Australian Gothic (2017)

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John Webb: Australian Gothic (2017)

Australian Gothic (2017)
88cm x 61cm

Shortlisted for the Hornsby Art Prize (2017)

Image details:

John Webb: Australian Gothic (2017) Detail

John Webb: Australian Gothic (2017) Detail
John Webb: Australian Gothic (2017) Detail
Australian Gothic (2017)
(Detail 1) 
Australian Gothic (2017)
(Detail 2) 
Australian Gothic (2017)
(Detail 3) 

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This work:

With more than a nod to Grant Wood's American Gothic (1930), Webb's Australian Gothic (2017) presents an iconic Australian couple - "Madge" and "Daren" - accompanied by their small dog, standing proudly centre stage surrounded by their shearing sheds, fields and farm animals (with just a hint of toxic chemicals in the background).

Although tiny people sometimes appear in Webb's Australian landscapes - eg see Rush (2010), only one other image in this series (to date) contains such an image -  Swaggie (2013). One needs to go back to his Pacifica works  to see more.

Australian context:

"Madge" is an Australian name carrying lots of cultural baggage, from the infamous 1960s Madge of Palmolive dishwashing commercial fame to the more recent Madge website decrying Monsanto chemicals and other toxic additives in the farming environment.

"Daren" was also a popular male name for boys born in the 1960s.

Since Gothic is unlikely to refer to Germanic origins here, perhaps Webb's title (and Wood's before him) refers to an alternate meaning for Gothic - "of or relating to a style of fiction characterized by the use of desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious, or violent incidents."(Merriam Webster)  

Certainly this environment is rural, and the couple look loving, so perhaps the mysterious / violent aspect of the name refers to the lurking drums of toxic chemicals in the background, or even the cultural environment. What seems to be a mixed-race couple provides an edgy context for their bland names, as 1960s Australia was a fairly racist place, with such couples rare - especially in the rural context.

  Abandoned farmhouse

Farmer in a field
 Abandoned farhouse, SA
Photo: YKTravelPhoto
Government image of typical farmer in the field 

Yuppie fencing

Australian terrier

Modern fencing

Australian terrier