trip from Sydney to Melbourne in 1987, taking approximately 11 hours and 900kms to produce!

Ian Howard 2002

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002