Inside the Collection

The Ideal Home Exhibition: Australian experiences of home across the past 100 years

Home should be a place of security, intimacy, love and family, a haven from the world. It is where we can express ourselves through the location, architecture, furnishings and decoration. But ‘home’ is also a site of financial burden, fracture, loss and danger – and increasingly for some, a home is simply unattainable.

six straight jackets with images and objects attached, from left to right combs and hair, lace and embroidery, butterflies, images of people and dog muzzles, flowers and teeth, skulls and rubber
Bound (2015) is a multimedia artwork by Karla Dickens that explores the darker side of domestic life and contemporary culture. MAAS collection 2017/56/1. Images courtesy of the artist and Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane. Photo: Mick Richards

The Ideal Home is the second exhibition partnership between the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) and Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest. MAAS’ partnership with the Gallery began in 2016 as a way to bring communities together to explore art and design practices. In collaborating, both Museum and Gallery have shared resources and expertise to bring the Museum’s Collection of domestic technologies and contemporary design to Western Sydney audiences.

Numero IV Lounge suite, designed by Grant and Mary Featherston, made by Uniroyal Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1973-1974
Numero IV Lounge suite, designed by Grant and Mary Featherston, made by Uniroyal Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1973-1974. MAAS collection 2012/125/1. Photo: Sotha Bourn, MAAS

The Ideal Home opens the door to the evolution and experiences of the home across the last century. Beginning with the establishment of ‘home ownership’ as a pillar of Australian societal values, the exhibition traverses Depression-era innovation and ‘make do’ attitudes, post-war technological advancement and mass manufacturing, affluence and the marriage of function, design and aspiration with ‘lifestyle’.

a modified blue gallon drum that is displayed with open draws and door
This extraordinary piece of recycling involved the elaborate conversion of a 44 gallon drum to a food storage unit or ‘bush pantry’. MAAS collection 92/305. Photo: Penelope Clay

Across the Gallery site, MAAS’ outstanding collection of 20th century furnishings, decorative design and appliances are situated in the context of contemporary art. In curating the MAAS collection alongside the work of artists, audiences are provided with new ways of understanding the social history, use, applications and impact of design, manufacture and technology.

A total of six artist commissions were offered to established and early-career artists including; eX de Medici, Richard Goodwin, Catherine O’Donnell, Blake Griffiths, Cope Street Collective and Victoria Garcia. These artists were commissioned to enquire and comment upon the contemporary challenges which surround and complicate our notion and relationships to home, including family and domestic violence, gender and intimacy, homelessness, housing affordability, sustainability, migration and loss.

A bathroom with flower arrangements on the toilet and vanity and a detailed shower curtain displaying complex pattern of weapons and flowers.
The Ominous Domestic installation in the Lewers Bathroom, featuring a reproduction onto silk duchess fabric the design from the third and largest watercolour in the series: I Won Her With My Heart; I Married Her With My Diamond; I Killed Her With My Club; I Buried her With My Spade. Photo: Jacqui Strecker, MAAS

Pictured above is MAAS’ major contemporary commission, The Ominous Domestic by Canberra artist, eX de Medici. A two-room installation involving watercolour, tapestry and sculpture, this work is an explosive interplay of gender relationships and violence. In producing this work the artist accessed the MAAS antique arms collection, to reproduce duelling pistols and a French dagger, amidst bloodied flowers and a trailing Crown of Thornes plant, found in the Gallery garden.

The Ideal Home  exhibition and public programs run from 1 December 2018 – 24 March 2019 at Penrith Regional Gallery. A satellite exhibition, The Ideal Home: Art and Design is also on display at the Powerhouse Museum from 3 November 2018 – 29 May 2019. Highlighting modernist interior design and furnishings, it includes art and ceramics from Penrith Regional Gallery’s collection by Ralph Balson, Frank Hinder and Margo Lewers, together with the inclusion of Bonita Ely’s Singer Sewing Machine Gun exploring the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on family life.

Written by Nina Earl (Assistant Curator) and Jacqui Strecker (Head of Curatorial), January 2019

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