Big, Bold and Beautiful

                                                                                             The Hughes Gallery, Sydney 2012

IT’S A SMALL WORLD

Sooner or later the impetus of the galloping technology which surrounds [the Australian house] and the pressures of the grossly overgrown suburbs where it lives will force it into more radical change… One day historians may decide that the heyday of the private separate home was the first half of the 20th Century, and by the 21st it may have reverted to type. It may be only a prize for millionaires or a bush refuge for hermits. (from Australia’s Home by Robin Boyd, Penguin, 1978: p.229)

In the closing words of Robin Boyd’s seminal text on Australia’s domestic housing ambitions (1788-1960) is his wistful expectation that “one day” in the future the “aesthetic calamity” of the Australian suburban landscape would downsize. Imagine how he might feel then, jettisoned to 2013, to be confronted with Naomi Ullmann’s contemporary rendition of the great Australian dream in its grossly inflated form: disproportionately large houses squeezed into a confined space, roofs and exterior walls touching the skin of their containers, a claustrophobia caused by their swelling to fill all available space.

Ullmann’s acid and witty visual commentary on the contemporary domestic, the increasing dominance of the McMansion in our suburbs, cities and regions, is housed in a snowdome. Monstrosities have become the norm. Their titles – Massive! (2011-12) and Take Advantage of Owner’s Circumstances (2011-12) – reflect the pornographic qualities of real estate parlance, and the inherent greed and “size does matter” obscenity that works against the sustainability of our environment and nation.

Louise Martin-Chew 2013