‘Tattooed’ series (1983)


As first shown in the ‘Vox Pop’ exhibition (NGV, Dec.1983-Feb.1984), curated by Robert Lindsay, this series comprised the four canvases listed above, shown in anatomical sequence from left to right, (for an installation photo, from Sue Cramer’s 1984 review of ‘Vox Pop’ in Art + Text, see main entry for 1983).

The idea, discussed in Spray 54-5 (quoting Arkley), was to recreate the Surrealist ‘exquisite corpse’ game with a sequence of body parts, also referencing other sources, including Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi novel The Illustrated Man, Leni Riefenstahl’s African photos, and Dürer’s woodcuts (other sources are noted under the relevant individual catalogue entries).

The series was shown again, in the 1991 Arkley survey at Monash (installation photo reproduced in Carnival Fig.2.17), but with the original Penis canvas (apparently destroyed sometime after May 1984) now replaced by a work on paper version: Tattooed Penis (1983) [W/P]. For further comments on this scenario, see main catalogue entry for the painting.

In the 2006-7 Arkley retrospective, the series was reunited (again including the paper Penis), this time installed vertically as he originally intended (see Spray 54): see detail of installation photo reproduced here [photo by Narelle Wilson, courtesy NGV] .

For the significance of tattooing to Arkley, see Carnival 69; his library and studio collection included a number of individual source photographs, and several references on the subject (e.g.Tattoo Flash [USA], issue 7, Feb.1995).