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Ian Strange Puts The Spotlight On Suburbia

Words:

Edd Norval
October 11, 2019

Suburbia - a word associated with uniformity, peace and mundane daily habits. Whether as a base for commuters, or a home to a mother, father and their 2.5 children - it's a formulaic environment that we often overlook - until Ian Strange came along.

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Being an Australian, Strange has a special relationship with the home. Home ownership there is not as much a symbol of status as it is of stability - without one, you're doing something wrong. They are emblematic of security and independence.


It is the home in particular that becomes dissected in Strange's work. Sometimes he paints entire buildings black, so they literally diminish - entirely evaporate into the surroundings, whereas other times he cuts holes in the side for light to pour out from like a middle-class observatory on the corner of a quiet street.


Avowedly non-political, the works aren't intended to be an attack on governments or the issues of homelessness, instead he opts for a more poetic meditation, asking more questions than he answers.

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Initially his obsession with the home is autobiographical in origin. His comfortable youth spent in similar suburban areas sparked his imagination - he began to consider what the idea of 'home' really meant to other people. Those who have been displaced, can't afford one or can't get their hands on the right one - they're all influences on his work.


A home is somewhere that we come back to everyday, that looks just the way we left it and gives us shelter from the elements. It's a warm bed at night and a place to cook our food. Essentially, it's an advanced add-on to our survival instinct. Homes are embellished primal desires and thus, are important to us in ways that are often tricky to convey.


Seeing one burning down or blackened out makes us feel sad, although it's difficult to pinpoint exactly why. Homes are stories and destroying them is more than a physical act. Strange knows all of this, that's why he does it. Homes are so common, so pervasive, that we take them for granted. In fact, we've probably seen a million in our lives but only three or four have any significance. Just like the faces of people we absent-mindedly pass everyday, Strange wants us to pay attention to them and evaluate what they mean to us.

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It's not all fire and black paint though. Beyond the simple evaluation of the home, Strange commits many acts on them that show them to be radiant and living things, emanating literal light. For all the people who are lucky enough to have homes, his installations will make sure that they're never taken for granted again.


Homes can be burned down or washed away. They might feel secure when you're in them, but to mother nature, or other malevolent forces, it's just brick and wood. The security of a home goes beyond the physical to a state-of-being that allows one to rest assured in the knowledge that they've achieved something - that we are 'settled'. But when we look at them through Strange's eyes, embracing the volatility and relative frailty of the structures - if our homes are a reflection and representation of us, something that can so easily be taken away - what does that say about us as people?

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