Unreal Estate glorifies the everyday in a series of gaudy portraits of suburban homes that draw attention to what is often overlooked.
From the McMansions of the outer suburbs to the Californian bungalows of southeast Melbourne, Wadelton has trawled through the pages of local newspapers to find the perfect representatives of false perfection. Each painting is titled with the same flamboyant caption accompanying the advertisement: A Renovated Classic, Outstanding Lifestyle, Ultimate Elegance! …
Although real estate advertisements are often hyperbolic to begin with, Wadelton has further stripped the home of all eyesores and amplified the oil colours of the dusk light with a garish palette that fits snuggly within his iconic Pop style.
“It’s like a mind’s eye image of your house,” says Wadelton. “You don’t think of all the electrical wires and all the neighbors: you think of your house, your psychological space.”
Wadelton’s omission of the surrounding homes and the addition of the polished gleam makes each canvas feel like a proud self-portrait intended to sit within the home it portrays.
There is a forebodingly perfect accent to the sheen though. The labels still attached to the freshly planted roses, the reflection of the watered-down pavements, the newly laid turf, and the agents’ attempts to keep the veneer glossy, raise the question of what lies behind the ornamental awning.
“People try to make it look as enticing as possible, but at the same time it still looks a little bit humdrum generally,” he says, likening it to the architectural equivalent of a school photograph.
Although Wadelton is well known for his bright and meticulous works on canvas, he has for many years been experimenting with analogue photography. A Northcote resident for most of his life, he has taken photos “of the urban space and iconography” of the area since the 1970s. Unreal Estate includes a series of photographs that have been taken over the past few years: images from all over Melbourne and especially throughout Wadelton’s “stamping grounds” in the inner north.
The stark difference in his photographic work lies in his eye for the banality of suburban life. Whereas his paintings are illuminated, the photographs are sapped of colour, the black and white collection emphasising “the down-beaten and gritty” aspects of built environments. Humorously titled Greater Melbourne as a reference to Victoria’s street directory, The Melways, it highlights the beauty in aspects of our lives we tend to ignore.
“It’s what we wish things looked like and what they really look like. We tend to pass by and more or less ignore everyday life. So I thought I’d highlight it.” In many ways, these monochromatic photographs could be considered more beautiful than the immaculate homes seen in his paintings.
The dialogue between the two opposing bodies of work is confronting: sometimes what you think you perceive is not actually what you see. Wadelton’s multiplicity approach attempts to sharpen the blurred line between Unreal Estate and reality. “Because really, we’re not in Paris every day of the week,” he laughs. “We’re here in the suburbs surrounded by all these things. And a lot of these things are unexceptional. It’s just daily life. If people can see everyday life with fresh eyes, that would be brilliant.”
Press release courtesy Tolarno Galleries.
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