Perth-born artist Ian Strange’s latest exhibition, ISLAND, investigates the idea of home as a place of safety and stability.
Artist Ian Strange grew up in Swanbourne. He describes himself as having had a great childhood, but notes that he felt a little trapped. It seems this seed of emotional uncertainty has driven him through his prolific and varied career, as Strange continues to explore ideas of home and the misguided symbolism of it as a place of stability and safety.
His latest exhibition, ISLAND, is set in economically ravaged Ohio in the wake of the global financial crisis. The Rust Belt region in the United States suffered some of the worst consequences of the financial crisis and continues to do so, as people struggle to recover their lives after losing their homes and livelihoods. This is the canvas on which Strange has decided to investigate the concept of home, setting it against a backdrop of conflicting ideas and polarised experiences.
As you enter the exhibition space, a black speaker greets you with a wall of sound. Reminiscent of trains, plane engines and car motors starting, this evolving dimension of the exhibition gives the feeling of walking through somewhere that has been abandoned, a curation of noise emerging from a place where nobody would want to live.
The first room is a section from a demolished home. The sound is loudest here, and a sense of vacancy still pervades the space, each adding to the dilapidated mood. Feelings of homeliness and sanctuary seem impossible here, although it is still apparent that someone once lived in this structure.
Continuing to the next room, the space is dominated by three large photographs of homes with ‘SOS’, ‘RUN’, and ‘HELP’ painted across them in large black letters. The effect is confronting and stark, the words jarring with the environment around it to arrest that sense of security usually associated with gentle suburban surroundings.
The house labeled ‘RUN’ stands next to a house that is seemingly still inhabited. The painted house is dark and empty, but the one next door is bathed in warm light with an American flag hanging below the window. This juxtaposition of these two properties shows the conflict between the artist’s understanding of home as both safe and welcoming, and dangerously insecure.
Discarded pictures retrieved from deserted homes form the rest of the collection. These snippets of life lost in the ruins of a house that was once a home create an almost apocalyptic atmosphere.
ISLAND is an effective investigation of the societal constructs of place, home and safety. It is unnerving, but it also reminds the viewer to think of, and cherish, their own home space. It’ll certainly leave you with a sense of gratitude as you walk through your own front door.
ISLAND is at Fremantle Arts Centre from July 22 to September 16.
Photography by Jessica Wyld. Image courtesy of Fremantle Arts Centre.