Voyeuristic journey into the ‘Suburban Gothic’

Backyards are Australians’ private sanctums.

But actually, this personal space is very public.

A new show from Braidwood artist Ray Monde explores this tensions.

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‘Over the back fence’ opened at Michael Reid in Murrundi on May 4.

Monde doesn't want to sound pretentious, but the show was inspired by Picasso’s early works.

“[Picasso] was always painting closed rooms,” Monde said. 

“And I was thinking about the Australian version of this, and I was like: backyards are a enclosed space.”

And backyards are deeply weird.

An enclosed private space, they are also fully on public view.

Having always lived either in the very centre of the city, or the absolute opposite, Monde finds the suburban backyard discomforting.

When his brothers moved to Sydney’s suburbs, he found the strange half-private world of outdoor spaces left him feeling exposed.

As he says in his artist’s statement, it is: “a peculiar voyeurism lived out under blazing blue skies.”

This is channelled into an aesthetic he describes as “Suburban Gothic”. Superficially, everything seems normal, but dark currents lurk underneath.

“People do all kind of odd things in their backyard,” Monde said. “While they’re not all aware they’re on view, they sometimes are.”

Part of this comes from Monde’s discomfort with the in-between nature of suburbia.

He grew up on a cattle farm in Gloucester, before moving to live in major cities for his career.

“I’ve either lived in the centre of cities, or on the country, so suburbia is like this alien landscape for me,” he said. “It’s just a strange world.”

Suburbia is like this alien landscape for me.

Ray Monde

Ten years ago he moved to Jinglemoney, near Braidwood.

For the past six years, he has been actively practising as an artist.

His work is in mixed media, but primarily collage on a painted colour plane – as in this show.

As a former advertising worker, Monde takes a great delight in tearing up glossy magazines for the collage.

His move into art came later in life. Coming from a practical family, Monde was driven by the need to do something useful.

After years working in advertising, he decided he wanted to be an artist.

Braidwood has been the perfect place to realise his dream.

“One of the things I love about Braidwood is just how supportive the community is,” he said. 

“There’s a really strong artist base, and they’re very generous in their support, and very upbeat.

“The kind of support you get from a town like Braidwood is indispensable really, it’s beautiful.”