Words and Photos – J Forsyth

SuburbanIan Strange, NGV Studio, Federation Square, Melbourne

What do Street Art and The National Gallery have in common?  Maybe nothing in other cities, but this is Melbourne baby, we have two National Galleries and we’ll put whatever the fuck we want in them! Ok, so maybe that is not the official tag line of the NGV currently showing Monet in the Garden and Australian Impressionists in France but one can dream.


Suburban by Ian Strange opened last night to a MASSIVE crowd at the NGV Studio, Federation Square.  Think House of Bricks, Backwoods v CCP v a touch of Helen Gory Gallerie and RTIST all coming together for the public opening.  People spilled into the atrium, sipping on free cider and shooting the shit out of one of the best exhibitions you will see this year.  Backpacks and high tops filled my vision as I manoeuvred through the spectators.  A sense of excitement filled the air, although no one wanted to show it, the jean and trainer clad sub-culture were at an opening at the NGV in numbers and fucking loving it!  And rightly so, Ian Strange’s Suburban is awe-inspiring, breath-taking and exceptionally emotive.  After hearing the man himself speak on 3RRR, I was intrigued how such a large scale operation could be then minimised to be displayed in a gallery.

Nothing about Suburban is minimised. From the first glance all my attention was focused.  The photographic prints adorning the entrance wall are so clear, so sharp and so beautiful it was hard to move forward and absorb the rest.  Floating past large scale prints of entirely painted houses, houses on fire, video’s of the process, the fires, the work and into a room with hanging parts of the painted houses just hanging out.  Then finally into an entirely dark room with three large screens pouring out fiery images, all-encompassing and beautiful.


As a general rule, I have the attention span of a stick, but I could have given notice and moved into the NGV Studio last night to spend eternity engulfed in the beauty that is Ian Strange’s Suburban.  Strange is now an internationally recognised Contemporary artist, his beginnings sprung from the suburbs of Perth as street Artist, Kid Zoom in the 1990’s.    Now living In New York City and Australia, Suburban is a culmination of two and a half years work travelling through the Suburban areas of America. You can hear Kid Zoom speak on the first Thursday of every month in conjunction with ACCLAIM magazine.  Check out for details.


The only downer from the night was the over zealous security who seemed to be of the opinion that if you wear trainers you will probably piss in the gallery corners if left unattended for more than a second.  My message to said cranky pants types –  Just because we have backpacks not briefcases doesn’t mean we will burn the house down…. like Ian Strange did….