Artist Robyn Sweaney spent her childhood in suburban Melbourne during an upsurge in affordable Modernist architecture. “The small-house movement,” she says, “was ahead of its time. I always noticed that these homes held a proud self-possession, probably because they were so exposed to the street,” she says. “Subtle details gave signs of the lives lived within.”
Influenced by pivotal painters of the Australian scene – such as Jeffrey Smart and Howard Arkley – Robyn has fused those memories of the early 1970s with her current family life in Mullumbimby, NSW, and made houses her theme of choice. En route to her studio, she passes many of her subjects and revels in their compact beauty. The flat planes of their walls, windows and lawns catch the shifts in light that she seeks.
Robyn has contemplated depicting more contemporary houses: the swollen fortresses behind roller-door garages and chunky columns. But they’re not this artist’s terrain. “Modern replica houses give no hint of the people who live inside them,” she explains. In the eyes of this artist, to have a soul, a house must also have a face.
Holding Pattern ( acrylic on poly-cotton, 53x73cm), one of the intriguing works in Robyn Sweaney’s Backwards Moving Forwards solo show at Sydney’s Arthouse Gallery.