Gold’s Instant Decorator

1 Trad. Living Room (collage)

Contemporary Living Room

Studio Apartment


Modern Kitchen

Lounge Room #1

Lounge Room #2

Dining Room

Pool-side Room

As noted under the main entry for 1992, the compositions of almost all the canvases in Arkley’s ‘Mix ’n Match’ show (Tolarno 10/92) were based on the US decorator book The Instant Decorator, by Frances Joslin Gold (New York: Clarkson N.Potter Inc., 1976), a reference source Arkley also used regularly during subsequent years. This book, given to Arkley by his colleague John Nixon, with the sarcastic comment that it would make Arkley’s fortune (quoted and discussed, Carnival 30-32), is extant, more or less intact, in the artist’s studio collection. Several pages, and the title of the book, also inspired elements of Arkley’s collaborative work with Juan Davila in 1991-2.

On the paint-spattered cover (reproduced under general introductory remarks for 1992), the artist reminded himself to copy the whole book for his own reference. As originally designed, the book featured transparent sheets under which avid home decorators could insert their own preferred swatches and colour choices – an idea that both Arkley and Davila played around with in the two living room pages they used for Blue Chip – as detailed below.

Pages are listed here with indication of the major Arkley works referencing them.

1. ‘Traditional Living Room’

This page was removed from Gold’s book during the planning process for Arkley and Davila’s Blue Chip: Instant Decorator: a Room (1991-2) [3/M], for which it served as the principal compositional source for the left-hand canvas, combined with a reproduction of one of Davila’s late 1980s paintings. The resultant collage, catalogued here as Blue Chip Instant Decorator: a Room 1989 [W/P] (shown at left), was later donated by Davila, along with related source material, to the Benalla Art Gallery, where Arkley and Davila’s installation is also held.

This page from Gold’s book also served as the source for several other Arkley works, including Floriated Room (1993) (modified); A Roomfull (1994) and Room Within a Home (1995) [W/P] (background dining setting); Suburban Interior (1995) [W/P]; and the Davila-Arkley screenprint Interior with Built-in Bar (1992) [W/P]

2. ‘Contemporary Living Room’

The right-hand canvas of Arkley and Davila’s Blue Chip Instant Decorator: a Room (1991-2) [3/M] is modelled directly on this page, with only a few changes in compositional terms, although obviously the décor has been given a fairly savage twist, relative to Frances Gold’s concept of good taste. The right-hand section of the page is also the compositional basis for Arkley’s Deluxe Setting (1992), once again subjected to a ferocious attack of lurid colour and patterning. The chair and ottoman at the left reappear in both Crisp and Tailored 1993 and Illuminated Space (1999), and the chair is also the centrepiece of Sampler: Modern (1998).

A modified copy of this page from Gold’s book (reproduced at right), with additional collaged patterning and other changes, is extant in Arkley’s copy, and probably dates from the same period as the planning for Blue Chip (1989ff.).

3. ‘Studio Apartment’

The background room with moulded plastic dining setting provided the compositional basis for several Arkley works, notably Mod Style (1992) and Dining in a Glow 1993, as well as a prominent section of Fabricated Rooms (1997-9). The plastic table and chairs were envisaged in Arkley’s own interior design terms as vivid lime-green in colour. There are clear parallels here with some of the interiors of British Pop artist Patrick Caulfield’s, based on similar sources.

4. Bedroom

Used as the compositional basis (reversed) for Rococo Rhythm (1992)

5. Modern Kitchen

The composition of Ultrakleen (1992) is obviously based closely on the central section of this pa
ge, with some modifications and the addition of Arkley’s destabilising floor patterning.

6. Traditional Kitchen

{to check} – evidently a separate page for this in Gold’s book, possibly used as the basis for Neapolitan Delight (1993) [kitchen]

7. Lounge Room #1

The left-hand section of this page (modified) provided the source for Interior Tableau (1992), New Room (1993), Supa Room Study (1995) [W/P] and Riteroom (1998), as well as elements of Fabricated Rooms (1997-9).

8. Lounge Room #2

This page provided Arkley with the compositional basis for a large number of 1990s works, including:

9. Dining Room

Arkley adapted this page with the insertion of some patterned elements to the left; he used the dining setting to the right as the compositional basis for Roomrite (1992)

10. Pool-side Room

The only element of this page that Arkley appears to have used as a source is the pool-side lounge, visible beyond the prominent black and white curtains in both Fabricated Rooms (1997-9) and Terrace Window (1999).