Quiet terror in the suburbs

messy workbench in Ray Monde studio

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.

collage by Ray Monde

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.

Collage by Ray Monde cricket in backyard

5 thoughts on “Quiet terror in the suburbs

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