Quiet terror in the suburbs
I’m working late into the night on a new series that focuses on the suburbs. It was inspired by a recent trip to Madrid where I saw a lot of works by Picasso at the Reina Sofia – Pity and Terror, Picasso’s Path To Guernica.
What struck me about his early works was that they were often limited to a single room, they were painted as a closed space.
It got me thinking about the closed spaces in wide, brown Australia. For me this led me to the suburbs, in particular suburban backyards. I grew up in the country, where paddocks rolled away from the house, where the nearest neighbour was across the creek and up the hill. Backyards were foreign to me.
While I visited cousins in the city, my first true experiences of the suburbs was when my oldest brothers moved to Sydney at 15 and 16 years old to start apprenticeships.
I spent a lot of time in South Wentworthville where backyards rolled away as far as the eye could see, where the Great Western Highway dragged a thick black line between the houses and where everyone spent time in the private-public space of their backyards.
The thing that struck me was how strange life was in the suburbs, tiny postage stamp sized lives with people living their dreams in open-closed spaces.
Weird shit also happens in backyards, I was guilty of this myself, getting drunk and running around naked. There’s a quiet, disconcerting terror of the suburbs, captured beautifully in the novel by Sinclair Lewis, Main Street. There’s a facade of normality, masking private terrors and desires. This is what I’m exploring here.